Can you explain 2 Kings 2:23-25? -asked by a student at Gorman Baptist Church, Durham
This is a story in Scripture where God’s prophet Elisha (who took Elijah’s position as God’s prophet) caused 2 female bears to come out of the woods and maul 42 children. After Elijah was taken up, these little youths came out and told Elisha, as he traveled, to “Go on up you bald man!”
To answer this question, we have to look at 3 Hebrew words. Qatan, which could mean small, young, insignificant, or unimportant. Na’ar, which means boy, lad, youth, child, or servant; and Yeled, which is a child, son, descendants, offspring, youth, or figurative language referring to apostates (people who have renounced the things of God).
Here I just have to say that when any language is translated into another, something is always lost. No matter how accurate our translations may be, we will never be able to capture the breadth of Ancient Hebrew in our modern English. Just the same, when English is translated into another language something is lost because English words can have more than one formal meaning and possibly more than one slang meaning. Figurative language (e.g. “That went over his head”) may not make sense at all when translated into other languages.
Here we have a seen where “children” in our English Bible may in fact be a description of a young apostate people, or people who have renounced the things of God altogether and were utterly unrighteous. To put things in perspective, there are even people who are part of ISIS, the terror group, coming to Christ and turning against everything ISIS stands for. To have no one who is righteous, or a group that is entirely apostate, would require a group to be more against God and people than ISIS is, being less likely to turn to God, and that really might start helping us to see in a greater light. Even if these people were not violent, which they probably were, then they most likely would have been more vile than Islamic terrorists in the world today.
We see evidence that these younger people are yelling at Elisha (who was apparently bald) to go up like Elijah did so they wouldn’t have to hear the things of God any longer. These people were enemies of God and Elisha did as Elijah might have done by cursing them and calling down God’s wrath on them. We see God acting the same way with Sodom, where not one righteous person could be found.
God leaves no sin unpunished. This is one of the reasons that I am so thankful that He dealt with sin once for all in Christ. Now by trusting in Christ, I may live! The truth is, even in the Old Testament, God provided a way for people to escape the consequences of sin and be saved by the blood of the coming Messiah. He always shows so much grace because He loves the world, even when His just nature is revealed as He punishes.
See this answer addressed on AIG: https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/elisha-little-children-and-the-bears/