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Old Testament Narratives 3


2 Kings 2:23 - 25.  Continued from Old Testament narratives 1 page.


1. Strong's Hebrew Dictionary translates the term as "little children".

The Hebrew word used here for boys, na'ar, is used in the Hebrew to designate several labels, but mostly young boys:


na`ar  (nah'-ar)

from 'na`ar'; (concretely) a boy (as active), from the age of infancy to adolescence; by implication, a servant; also (by interch. of sex), a girl (of similar latitude in age):--babe, boy, child, damsel (from the margin), lad, servant, young (man).


In this passage, it is accompanied by a term that even denotes a small or younger boy:


qatan  (kaw-tawn')

or qaton {kaw-tone'}; from 'quit'; abbreviated, i.e. diminutive, literally (in quantity, size or number) or figuratively (in age or importance):--least, less(-er), little (one), small(-est, one, quantity, thing), young(-er, -est


2. Multiple different English translations (20) -  I then went to multiple translations to see how the best Biblical scholars around the world have translated these Hebrew words.  I assume they know Hebrew, often have one or multiple doctorates in their fields,  and have spent years studying the OT and know to take the passage accurately and in context.


NIV (2010) -- boys

NASB -- young lads

The Message -- little kids

Amplified Bible -- young boys

(maturing and accountable)

New Living Translation -- Boys

KJV -- little children

ESV -- small boys

Contemporary English Version -- boys

New KJV -- youths

New Century Version -- boys

GOD'S WORD Translation -- boys

21st Century KJV -- little children

American Standard Version -- young lads

Young's Literal Translation -- little youths

Darby Translation -- little boys

Holman Christian Standard Bible -- small boys

New International Reader's Version -- young fellows

New International Version (UK) -- youths

Today's New International Version (2005) -- boys

New International Version (1984) -  youths




3. Why 42 children?  That appears to have an explanation also in Ancient Near East Numerology: Forty-Two Songs for Elohim: An Ancient Near Eastern Organizing Principle in the Shaping of the Elohistic Psalter  (Thanks to B.D. for bringing this to my attention)




This article identifies a scholarly consensus that has emerged regarding the place of the Elohistic Psalter (Pss. 42-83) in the growth and development of the book of Psalms. Based on this shaping framework, this study discusses the organizational and thematic significance of the number 42 in this portion of the Psalter, as suggested recently by Laura Joffe. On the basis both of evidence internal to the book of Psalms (including the Dead Sea manuscripts) and comparisons with ancient Near Eastern hymnic and religious texts, this article concludes that the number 42, as well as the use of the divine designation ‘Elohim’, did indeed function as an organizing principle in the formation of the Elohistic Psalter.





a.  The original Hebrew is translated as small boys in most English Bibles and nowhere is seminary or theological students implied. By combining qatan with na'ar the original intent was not to have these young boys understood as young secondary students but as small boys or children.


b. If the Bible is the inspired word of God, He could have made it abundantly clear to the writers to write what has been proposed. Either God did not mean theological students or if He wanted that meaning he messed up by being ambiguous.


c. It has been suggested by conservative Christians that the new ESV is one of the more accurate translations.  I note that it translated the words as "small boys". Even the KJV translates the phrase as "little children".


d. Following the rule of Occam's Razor the explanation proposed fails in terms of simplicity and remaining true to the original intent as determined by multiple Biblical scholars. One could make a very weak case to present an explanation such as this, but it seems like this is cherry picking a translation for an agenda or goal instead of staying true to the original meaning. Possibility does not equal probability as I have written before and Sagan has stated so eloquently. Possiblility does not equate to reasonable nor probable. Adding more and more "possibilities" to an explanation only piles on an ever growing appeal to multiple ad hocs.  Not good.


e. Even if one were to accept this explanation, the believability of having 42 boys stand around as two bears maul and tear them to pieces is beyond credibility. It even taxes respect for those who claim narratives like these must be true since the source is Biblical, inspired, and supposedly the word of God.



"What counts is not what sounds plausible, not what we would like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim, but only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".  ~ Carl Sagan



Numbers 11: 31


[31] Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. [32] And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. [33] While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving. [35] From Kibroth-hattaavah the people journeyed to Hazeroth, and they remained at Hazeroth.


(a cubit is 18" or 45 cm; a homer is 6 bushels or 220 liters)


"Now let’s calculate just how many quail were involved here. Most bible dictionaries consider a day’s journey to be approximately 20 miles, so a circle with a radius of 20 miles would have an area of 1,256 sq. miles. The quail filled this area to a depth of 2 cubits, or 35 inches. This makes 102 billion cubic feet of quail. The quail is a fairly small bird, averaging one pound in weight, and 13 inches in height. Based on this size, each quail would occupy 0.72 cubit feet. Therefore, God must have blessed the Israelites with approximately 142 billion quail. That's over 47,000 quails for every Israelite. It must have been like an early version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.


Before I finish with the quail, I must point out the end result of the meat harvest: "While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague" (Num. 11:33). I thought God said that they would get to eat the quail for a whole month." (1)  


A second author notes that someone else calculated the number of birds at 208 billion; if you unloaded 100 refrigerated rail cars that were full of frozen quail every hour it would take five years. (2)  Verse 11:21 states there were "600,000 footmen" which would mean about 2 million Hebrews. Wandering around the desert for 40 years and yet there is no archeological evidence?


1. The Skeptical Review

2. inJesus





~ Biomed


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