The Menace of Urban Youth

by Scott McLemee on November 29, 2007

I can’t argue with most of the selections in “The Nine Most Badass Bible Verses” — except for thinking that at least one violent episode might have been cut in favor of something from the Song of Solomon booty call.

Plus it’s a problem that the list implies a ranking, because no way Elisha and the bears (2 Kings 2:23-24) should come in at a mere number 8:

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.


And what do we learn from this? Valuable lessons for today:

Christians are constantly asking for prayer in schools to help get today’s kids in line, but we beg to differ. We need bears in schools. If every teacher had the power to summon a pair of child-maiming grizzly avengers, you can bet that schoolchildren nowadays would be the most well-behaved, polite children, ever. It’s a simple choice: listen to the biology lesson, or get first-hand knowledge of the digestive system of Ursus horribilis.

It should be pointed out that even after his death, Elisha continued to kick ass. II Kings 13:20-21 tells us that when a dead body was thrown into his tomb and touched Elisha’s bones, it sprang back to life. It’s unknown whether Elisha had this power in life, as well as death, but we like to think he did and that he had the habit of killing his victims with bears, resurrecting them, and then promptly re-summoning the bears to kill them, again. He’d just repeat the whole thing over and over until he got bored.

via Ralph Luker

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JP Stormcrow 11.29.07 at 12:22 pm

And to silence critics, John Ashcroft could announce that he would willingly submit to being repeatedly killed by bears and resurrected.


abb1 11.29.07 at 2:37 pm

These are the most badass stories in the book? I don’t think so, not even close. These are, like, ‘some lesser-known badass stories’.


SamChevre 11.29.07 at 3:06 pm

I still think, “And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead,” takes the prize for horribleness.


Nick 11.29.07 at 3:17 pm

There is a subtle difference between badass and horribleness. It’s the difference between Die Hard and Hellraiser.


John Emerson 11.29.07 at 3:26 pm

The grizzly bear is fierce and wild
It has devoured the little child
The little child is not aware
It has been eaten by the bear


Scott McLemee 11.29.07 at 3:48 pm

This is to second Nick’s point that badass-ness is not the same as horribleness. The compleat badass must also be smooth. That is why it was disappointing not to have Song of Solomon in there:

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee….How much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

So Solomon, while not as violent as King David, is arguably just as impressive, badassness-wise.


stuart 11.29.07 at 3:54 pm

and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

Not sure this is quite the compliment today that it seems to have been three millenia ago.


SamChevre 11.29.07 at 4:17 pm

Thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof

And etc.


Drake 11.29.07 at 4:56 pm

Is the bear Catholic?


JP Stormcrow 11.29.07 at 4:58 pm

This may just be in the horribleness category rather than badass-ness, but I think it has similar instructional potential:

Numbers 31:
17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Remember, it’s not just your virginity you’re preserving girls, it may be your life. (In the event your town is conquered by a patriarchal tribe.)

Here is one list of the “cruelest” verses – lots of good candidates.


HP 11.29.07 at 5:22 pm

For John (#6), the number one pop song of 1908:

A preacher went out hunting,
‘Twas on a Sunday morn.
Although it’s agin his religion,
He brought his gun along.
He shot himself three very fine quail
And one old measly hare.
And as he turned around to go back home
He met a great big grizzly bear.


“Lord, didn’t you deliver
Daniel from the lion’s den?
Also deliver Jonah
From the belly of the whale and then
Three Hebrew children from the fiery furnace?
So the Good Book do declare.
Oh, Lord, if you can’t help me,
For goodness’ sake don’t you help that bear!”


norbizness 11.29.07 at 5:37 pm

MC Thomas Paine in the house: “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize.”


Grant 11.29.07 at 5:39 pm

For comparison, note that the best the New Testament can come up with (outside of Revelation, which is a whole ‘nother peyote trip) is Matthew 26:50-52:

Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

One measly ear-smiting and Jesus makes the dude put away his piece! What’s up with that? I like Samson’s “all they that take up the sword shall perish with the donkey’s jawbone, and they that take up the donkey’s jawbone shall perish with the whole damn heathen temple crashing down on all they’s enemies.”

See you in hell!


Grand Moff Texan 11.29.07 at 5:41 pm

The only reason that advocates of a return to theocracy can be so blissfully ignorant of the historical brutality of such regimes is that they’ve had the good luck to grow up in a secular country.

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have an ungrateful skygod worshipper.


John Emerson 11.29.07 at 6:41 pm

It’s amazing how persistent some of these patterns. There was a stoning filmed very recently in Iraq, and the practice of enslaving a defeated enemy’s daughters continued until fairly recently too.


Rich B. 11.29.07 at 6:56 pm

How can David killing the Phillistines and then circumcising them possibly be more badass than Simeon and Levi, who did the same thing to Hivites, but in the opposite order?


magistra 11.29.07 at 8:20 pm

Shouldn’t there also be a place for God’s verbal takedown of Job (chapter 38-41): ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?’ etc etc.


abb1 11.29.07 at 8:37 pm

…the best the New Testament can come up with…One measly ear-smiting


On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for Herod and his guests. She pleased Herod very much. So he promised with an oath to give her anything she asked for. Her mother told her what to say. So the girl said to Herod, “Give me the head of John the Baptist on a big plate.”

