Elisha Succeeds Elijah
15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. 16 They said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men, please let them go and search for your master; perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him on some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.” 17 But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched three days but did not find him. 18 They returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”
19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land [h]is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt [i]in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 He went out to the spring of water and threw salt [j]in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have [k]purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or [l]unfruitfulness any longer.’” 22 So the waters have been [m]purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.
23 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!” 24 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 [n]their number. 25 He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
It’s hard not to read this passage and focus on the last section. It seems quite brutal that forty-two of these boys perished for their lack of respect, but the bigger question is why in the world were they running around and up to no good in the first place. And so it highlights two things that are still sorely lacking in our time:
- Young people should have a healthy respect for their elders, at least enough to know better than to make fun of them.
- And parents should be teaching their children better than that, and while a “helicopter parent” is unhealthy, so is one that lets their children do whatever they want whenever they want to do it.
Thus I don’t think it was God’s judgment on the boys, it was God’s message to the city of Bethel, who had raised their children in such a manner. A parent’s responsibility is a weighty one, and should never be taken lightly.