Then the sons of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and said, "Do you know that the LORD will take your master away from you today?" "Yes, I know," he replied. "Do not speak of it."
1 Samuel 19:20). But the order took a new impulse under Elijah. "The companies of the prophets now reappear, bound by a still closer connection with Elijah than they had been with Samuel. Then they were 'companies, bands, of prophets;' now they are 'sons, children, of the prophets;' and Elijah first, and Elisha afterwards, appeared as the 'father,' the 'abbot,' the 'father in God,' of the 'whole community' (Stanley). In the development and fostering of these communities, we see Elijah working with an eye to the future. He takes care that the fruits of his reforming labors shall not be lost, but shall be handed down to after-generations. He provides for the preservation and propagation of his influence. We do well to take a leaf out of his book, and study like means for the creation and consecration of godly influence. Wherever men have desired to perpetuate their principles they have formed schools, clubs, guilds, associations, colleges, and by means of these their teachings have been spread abroad. The infidel clubs of the last century, e.g., spread the principles which led to the French Revolution. The prophetic schools seem to have devoted themselves largely to sacred history, poetry, and music; but taught the pupils also to labor in honest occupations for self-support. Any mode of binding together and instructing the youth of our time, which shall combine religious training and sound education with an inculcation of the principles of honest independence, deserves every support. - J.O.
And he went up from thence unto Beth-el.I. THE EVENT AS REGARDS THE TRANSGRESSORS. They were the children of a small town among the hills, in one of the extremities of the land of Canaan, called Beth-el; the inhabitants depended chiefly for their living upon their flocks of sheep and the produce of the earth.
1. Wickedness arising from unexpected quarters. The children of Beth-el.
2. That there is a great responsibility connected with a family. Considering the tendencies of our nature to evil, and the bad examples around, us, nothing but strong common, sense, strong parental love and the fear of God, will enable parents to wash their hands from the blood of their offspring.
3. That neither age nor position exempts sin from being punished. The bears destroyed forty-two children of Beth-el. Rich and poor, high and low, old and young must be punished for their transgressions. God is no respecter of persons.
II. THE EVENT AS REGARDS THE PROPHET.
1. It is dangerous to persecute God's people. No weapon that is formed against them shall prosper, whether it be the stocks or the burning faggots, the Pope or the drunken vagabond. Seeing godly men in trouble, we might think that God is angry with them, but that is a great mistake.
2. That religion does not deprive man of the right of self-defence. Some people seem to think that a Christian must endure every species of injustice without uttering a word of protest.
3. That the kindest nature when aroused is the fiercest. In reading the history of the prophet we are struck with the generosity of his nature.
(W. Alonzo Griffiths.)
Sunday Magazine.Elisha had started for Beth-el on prophetic business. As he was passing out of Jericho, he was followed by a crowd, not of innocent little children, but probably of servant boys. The phrase here translated "little children" was applied to himself by Solomon when he was twenty years of age (1 Kings 3:7); and by Jeremiah to himself when he was old enough to enter upon the prophetic office (Jeremiah 1:6, 7); and it was applied to Joseph when he was at least seventy years of age (Genesis 37:2). These deriders were boys old enough to know what they were about, and old enough to have respect for the prophetic office. Probably they had had a pecuniary income from the business of fetching water into Jericho, so long as the water in the city was bad. As soon as Elisha healed the spring of the waters of the city, the occupation of these lads was gone. They were enraged at that. They were more interested in their pecuniary income than in the health of hundreds of citizens, old and young. Their cry after Elisha was not disrespect for old age. They did not call him "Bald-head." He was not old. There is no evidence that he was baldheaded; but, if so, those boys probably would not have known it, as there is no proof that they ever had seen his uncovered head. He could have had no artificial baldness. That was forbidden (Leviticus 21:5, Numbers 6:5). Because of the miracle of the healing of the water, and the consequent loss to them of their gain, they cried after him, "Go up, thou shaver! Go up, thou shaver! "It is to be remarked that he had performed the miracle as the ambassador of Jehovah, and that when those boys cried out after him they were insulting Jehovah. The prophet did not take it as a personal offence He did not curse them in his own name. He cursed them in the name of Jehovah; and ii they had not committed any great sin against Jehovah he would never have visited them with so frightful a retribution. They, themselves, were murderously selfish and impious. They watched the prophet's going out, and went out in a body for the purpose of insulting him as a prophet. It was justice that visited their sins upon them, and it was so connected with the miracle, that it seemed to be simply poetic justice, that whatever the punishment of their sins should be, it should be manifest as being of a kind with their sins. That is the principle which reigns throughout all intelligent moral government. They desired the death of others that they might make money. There is no lesson in this passage of respect for old age. There is no exhibition of bad temper on the part of the prophet. There is nothing of cruelty in the conduct of Jehovah. That God abhors selfishness, and that when human selfishness sets itself in opposition to the movements of God's unselfish mercy and loving-kindness, then lie will administer to it a severe rebuke; this is the lesson. Selfishness and irreverence are the sins against which this narrative is levelled. If it be said that it is not likely that so many lads so large as these would have been torn, as represented in the text, it may be replied that she-bears, robbed of their whelps, are described as especially ferocious; and that when these lads heard the malediction pronounced by a prophet who had wrought the great miracle of cleansing the waters in their town, and then saw immediately two ferocious bears rushing toward them, their guilt and peril united to demoralise them, and while they were in this condition so many of them were hurt. It is to be noted that not one of the wicked boys is said to have lost his life. None perished, while many were punished. The story, instead of setting forth Jehovah as a cruel deity, actually presents him as a God who administers justice mercifully.
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