Small-scale, suburban-style, yes, but still badassed…


c.l. ball 11.29.07 at 10:01 pm

People, how can you be so obtuse?

This is the most homophobic and/or misogynist line in the Bible: Bears maul 42 youths!

Elisha’s curse must have been “May NAMBLA get thee” or “Hairy men will grope you”.

Re #10: yes, the bears were Catholic. I mean, duh.


Uncle Kvetch 11.29.07 at 10:49 pm

I think “Go On Up, You Baldhead” is the b-side to an early Bob Marley single, but I could be mistaken.


aa 11.30.07 at 1:58 am

The LORD had told Moses, ” Leave the land of Midian and return to Egypt. Everyone who wanted to kill you is dead.” So Moses put his wife and sons on donkeys and headed for Egypt, holding the walking stick that had the power of God.

On the way the LORD said to Moses:

When you get to Egypt, go to the king and work the miracles I have shown you. But I will make him so stubborn that he will refuse to let my people go. Then tell him that I have said, ” Israel is my first-born son, 23and I commanded you to release him, so he could worship me. But you refused, and now I will kill your first-born son.”

One night while Moses was in camp, the LORD was about to kill him. But Zipporah circumcised her son with a flint knife. She touched his legs with the skin she had cut off and said, ” Truly a bloody bridegroom you are unto me.” So the LORD did not harm Moses.

Let us all learn from this.


skullrhythm 11.30.07 at 2:00 am

I must admit, the pragmatist in me would like someone to expound on the viability of certain points presented in this exerpt…
42 youths seems a tad on the high side. I know the typical youth tends to be a gregarious creature, but whenever I’ve been jeered at and told to go on up, they seem to scatter pretty quickly when my curses rained down upon them. Not as good as turning them into bear-scatter, but then most of these incidences occured at stipmalls. Not to give youths too much credit, but you’d think the typical amongst them would cherish his or her unmauledness.

Perhaps there was a post-maul boasting session held among them, but then that would beg the question as to what determines a hearty eviscerating maul as compared with a lacklustre shoulder-barge say, or a tripping-backwards-in-terror.

I’d like to raise the topic of regional biblical bear species distribution as well, but won’t. If you can summon bears, they may as well be winged wereKodiaks with Tasers for eyeballs. And 2 of them.

#10. Does the pope shit in the woods?


Fats Durston 11.30.07 at 2:49 am

While I was very pleased to see the foreskin episode top the list, Leviticus got shafted!

From Leviticus 26, YHWH as badass:

21: “Then if you walk contrary to me, and will not hearken to me, I will bring more plagues upon you, sevenfold as many as your sins.
22: And I will let loose the wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number, so that your ways shall become desolate.
23: “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me, but walk contrary to me,
24: then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will smite you sevenfold for your sins.
25: And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant; and if you gather within your cities I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
26: When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and shall deliver your bread again by weight; and you shall eat, and not be satisfied.
27: “And if in spite of this you will not hearken to me, but walk contrary to me,
28: then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and chastise you myself sevenfold for your sins.
29: You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.
30: And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols; and my soul will abhor you.
31: And I will lay your cities waste, and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing odors.


elbujo 11.30.07 at 4:14 am

Aw, this makes me sad. I always thought Elisha was so NICE.


yave begnet 11.30.07 at 4:48 am

My favorite is the story of Onan (source of the word “onanism”), which they never taught us in Sunday School for some reason. Genesis 38:

38:7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

38:9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled [it] on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Let that be a lesson to all of us: when the Lord commands you to sleep with your brother’s widow, don’t pull out or you’ll be smited on the spot by a vengeful God.

It actually gets worse (better?) from there, with harlotry, mistaken identity, and additional incest––and that’s just Chapter 38.

Then there’s Lot and his daughters. Gotta love those old-time family values …


c.l. ball 11.30.07 at 6:01 pm

Hey, Onan had it com’n. What’s the point of a money shot when there’s no cameras?

God really didn’t like Judah’s kids. I always felt this reflected badly on Judah’s parenting abilities. I mean, your boys are suck pricks that God kills them.


mds 11.30.07 at 8:43 pm

While I was very pleased to see the foreskin episode top the list, Leviticus got shafted!

Why, yes, random passersby looked at me strangely as I guffawed. Why do you ask?

I always thought the lead-off to Revelation was pretty bad-ass, too. I mean, the dude’s got a sword coming out of his mouth. If it were a modern vision, he’d have eye lasers.


Roger Ailes 11.30.07 at 8:50 pm

Thank G-d that slaphead Mickey Kaus can’t control the bears.


a very public sociologist 11.30.07 at 10:33 pm

I wish I could find an excuse to use that quote and pic on my blog!


dr ngo 12.03.07 at 5:46 am

As no one else has mentioned it, I must: the American humorist Dorothy Parker named her pet canary Onan, because he spilt his seed upon the ground.

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