Let’s read those solemn verses, “Then he (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!’ So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. Then he went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria” (NKJV).

It’s unfortunate that the King James translators state that Elisha was approached and mocked by “little children,” for the correct rendering is “youths” (i.e. young lads, NASB). If they had been “little children” Elisha’s curse against them would have been cruel, but they were indeed young men who were morally accountable for their actions against God’s prophet and they got what they deserved.

They were no doubt aware of the great prophet Elijah and how he had been translated to heaven in a chariot of fire (see verses 1-11), so in mockery they taunted the new prophet Elisha by saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead.” In essence they were saying, “We wish we could be rid of you too” and by adding the word “baldhead” they were adding “insult to injury.” Anyone with a bald head was a disgrace as seen in Isaiah 3:24, “And so it shall be: instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench…instead of well-set hair, BALDNESS, instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.”

Was the prophet overreacting in pride when he cursed the young men? No, for their insult to the prophet was actually an INSULT TO GOD. Elisha was “God’s spokesman” and thus their contempt for Elisha was in fact contempt for God. It was Elisha’s zeal for God that caused him to pronounce judgment upon these ungodly youth. God then used two bears to maul the mob-like protest that had been organized against his prophet (and Himself). Those who say Elisha was personally offended and acted wrongfully must be scratching their heads and wondering why God answered Elisha’s curse with immediate judgment, but in truth it was a righteous act that reveals the holiness of God and that He will indeed act in swift judgment when it is called for.

Let this be a reminder to those who mock God’s servants today and who mistakenly believe that God will never judge them. We will close with the fitting words of the apostle Peter in 2nd Peter 3:3-7, “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (273.3) (DO)