2 Kings 2:23,24


Anyone care to rescue this somewhat gory episode which apparently can be taken literally?. Even NAB footnotes is speechless and can come up with no justification for this example of an act of mercy, tolerance and patience with children.

I have heard some converts from atheism are lost and not inspired after reading this chapter.



I don’t know that I can explain it but perhaps add a couple of pieces of information-

the “children” in the story are not schoolboys. The word rendered “boys” here is the same one used in 1 Kings 20:15 when they are mustering an army. And if 42 of them were killed, there were presumably considerably more in the group – this is a sizeable gang, in other words, taunting the prophet as he is travelling between cities.

Elisha defends himself with the only weapon he has - his words, which are consecrated to God. And the fact that his curse results in an immediate effect rather than a remote one may have served as a warning to others, as proof that Elisha was in fact a true prophet. (Many people have observed that by taunting Elisha they are taunting God - I don’t know that this is necessarily true, but we certainly know in our own day that those who reject God frequently taunt or vilify those who strive to serve Him.)

Given the popularity of bear-baiting as sport in ancient and medieval time, and the kinds of activities that gangs of marauding youths have been known to come up with in centuries past and present, I think it’s quite possible that those two bears had a previous grievance with those boys.


Thanks for the answer, NH :slight_smile:



St. Augustine had some insightful info on this:



God punished the 42 men for making fun of Elisha who was his prophet.

“And if ye walk contrary unto me. . . . I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children” (Leviticus 26:21-22).

I don’t know the significance of the 42 men, nor the bald-head, nor the 2 she-bears. There’s probably some symbolic thing going on.


Hi, Andy!

You’ve been given excellent replies… I want to add to points:

  • It amazes me that passages such as those are included in the Sacred Scriptures, though they may appear to confuse rather than enlighten us, we must look for a deeper meaning–we are told that Jesus descended into hell and in the Spirit preached to those souls who were captive from ancient times; I understand this to mean that the old Covenant (eye for an eye) was not fully encompassing as the new Covenant (this is My Blood that will be shed for the forginess of sin) not only includes the past, present, and future sin but also both the descendants of Abraham through blood (Israel) and through Faith (Gentiles and Jews).

  • Many times we attempt to view the Old Testament Scriptures through our modern understanding of the Sacred Scriptures which is mostly based on the New Testament Covenant and Revelations.

Notice in the passage cited by you that Elisha represents God and that this experience is fairly new (just a few verses ago Elisha was the disciple of Elijah); when tounted by so many the prophet did not commit an evil act but pronounced judgment on them through Yahweh God; it was God’s determination to demonstrate that Elisha was under His Protection. True, it could well have been a different example… but why question the Mind of the Almighty?

Maran atha!


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