(Although it is The Answer to The Ultimate Question Of Life, the Universe and Everything.)
One of my favorite Bible stories for children is the Story of Elisha and the bears.
He [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. (New Revised Version) 2 Kings 2:23-24
So much action packed into two short verses!
But what's really important here is the moral of the story. What is God trying to teach us here?
Well some things are obvious.
- Don't make fun of religious leaders (or God might kill you in a particularly gruesome way).
- Children shouldn't make fun of bald men.
- God doesn't much like the number 42.
Okay, maybe the third one isn't so obvious. But doesn't it seem strange to have 42 little boys running out of the city screaming "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" all at once? And then to have all 42 of them ripped apart by bears? Two or three, even a half dozen maybe, but not 42.
So maybe the number of boys was inflated a bit. But, still, why make it 42?
So when the story of Elisha and the bears was made up (well, you didn't really believe it, did you?), 42 was selected for the number of boys. It showed how bad those boys must have been and how much they deserved being torn up by bears.