Bears Mauling Little Children (2 Kings 2:23).


2 Kings 2:23 reads as follows: “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.”

Now, this verse produces the following difficulties:

1 – Why would God send bears to maul people for simply mocking Elisha for being bald headed?

2. Why would God send a bear to kill children, of all people?

These were not little children. Apologists have argued that these were not necessarily little children. The Hebrew word for “children” (na’ar) is used for adolescents usually between the ages of puberty to young adulthood (12-25 years old). One could point out that this makes sense as why would a large group of little children band together in the countryside to attack someone? It is probably the case that this was a gang. One could also point out that it doesn’t really matter if these were little children our a ruthless gang.  Whether an adult or child if he threatens someone’s life then he probably deserves what comes to him.

-This was likely a large threatening mob that Elisha encountered. Apologists have pointed out that we’re only told of 42 of these teenagers/adults who were mauled by the two bears. If so it is possible that there were even more of them that managed to escape.

-That the two bears mauled 42 of these teenagers/adults implies that they probably fought with weapons. If the entire mob scattered at the sending of the bears it would be likely, one may argue, that the death toll might have been far lower. Given the accuracy of this story it would appear that the mob was threatening to Elisha if they were willing to combat bears.

-They were not simply mocking Elisha for him having no hair, instead they were cursing him & wishing for him to be killed. The term “GO UP” was a euphemism for “die already.” Their reference to his “bald head” was not a joke as his receding hair line. It was a reference to looking sickly like one had leprosy. Thus these words coming from this gang of teenagers/adults tells us that they were probably going to assault Elisha.

-Given the truth of the story this mob intended to prevent Elisha, as God’s appointed prophet, from winning the favour of the people at Bethel since they worshiped false gods. This mob was either disrupting that worship or they were sent by Bethel to drive Elisha away so they could follow after false gods.

-One could argue that Elisha was capable enough of piecing all this together. It would probably account for the reason why he would call a bear in God’s name to protect him. After all, God’s appointed prophets had the responsibility to rebuke & warn God’s people of judgment for their sinful deeds. Therefore, to kill a prophet would prevent God getting that message to his people which, given the truth of biblical revelation, would be serious.


5 responses to “Bears Mauling Little Children (2 Kings 2:23).

  1. Dear James, Excellent breakdown of these verses! I love how much information is there between the lines if you actually take the time to study the word. Thanks!

  2. Oh James, I had a talk with an atheist about this very same passage just a few days ago. I’m proud to say I basically came to the same conclusions you did here through studying the entire passage, but I’m not going to pat my back or anything😉 The atheist still said he had questions about it, but he was kind about it and left the conversation. One of his questions was, “why did God send Jesus later rather than sooner, so He could have prevented all the death He caused?” I told him there was a purpose to the OT but I didn’t go into detail. Maybe that could be an idea for a future post as I’d love to see your answer.

    • I am happy that you’re engaging with atheists, Lucas! On a cordial level. That can be rare nowadays.
      That’s a good questions too. I will see what I can do with it for a future post!

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