Q: Why Did Elisha Curse Youths for Mocking Him?

After performing a miracle in Jericho, the prophet Elisha went to Bethel. On the road, a large group of youths mocked him, chanting, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” Elisha immediately turned around and cursed them, whereupon two female bears charged out of the woods and mauled 42 of the mockers (2 Ki. 2:23–24). Why would a prophet of God curse “little children” (KJV) for an innocent comment?

First, the phrase translated “little children” in the King James Version often has a note in the margin of the text that reads, “youth,” “young man,” or “young lad.” The phrase is translated “youths” in the New King James. These were boys ranging in age from late teens to early 20s; they were not little children. The same Hebrew words are used for Isaac (Gen. 22:12), Joseph (37:2), and David (1 Sam. 16:11–12; 17:14).

Second, they were most likely a gang that had little respect for people, authority, or God’s law. They lived in an idolatrous society tainted by corruption and paganism; and had they been taught God’s law, they would have known that cursing God’s prophet was tantamount to cursing God and, therefore, punishable by death. Mocking Elisha was not an innocent, harmless, minor offense. He represented God before the people of Israel. Though Elisha cursed the youths, he left their judgment to God.

Some people may wonder why saying “Go up, you baldhead!” was wrong. It was wrong because the comment was meant as an insult to belittle the prophet. Since Elisha was completely or partially bald, some believe he was old; but this was not the case. In fact, Elisha was probably 25, just slightly older than those who mocked him. We know his approximate age by adding up the years between Elijah’s translation to heaven and Elisha’s eventual death.

The phrase go up was not speaking of Elisha going up from Bethel but, rather, was ridiculing the prophet Elijah’s ascension to heaven—a well-known event in Israel, though many doubted its veracity. Thus the young men were jeering Elisha, essentially saying, “Stop tormenting us; leave like Elijah did and get out of here.”

Elisha turned around, looked at them, and pronounced a curse from the Lord. Immediately, “two female bears came out of the woods and mauled [ripped apart] forty-two of the youths” (2 Ki. 2:24). Interestingly, Moses had warned the Israelites in the Law that God would “send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children” (Lev. 26:22) as a consequence of disobedience.

Without another word, Elisha continued on his journey to Mount Carmel and then returned to his house in Samaria (2 Ki. 2:25).

4 thoughts on “Q: Why Did Elisha Curse Youths for Mocking Him?

  1. Wondered about that event. You brought clarity to it along with a warning to those who would mock the things of God.
    Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the clarity, although this story still bothers me. How do we reconcile this with what Jesus taught. Jesus said “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” If we then are greater than John who according to Jesus is greater than Elisha, why are we instructed to …. Jesus teaches us that we are to love even our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven”? We are not to curse or retaliate.

    Thank you! James

  3. Great to be back in touch with you guys again!! God did the work as He pleases, Elisha just spoke the words. I have to share this at midweek study!!!
    God grant you endurance in sharing the truth I’ve been reading for thirty years from your magazine. Also peace and grace with the critics!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Features

From the Editor Mar/Apr 2020

Do you believe in miracles? It’s a simple question, but the answer has far-reaching implications. Two people groups we’d expect to believe in miracles are...

Frame, Reframe: The Battle for Truth

I witnessed an attempt to reframe theology during our Canadian Friends of Israel Prophecy Conference...

Elisha: God’s Miracle Man

Elijah and Elisha were among Israel’s most important prophets. Some people confuse them, but they were extremely different men...

A Great Woman, A Great Miracle

Some people spend a lifetime trying to acquire a great name or leave a great legacy. There is a special woman in the Bible...

Portrait of Grace

She was merely a little Jewish girl. Yet God in His sovereignty positioned her where her faith and grace would touch the highest echelons of military power...

Chariots of Fire

WAR. The very word conjures up horrific images of mass destruction, fleeing innocents, pain, and suffering. But another dimension of warfare exists...


Share Your Story.

Has God used The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry in your life?

Share your story with us!


Subscription Options

1 Year Digital Subscription

  • *Free PDF Book Download - What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers
  • *Free Full-Issue PDF Downloads

$9.99 every year

1 Year Digital with Archive Access

  • *Free PDF Book Download - What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers
  • *Complete Access to Our Growing Archive—Eventually Back Through Our Inaugural Issue In 1942
  • *Free Full-Issue PDF Downloads of Current Issues and Select Archives

$19.99 every year

2 Year Digital Subscription

  • *Free PDF Book Download - What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers
  • *Free Full-Issue PDF Downloads

$19.99 every 2 years

2 Year Digital with Archive Access

  • *Free PDF Book Download - What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers
  • *Complete Access to Our Growing Archive—Eventually Back Through Our Inaugural Issue In 1942
  • *Free Full-Issue PDF Downloads of Current Issues and Select Archives

$39.99 every 2 years

3 Year Digital Subscription

  • *Free PDF Book Download - What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers
  • *Free Full-Issue PDF Downloads

$29.99 every 3 years

3 Year Digital with Archive Access

  • *Free PDF Book Download - What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers
  • *Complete Access to Our Growing Archive—Eventually Back Through Our Inaugural Issue In 1942
  • *Free Full-Issue PDF Downloads of Current Issues and Select Archives

$59.99 every 3 years

Free 1 Year Digital Subscription

Unlimited Articles

Unlimited Posts

Free