18 July 2013

Elisha and the dead boy

I've been busy working on another project lately that involves this Bible story. So I thought I'd share it with you, since I haven't had time for posting lately.

It's about Elisha. You know, the prophet who sent two bears to kill 42 boys for making fun of his bald head.

The story begins when a woman from Shunem befriends Elisha. She immediately recognized him as a man of God, so she fed him and convinced her husband to give him a place to stay.
Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. 2 Kings 4:8-10
So Elisha stayed in the room they made for him.
And... he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. 2 Kings 4:11
Elisha wanted to repay the woman and her husband. So he asked his servant, Gehazi, to look into it. Gehazi said, “Well, she has no children and her husband is old.”
He said to Gehazi his servant … What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. 4:12-14
Which gave Elisha an idea. He'd make the old woman pregnant!
He said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. 4:15
The woman thought that was a crazy idea. She and her husband were too old to have kids.
And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. 4:16
But Elisha made her pregnant anyway. And she had a baby boy. (Boys always result from miracle pregnancies in the Bible.)
And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 4:17
Years later, the boy was out helping his dad when he grabbed his head and cried out, “My head, My head.”
When the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. 4:18-19
And by the time they got back to the house, the boy was dead.
And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 4:20
The woman put her dead son on Elisha’s bed and went to find Elisha on Mount Carmel.
And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. 4:21-25
When she found him, she said, “Why did you give me a son? I didn’t ask for one!”
Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? 4:28
Elisha responded by telling Gehazi to gird his loins, go back to Shunem, and lay Elisha’s staff on the face of the child.
He said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way … and lay my staff upon the face of the child. 4:29
So Gehazi traveled to Shunem and laid Elisha’s staff on the dead boy’s face. (The body must have been getting a bit stinky by now since Shunem is 15 miles from Mount Carmel.)
And Gehazi ... laid the staff upon the face of the child. 4:31a

But Shucks! The magic trick didn’t work.
But there was neither voice, nor hearing. 4:31b
Gehazi went back to Mount Carmel to tell Elisha the bad news.
Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked. 4:31c
So Elisha returned to Shunem to take care of things himself. When he arrived, he went into the room, closed the door, and prayed to God.
And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. 4:32-33
Then he lay down on top of the dead boy's body, placing his mouth on the boy's mouth, his eyes on the boy’s eyes, and his hands on the boy’s hands.
And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands. 4:34a

While still in this position, he stretched himself upon the dead boy's body until the flesh began to warm.
And [he] stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. 4:34b
But Elisha still wasn’t through. He got off of the boy and walked around a bit.
Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro. 4:35a
Then he lay down on top of the warming body until the boy sneezed  seven times.
And [he] went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times. 4:35b
And with that, the boy opened his eyes.
And the child opened his eyes. 2 Kings 4:35c


liminalD said...

Um... weird...

Stephen said...

Nothin' agin' it in the good book!
Steve Weeks

Steve Wells said...

liminalD and Steve,

Yeah this story is weird and necraphilic. But there's even more to it than that.

I came across this story when I was looking into biblical justifications for homosexuality. Elisha's staff, apparently, represents Elisha's penis. And it didn't work because the miracle required the real thing. When Elisha supplied that, the boy's dead body became warm. And when the boy came to life for real, he ejaculated (sneezed) seven times. (You've got to be fully alive to do that!)

Anyway, the story shows how much God loves homosexuality. But then I guess that's kind of obvious, what with Leviticus 20:13 and all.

Stephen said...


Now, seriously, where does the 'staff for penis' metaphor come from? The Devil's advocate position could be that someone's imagination is running a bit wild.

But it reminds me of the advice someone gave Bill Clinton which, sadly, he did not follow:
"Thou shalt not comfort your staff with your rod." <_<
Steve Weeks
Steve Weeks

Steve Wells said...

I found the penis-staff idea in a book by Keith Sharpe called "The Gay Gospels". Here's a quote: "Obviously the staff ... is a symbol for Elisha's penis. However ... without the rest of his body being there to call down the full force of Yahweh's energy the penis substitute is impotent."

