I’m assuming you’re referring to 2nd Kings 2:23-24 which reads, “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!’ When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.” (NASB).

Let’s consider a few facts before we draw the conclusion that God was exhibiting “brutal behavior.” This event took place in Bethel, which was a center for idol worship in that day. You can read 1st Kings 12:28-33 to verify that fact. Elisha had just witnessed the ascension of Elijah to heaven and along comes a gang of over 42 “young men” (the Hebrew word translated “little children” in the KJV means “youths” or “young men,” which means they were between the ages of 12 and 30). They were all old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and yet they boldly ridiculed the man of God with these challenging words, “Go up, you baldhead, go up, you baldhead.” In essence they were saying, “If you are really a man of God like Elijah, then go up to heaven and join him.” By calling him “baldhead,” they were showing their utter disrespect for the prophet of God. Isaiah 3:24 confirms this, for it says, “And so shall it be: Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench…instead of well-set hair, baldness” (NKJV). These “young men” had been raised as idol worshippers and now they are mocking and challenging the One true God, for to mock God’s prophet is to mock God Himself.

We may think that Elisha’s curse and the attack by the female bears was “cruel and unusual punishment,” but God had warned the nation of Israel that such disobedience could indeed result in being attacked by wild animals. Leviticus 26:21-22 declares, “If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to you sins. I WILL LET LOOSE AMONG YOU THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted” (NASB). This gang of young men who dared to defy God received what they deserved and the scars that they bore throughout the rest of their life would remind everyone that you can’t disobey God and get away with it.

In closing this meditation, I want to say that people have often turned to cases like this from the Old Testament and asked me, “How can a loving God behave like this?” I usually respond by saying, “In those days God was displaying HIS HOLINESS to sinners who were breaking His Law.” People love to point out that “God is love” (and He surely is LOVE!), but they forget that God is also HOLY and He must judge sin. I will then point people to the cross of Calvary where God manifested His LOVE and His HOLINESS. John 3:16 brings out both, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” In love for you and me, God sent His Son to the cross and on that cross Jesus bore the holy judgment of God for our sins. God is holy and righteous and He can NOT overlook sin. The cross of Christ proves this, for there God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). Isaiah 53:5 states, “He was WOUNDED for our transgressions, He was BRUISED for our iniquities: the CHASTISEMENT of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Was God’s judgment upon His Son severe? It surely was! For His holiness demanded that our sins be judged and that no mercy should be shown. People will even question God in this, saying, “How could a God of love punish His own Son?” We’ve already seen the answer to that in John 3:16, “God SO LOVED THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son.” It is LOVE FOR YOU AND ME that moved God’s heart to send His Son to the cross, and it was the Savior’s love for us that made Him willing to take our place in death and judgment. Have you believed in His great love?  (201.3)  (DO)