Elisha, the ancient Old Testament prophet, was headed out of town, when a big gang of small boys came out of the village and jeered at him yelling, “Go away bald-head! Go away!” (2 Kings 2:23). What happens next is really awful. Elisha, this man of God, curses the children and immediately two momma bears come out of the woods and maul forty-two of the boys.
What on earth is this story all about? Don’t make fun of bald people? Don’t make fun of prophets? Train your children better than this? Don’t leave 42 small boys without supervision?
I’ve done some thinking about this. It says that Elisha cursed them “in the name of the Lord.” When a prophet does something in the “name of the Lord,” it means that God has instructed them to do it. But I had a really hard time believing that God would tell Elisha to do this. So I went back and looked at what the children actually said in Hebrew.
The children didn’t say, “Go away bald-head.” They said, “Go on up bald-head” which connects this story to another story just a few verses earlier when Elisha witnesses Elijah (another prophet – yes, their names are very close) being taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. The deal was that if Elisha witnessed Elijah going up into heaven, then Elisha would be doubly blessed by God with miraculous powers.
If I am right, what these boys were doing is trying to threaten Elisha into “going on up” — as in ascending in a whirlwind. What if they thought that if they witnessed Elisha ascending, they would have Elisha’s powers? Elisha had a lot of power. He could do all kinds of miracles, make food grow, bring the dead back to life, etc. What if these boys wanted his power, but not for good reasons? So Elisha turns and curses them to protect the power that he has been entrusted with. Maybe? Any other ideas?