Bald Prophets and Bears

We often quote the blessings of obedience to God, but forget the curses promised to those who reject obedience. By Justin and Courtney Rose

There are many passages in Scripture that have confused us over the years—stories that may leave us laughing, confused or even scratching our heads. Oftentimes, it’s because we do not understand the original context in which the story or passage was given. Instead of seeking to understand the culture and original meaning of the passage, we inject meaning into the Bible by interpreting it through our current cultural lenses or ideologies.

For example, there is a story that has become popular both among sceptics and teens alike. In this story, from 2 Kings 2:23-24, there is a prophet named Elisha who gets called “baldy” (NIV) by a bunch of young boys. Elisha then calls down a curse on them and two “she bears” (KJV) come out of the woods and maul 42 kids.

Many find this confounding. Is Elisha really so sensitive that he curses a group of children just because they made fun of his baldness? Is God really this judgmental and violent? Does this give the people of God permission to call down curses on those who speak out against us?

“We often quote the blessings of obedience to God, but forget the curses promised to those who reject obedience.”

A story like this, which has been very misquoted and misunderstood over the years, often leads to confusion if we do not take time to look at the original purpose, context and interpretation. 

First off, it’s important to remember that Elisha is the new prophet on the scene. He just took over from Elijah who was the #1 prophet. Elijah was well-known and used by God to do many amazing things. But at the beginning of 2 Kings 2, he was taken up into Heaven and Elisha begins his role as the new #1 prophet. 

As God’s prophet, one of Elisha’s roles was to remind the people to keep the covenant that they made with God. The law/covenant stated that the people of God would worship no other gods and have no idols. However, Bethel was a well-known center of idol worship (1 Kings 13, Amos 7). It is no coincidence that this story happens near the city of Bethel.

Elisha is not angry because he is called bald. Instead, Elisha gets angry because they tell him to “go up.” In Hebrew, the word for “go up” is the exact same word that was used in verse 11 to describe Elijah’s departure into Heaven. The young men in Bethel were telling Elisha to “stay away,” “we want nothing to do with you or your God” and “if you are really a powerful prophet, you should go and join Elijah in Heaven.” The young men’s rejection of Elisha is really a rejection of God Himself.

Elisha’s curse of the young boys in verse 24 appears to be a portion of the curse found in the covenant for those who reject God. Leviticus 26:21-22 (NIV) says that if the people of God are hostile and refuse to listen to Him, then He will send “wild animals” (NIV) against them and “rob” (NIV) them of their children.

This passage is not a story about an oversensitive prophet or about how to treat people who insult you.  Instead, it is a powerful story of God’s judgment, reminding us to never reject God or the new things He is doing in our world.

Daily Readings:

  • November 1:  2 Kings 2:1-18
  • November 2:  2 Kings 2:23-25
  • November 3:  1 Samuel 8:1-9
  • November 4:  Psalm 94:12-15
  • November 5:  Psalm 119:113-120
  • November 6:  Isaiah 5:21-25
  • November 7:  Leviticus 26:14-46
  • November 8:  Isaiah 30:12-15
  • November 9:  Jeremiah 8:8-9
  • November 10:  1 Kings 13
  • November 11:  Hosea 4:1-9
  • November 12:  Matthew 21:33-46
  • November 13:  Luke 10:16
  • November 14:  John 3:31-36
  • November 15:  John 12:37-50
  • November 16:  Acts 13:44-52
  • November 17:  Romans 2:1-11
  • November 18:  Romans 11:1-6
  • November 19:  1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
  • November 20:  Mark 4:1-20
  • November 21:  John 13:18-20
  • November 22:  Acts 2:38-41
  • November 23:  Acts 8:14-17
  • November 24:  Acts 10:30-43
  • November 25:  Acts 15:5-11
  • November 26:  John 1:1-18
  • November 27:  John 3:16-21 
  • November 28:  2 Corinthians 5:16-21
  • November 29:  Revelation 3:19-20
  • November 30:  Joel 2:28-32

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