The Tearing of Forty and Two Children by Two She-Bears
Sunday Magazine
2 Kings 2:23-24
And he went up from there to Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him…

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.

(Sunday Magazine.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: He went up from there to Bethel. As he was going up by the way, some youths came out of the city and mocked him, and said to him, "Go up, you baldy! Go up, you baldhead!"

The Mockers At Bethel
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