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2 Kings 2:23 – BibleTools.info

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2 Kings 2:23

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

There came forth little children out of the city - These were probably the school of some celebrated teacher; but under his instruction they had learned neither piety nor good manners.

Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head - קרח עלה קרח עלה aleh kereach, aleh kereach . Does not this imply the grossest insult? Ascend, thou empty skull, to heaven, as it is pretended thy master did! This was blasphemy against God; and their punishment (for they were Beth-elite idolaters) was only proportioned to their guilt. Elisha cursed them, i.e., pronounced a curse upon them, in the name of the Lord, יהוה בשם beshem Yehovah, by the name or authority of Jehovah. The spirit of their offense lies in their ridiculing a miracle of the Lord: the offense was against Him, and He punished it. It was no petulant humor of the prophet that caused him to pronounce this curse; it was God alone: had it proceeded from a wrong disposition of the prophet, no miracle would have been wrought in order to gratify it.

"But was it not a cruel thing to destroy forty-two little children, who, in mere childishness, had simply called the prophet bare skull, or bald head?" I answer, Elisha did not destroy them; he had no power by which he could bring two she-bears out of the wood to destroy them. It was evidently either accidental, or a Divine judgment; and if a judgment, God must be the sole author of it. Elisha's curse must be only declaratory of what God was about to do. See on 2 Kings 1:10; (note). "But then, as they were little children, they could scarcely be accountable for their conduct; and consequently, it was cruelty to destroy them." If it was a judgment of God, it could neither be cruel nor unjust; and I contend, that the prophet had no power by which he could bring these she-bears to fall upon them. But were they little children? for here the strength of the objection lies. Now I suppose the objection means children from four to seven or eight years old; for so we use the word: but the original, קטנים נערים nearim ketannim, may mean young men, for קטן katon signifies to be young, in opposition to old, and is so translated in various places in our Bible; and נער naar signifies, not only a child, but a young man, a servant, or even a soldier, or one fit to go out to battle; and is so translated in a multitude of places in our common English version. I shall mention but a few, because they are sufficiently decisive: Isaac was called נער naar when twenty-eight years old, Genesis 21:5-12; and Joseph was so called when he was thirty-nine, Genesis 41:12. Add to these 1 Kings 20:14; : "And Ahab said, By whom [shall the Assyrians be delivered into my hand?] And he said, Thus saith the Lord, by the Young Men, בנערי benaarey, of the princes of the provinces." That these were soldiers, probably militia, or a selection from the militia, which served as a bodyguard to Ahab, the event sufficiently declares; and the persons that mocked Elisha were perfectly accountable for their conduct.

But is it not possible that these forty-two were a set of unlucky young men, who had been employed in the wood, destroying the whelps of these same she-bears, who now pursued them, and tore them to pieces, for the injury they had done? We have already heard of the ferocity of a bear robbed of her whelps; see at the end of 2 Samuel 17:28. The mention of She-bears gives some color to the above conjecture; and, probably, at the time when these young fellows insulted the prophet, the bears might be tracing the footsteps of the murderers of their young, and thus came upon them in the midst of their insults, God's providence ordering these occurrences so as to make this natural effect appear as a Divine cause. If the conjecture be correct, the bears were prepared by their loss to execute the curse of the prophet, and God's justice guided them to the spot to punish the iniquity that had been just committed.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

As Beth-el was the older seat of the calf-worship 1 Kings 12:32-33; 13:1-32, a prophet of Yahweh was not unlikely to meet with insult there.

By the way - i. e. “by the usual road,” probably that which winds up the Wady Suweinit, under hills even now retaining some trees, and in Elisha‘s time covered with a dense forest, the haunt of savage animals. Compare 1 Kings 13:24; and for the general prevalence of beasts of prey in the country, both earlier and later than this, see Judges 14:5; 1 Samuel 17:31; 2 Kings 17:25; Amos 5:19, etc.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Observe the miracle of healing the waters. Prophets should make every place to which they come better for them, endeavouring to sweeten bitter spirits, and to make barren souls fruitful, by the word of God, which is like the salt cast into the water by Elisha. It was an apt emblem of the effect produced by the grace of God on the sinful heart of man. Whole families, towns, and cities, sometimes have a new appearance through the preaching of the gospel; wickedness and evil have been changed into fruitfulness in the works of righteousness, which are, through Christ, to the praise and glory of God. Here is a curse on the youths of Bethel, enough to destroy them; it was not a curse causeless, for it was Elisha's character, as God's prophet, that they abused. They bade him "go up," reflecting on the taking up of Elijah into heaven. The prophet acted by Divine impulse. If the Holy Spirit had not directed Elisha's solemn curse, the providence of God would not have followed it with judgment. The Lord must be glorified as a righteous God who hates sin, and will reckon for it. Let young persons be afraid of speaking wicked words, for God notices what they say. Let them not mock at any for defects in mind or body; especially it is at their peril, if they scoff at any for well doing. Let parents that would have comfort in their children, train them up well, and do their utmost betimes to drive out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts. And what will be the anguish of those parents, at the day of judgment, who witness the everlasting condemnation of their offspring, occasioned by their own bad example, carelessness, or wicked teaching!
Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 248

