Would it be acceptable for me to have 42 children massacred if they called me bald?
2 Kings 2:23 - 25
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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Despite the translation of these verses, my understanding of the original text is that the individuals mocking Elisha, instead of being "little children", could have been as old as twenty, and thus well past a point of accountability to God for their actions. Their mocking might also sound innocuous in translation, but it was directed at the very essence of Elisha's (and possibly even Elijah's) calling and mission as a prophet of God. The words "go up" might have been a derisive reference to the carrying up of Elijah into heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12, just prior to the incident cited in the question)(suggesting that it had not really happened), and a jeering taunt to Elisha to repeat that action (with the implication that he could not). Also, the reference to Elisha's baldness might be construed as mocking Elisha for what could have been regarded as an infirmity, and thus an added insult, which was further intensified by its repetition (as was also the case with the repetition of the words "go up"). Yes, Elisha pronounced a curse upon them in God's name, but it was God Himself who executed the judgment against them, indicating that it had His sanction. In my opinion, this was out of a desire to vindicate His name, similar to actions He had already performed that might seem to us to be extreme (as in killing or allowing the deaths of those who worshipped the golden calf (Exodus 32)(in which 3,000 people died); Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10); or those who rebelled with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16)), but that indicated the grave nature of either rebelling against the commandments of God Himself, or challenging those who spoke in His name (whether Moses or Elisha). The inclusion of those incidents in the Bible was to make unmistakably clear to all succeeding generations the importance of respect and reverence for God's name, His commandments, and His appointed prophets, and (from the standpoint of Christians) to make them all the more thankful for the grace and mercy shown to humanity by God through Christ.
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