2 Kings 2:23 - 24
ESV - 23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead! 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.
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Silver hair was a "crown of wonder" (Proverbs 16:31 --"Silver hair is a beautiful crown found in a righteous life.") among the Jews, however, hairlessness was something uncommon among them and by a few individuals was viewed as a shame (Isa. 3:24 -- "Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty."). One of the agreement alerts was that God would send wild animals to assault individuals. See Lev. 26:21-22. Leviticus 26:21 - 22, “Punishment for Disobedience”: 21 "Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted." --Warren Wiersbe
This was actually a powerful divine lesson being taught by GOD to an entire community; a community which was asserting its pride and power by allowing or encouraging its 'youth' (young men likely in their late teens, twenties and early thirties), to loiter on the outskirts of the town and demonstrate their vigor, strength and physical attributes to passersby. In the prophet Elisha's culture, 'hairiness' was considered a sign of great virility. Men even used to 'weigh' the hair on their heads to compare with each other and it became the basis for great pride. GOD didn't like any of this, so He sent his 'double-anointed' new prophet, (former student of Elijah), to confront the youths and address this issue head on. When the young men cry out 'go on up you bald head!' they are actually mocking the story of Elijah the prophet being caught up to heaven in what witnesses describe as a 'flaming chariot caught up in a whirlwind.' This sounds a lot like what modern people call 'engine thrust' and 'lift.' We should probably remember that GOD is the 'Original' and we are only the 'copies.' Anything that men could possibly devise or invent, GOD already has in a far superior form. That said, it was quite clear that this community was openly defiant against GOD. This was about a great deal more than personally offending a prophet of GOD for his physical appearance. Yet, the people had made their defiance about that physical appearance, so GOD decided to 'speak their language.' He found the hairiest, strongest, most virile, biggest and most ferocious creature in the region and set it loose between His holy prophet and the 'best' youths this community could produce. What was the outcome? Elisha had GOD's wisdom and humility, so he understood how to avoid the bear or keep it from seeing him as a threat or challenger. However, everything that made the youths 'virile and strong' was now a major disadvantage to them. The bear immediately and instinctively recognized a challenge because these human youths were 'speaking his language.' That is why the bear attacked them and not Elisha. When the community heard this story and saw what happened to their 'pride and joy' they understood for the first time that GOD cannot be mocked, that the stories about the prophet Elijah were not 'silly myths' and that the prophet Elisha was not to be disrespected. They also saw that he had qualities in himself more desirable than youth, beauty, strength, virility and pride. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:25).
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