Jesus commissioned other angels to fly quickly to revive and strengthen the drooping faith of His people and prepare them to understand the message of the second angel and the important move which was soon to be made in heaven. I saw these angels receive great power and light from Jesus and fly quickly to earth to fulfill their commission to aid the second angel in his work. A great light shone upon the people of God as the angels cried, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.” Then I saw these disappointed ones rise and in harmony with the second angel proclaim, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.” The light from the angels penetrated the darkness everywhere. Satan and his angels sought to hinder this light from spreading and having its designed effect. They contended with the angels from heaven, telling them that God had deceived the people, and that with all their light and power they could not make the world believe that Christ was coming. But notwithstanding Satan strove to hedge up the way and draw the minds of the people from the light, the angels of God continued their work. EW 248.1

Those who received the light appeared very happy. They looked steadfastly toward heaven and longed for the appearing of Jesus. Some were weeping and praying in great distress. Their eyes seemed to be fixed upon themselves, and they dared not look upward. A light from heaven parted the darkness from them, and their eyes, which had been fixed in despair upon themselves, were turned upward, while gratitude and holy joy were expressed upon every feature. Jesus and all the angelic host looked with approbation upon the faithful, waiting ones. EW 248.2

Those who rejected and opposed the light of the first angel's message, lost the light of the second, and could not be benefited by the power and glory which attended the message, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.” Jesus turned from them with a frown; for they had slighted and rejected Him. Those who received the message were wrapped in a cloud of glory. They greatly feared to offend God, and waited and watched and prayed to know His will. I saw Satan and his angels seeking to shut this divine light from the people of God; but as long as the waiting ones cherished the light and kept their eyes raised from earth to Jesus, Satan could have no power to deprive them of its precious rays. The message given from heaven enraged Satan and his angels, and led those who professed to love Jesus, but despised His coming, to scorn and deride the faithful, trusting ones. But an angel marked every insult, every slight, every wrong, which the children of God received from their professed brethren. EW 249.1

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 235-6

This chapter is based on 2 Kings 4.

The work of Elisha as a prophet was in some respects very different from that of Elijah. To Elijah had been committed messages of condemnation and judgment; his was the voice of fearless reproof, calling king and people to turn from their evil ways. Elisha's was a more peaceful mission; his it was to build up and strengthen the work that Elijah had begun; to teach the people the way of the Lord. Inspiration pictures him as coming into personal touch with the people, surrounded by the sons of the prophets, bringing by his miracles and his ministry healing and rejoicing. PK 235.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 44

Parents, it should be your first concern to obey the call of duty and enter, heart and soul, into the work God has given you to do. If you fail in everything else, be thorough, be efficient, here. If your children come forth from the home training pure and virtuous, if they fill the least and lowest place in God's great plan of good for the world, your life can never be called a failure and can never be reviewed with remorse. 5T 44.1

The idea that we must submit to ways of perverse children is a mistake. Elisha, at the very commencement of his work, was mocked and derided by the youth of Bethel. He was a man of great mildness, but the Spirit of God impelled him to pronounce a curse upon those railers. They had heard of Elijah's ascension, and they made this solemn event the subject of jeers. Elisha evinced that he was not to be trifled with, by old or young, in his sacred calling. When they told him he had better go up, as Elijah had done before him, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. The awful judgment that came upon them was of God. After this, Elisha had no further trouble in his mission. For fifty years he passed in and out of the gate of Bethel, and went to and fro from city to city, passing through crowds of the worst and rudest of idle, dissolute youth, but no one ever mocked him or made light of his qualifications as the prophet of the Most High. This one instance of terrible severity in the commencement of his career was sufficient to command respect through his whole life. Had he allowed the mockery to pass unnoticed, he might have been ridiculed, reviled, and even murdered by the rabble, and his mission to instruct and save the nation in its great peril would have been defeated. 5T 44.2

Even kindness must have its limits. Authority must be sustained by a firm severity, or it will be received by many with mockery and contempt. The so-called tenderness, the coaxing and the indulgence, used toward youth by parents and guardians is the worst evil which can come upon them. Firmness, decision, positive requirements, are essential in every family. Parents, take up your neglected responsibilities; educate your children after God's plan, showing “forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 5T 45.1

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