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Bears Attack Children for Mocking Elisha

The historical narrative in 2 Kings 2:23-24 provides an occurrence that seems strange to us today. Children mock the prophet Elisha, and it appears that Elisha lashes out at them in anger. He curses them, and then two female bears maul the rude 42 children. The scriptures do not say any of these children died, but it also doesn't say they survived the attack either. All we know is they were torn by the bears, which could mean various injuries from lacerated legs to fingers bitten off or even death. People today would question the justice behind this curse and punishment. Some would speculate that being mauled by a bear was an unwarranted punishment for mocking a prophet of God. So, let's study this passage and determine why these bears attack children for mocking Elisha.

The Setting of This Incident

Elijah, the prophet, was at the end of his ministry. So, Elijah asked Elisha what would you have me do for you before I go, and Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit. In other words, a double portion of the power God provided to Elijah. As Elijah was taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire, he let his cloak fall to the ground. Elisha tore his clothes in despair concerning his mentor and friend leaving. He then picked up Elijah's cloak. God honored Elijah's agreement with Elisha and he was filled with the power of God.

Elisha then went to the river, parted the River Jordan as Elijah did, and walked across on dry land. There were four occurrences of the waters being parted and people walking across on dry land. The first was Moses parting the Red Sea, the second was Joshua parting the Jordan River, the third was Elijah parting the Jordan River, and lastly, Elisha parted the Jordan River. From there, Elisha went to Jericho, and the men of the city said Elijah's spirit was on Elisha. So, it was clearly evident. While there, he healed the well at Jericho and headed out to Bethel, where we come to the incident in question.

Bears Attack Children for Mocking Elisha

Elisha and Bears

23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.

24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Elisha went up from Jericho about eleven miles northwest to Bethel. As he was nearing the city, he came across a large group of children from the city. The large group of children were from pagan homes. King Jeroboam reestablished pagan worship of Canaanite gods and wanted nothing to do with Yahweh. They mocked him by saying, "Go up, thou bald head." What kind of insult is that? They were saying go up because they wanted him to "go up" to heaven like Elijah did. They didn't like prophets of God or the God that sent them, so essentially, they were saying, "Get out of our city and never come back, and take your God with you." They were also ridiculing his premature balding head because it was associated with people who had leprosy. So, that part of it was a personal and disrespectful insult to Elisha. But the primary insult was directed at the God Elisha served – Yahweh.

Therefore, Elisha turned and looked back at them, cursing them in Adonai's name. Elisha's Adonai (Lord) is Yahweh. So, in God's name, Elisha cursed these children. But how old were these children? They were probably teenagers in their early teens, maybe 13-16 years old. We can assume that because the scriptures describe them as little, so they were not adults. They also had the intellectual capacity to gather together to ridicule Elisha. This "strength in numbers" maturity would suggest teenagers.

They were pagan and cared nothing about the God Yahweh. So, they mock Elisha and God at the same time, and they are disrespectful. They travel in an intimidating pack of more than 42 individuals.

Directly after Elisha cursed them, two female bears came out of the woods and started mauling the children. Bears were common in that region at that time in history. Again, we don't know if the children died or were just hurt, but apparently, 42 did not escape unharmed. According to scripture, they were "torn." This incident would have had lasting effects on these children. First, they would have been traumatized to the point of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Second, they would have to heal from their wounds and would be left with lasting scars on their bodies. Third, they would have learned that mocking the Prophet of God and ridiculing God Himself is always a bad idea.

Was Bears Attacking Children for Mocking Elisha Justified

As a Christian, I know that we should honor those called by God to teach and preach the Gospel. But we must revere the God that gave them that calling first and foremost. Pastors, preachers, and teachers are not to be worshipped or followed as if they were any more precious to God than any other Christian because God gives each of us spiritual gifts. No gift is more important than any other. Teaching and preaching are just some of the most noticeable gifts.

These pagan, godless children did not respect Elisha or God. Their ridicule was rude and brought God to the point of wrath. Elisha had no power himself but relied on the Spirit of God within him. You cannot directly or indirectly ridicule or mock God without reaping his wrath.

In this incident, I would assume God was merciful and only provided a terrifying and painful punishment to these children. Scripture says nothing about any of these children dying, so I believe that God justly punished them. So, these Bears Attacking Children for Mocking Elisha were God's instruments of punishment and only attacked through God's justifiable holy and perfect will.



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