Stephen said...

"... without the rest of his body being there to call down the full force of Yahweh's energy the penis substitute is impotent."

So... the Holy Spirit is just a bunch of jizz? :lol:
Steve Weeks

Steve Wells said...

Well, I don't know about that, Steve. But there is another similar episode in 1 Kings 17:17-24. So maybe Sharpe is onto something.

Sabio Lantz said...

Interesting, this is a story I forgot -- even though I have read the OT twice, both times were as a believer -- amazing the stuff you overlook when you believe.

The Mahabharata is one of my favorite religious text but especially because I don't miss the weird stuff. Since I am not Hindu, and not raised with those stories, the odd things stand out. If I read the Bible systematically nowadays, I think they would stand out too. Instead, I am thankful for posts like this to illustrate such oddity. Thanx

But I must say, I wish we had folks versed in pointing out the similar patterns in many religious texts. This would help Atheists to realize that their anti-Christian fervor is fed more my a parochial dislike. For if they saw the same in other faiths, they may fall into despair over the enormousy of silliness!

Brucker said...

Yeah, this is probably in the top ten of "just plain weird" stories in the Bible. I'm not sure I'm buying the homosexual angle (nor staff as penis angle) but as weird as the story is, I suppose it's as good an angle as any.

Still, I guess I'd really take exception to reading too much into the Bible with respect to homosexuality. I think both the anti- and pro-LGBT factions tend see more about homosexuality in the Bible than is there. Personally I see a couple verses in Moses' writings (and the story of Sodom is not one of them) and a couple in Paul's epistles, all of which are awfully brief mentions.

Stephen said...

These may be "awfully brief", but they're pretty clear, don't you agree?

18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Steve Weeks

Sabio Lantz said...

Yeah, I agree. I don't read necrophilia here at all and the penis talk just sound like adolescent chatter from those who want to make fun of something. I don't think even ancient language study is needed to see through that.

Stephen said...

OK, his staff isn't a penis metaphor. What we're seeing here is the first documented case of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Happy now? ;-)

@Ned: "This is why people who don't know the ancient languages and the history should not read or interpret the Bible. You delude yourself and you look completely foolish. You have no apparatus with which to critique what you read."

There. Fixed. Read some Bart Ehrman if you want biblical scholarship, though Steve Wells does quite well in my estimation.

@Sabio: What's not to make fun of? It's not as if there's any plausible evidence for most of the stories in the bible.

Steve Weeks

Steve Wells said...

Ned and Sabio,

I don't quite know what to make of this story either. That's why I didn't include the penis staff, Elisha's necrophilia, or the sneezing/ejaculation theories in my post. I just told the story that is in the Bible, along with the relevant quotes.

But, Ned, please tell us what the proper interpretation is. I know you've got the apparatus, what with all your knowledge of the ancient language, history and whatnot.

And you, too, Sabio. Tell us how to properly interpret this lovely Bible story. I'm sure there's an explanation for it that doesn't involve adolescent chatter.

ThinkingMom said...

Even as a Christian, this story stood out as creepy indeed. I would eventually over-look it because I felt in essence, I had to. After all, god's ways are not my ways and I could not possibly begin to understand his infinite wisdom. Oh, brother!!

ThinkingMom said...

I also remember the one about Elisha's bones raising someone from the dead. Just strange.

Anonymous said...

@Stephen "so....the holy spirit is just bunch of jizz? lol "
Funny you should say that, heres a story I got telling about a pastor who agrees with that very thing :)

Sabio Lantz said...

I don't have time to spend on it just now, but I imagine its function was primarily to show the power of a prophet so as to strengthen their voice. A literary device.

Sabio Lantz said...

Taking the story literally, either as a religionist or an atheist is laughable -- but many do it!

Stephen said...

@ sp4mf15h...
Howls of laughter!!
Steve Weeks