2 Kings 2:23
And he went up from there to Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said to him, Go up, you bald head; go up, you bald head.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Went up.—From Jericho, in the plain, Elisha goes now to visit the prophetic community established at Beth-el, the chief seat of the illicit cultus.

By the way.—The way par excellence; the highroad leading directly up to the gates of the town.

Little children.Young boys (or, lads). Na’ar is not used rhetorically here, as in 1Chronicles 29:1; 2Chronicles 13:7. The boys who mocked Elisha might be of various ages, between six or seven years and twenty. “Little children” would not be likely to hit upon a biting sarcasm, nor to sally forth in a body to insult the prophet (2Kings 2:24).

Mocked.Habakkuk 1:10. In Syriac and Chaldee the root implies “to praise, and to praise ironically,” i.e., to deride.

Go up.—Not “as Elijah was reported to have done;” for the Bethelites knew no more of that than the prophets of Jericho. The word obviously refers to what Elisha was himself doing at the time (2Kings 2:23). He was probably going up the steep road slowly, and his prophet’s mantle attracted attention.

Thou bald head.—Baldness was a reproach (Isaiah 3:17; Isaiah 15:2), and suspicious as one of the marks of leprosy (Leviticus 13:43). Elisha, though still young—he lived fifty years after this (2Kings 13:14)—may have become bald prematurely.

2 Kings 2:23. He went up from thence unto Beth-el — To the other school of the prophets, to inform them of Elijah’s translation, and his succession to the same office; and to direct, and comfort, and establish them, as he saw occasion. And — there came forth little children — The word נערים, negnarim, here rendered children, often evidently signifies, and is translated, young men, or lads, as Genesis 22:5; Genesis 22:12; Genesis 41:12; Genesis 43:8; 2 Chronicles 13:7, and that even when the epithet קשׂנים, ketannim, little, is, as here, added to it: see 1 Kings 3:7, and Isaiah 11:6. Here Dr. Waterland renders the words, young lads. It is more than probable they were, at least, old enough to discern between good and evil. They came out of the city, that is, Beth-el, the mother city of idolatry, where the prophets had planted themselves that they might bear witness against it, and dissuade the people from it, though, it seems, they had but small success there. These youths, it appears, did not meet with Elisha by accident, but went out with a design to insult him, knowing him to be a prophet of the true God, an advocate for his worship, and an enemy to the idolatry of the place; and having imbibed the prejudices of their parents against the true religion. They likewise went in a body, which showed that their motive was malice, and their going out not casual: from whence some think it probable that they went out, not only to deride the prophet, but likewise to prevent his entering into the city. They feared he would be as zealous against their idolatries as Elijah had been, and by this insult they intended to free themselves from his remonstrances. And mocked him — With great petulancy and vehemency making game of him, as the word יתקלסו, jithkallesu, here used, signifies; deriding, probably, both his person and ministry, and that from a profane contempt of the true religion, and a passionate love of that idolatry which they knew he opposed. And said unto him, Go up, thou bald-head, go up, thou bald-head — Thus mocking his natural infirmity, which was a great sin, and repeating the words to show their earnestness, and that their scoff was no sudden slip of the tongue, but proceeded from a rooted impiety, and hatred of God and his prophets: and very probably it was their usual practice to jeer the prophets as they went along the streets, that they might expose them to contempt, and, if possible, drive them out of the town. Many commentators think, that by this expression, עלה, gnalee, Go up, ascend, which they repeat, they intended to make a jest of the ascension of Elijah, which no doubt they had heard of: as if they had said, “Go up, ascend into heaven, whither thou pretendest Elijah is gone. Why didst thou not accompany thy friend and master to heaven?” thus shutting their eyes against an astonishing miracle, which seems to have been wrought, partly at least, to reclaim them, as well as to the two other signal miracles recently wrought, and, no doubt, spread abroad through the country, namely, of both Elijah and Elisha’s dividing the waters of Jordan, and passing through on dry ground. Perhaps, however, as the story mentions his going up, or ascending, the rising ground, unto Beth-el, and going up by the way, they might only mean, Go along, by the expression, Go up, or ascend, and might not allude to Elijah’s ascension. Be this as it may, their abuse of a prophet whom God had so evidently accredited, and marked out as the successor of Elijah, whose miracles had been so many and so wonderful, was a most heinous sin, and a manifest insult offered to the true God, and was accordingly punished as such by him, all whose ways are just and holy, and who never exceeds the degree of sin in the measure of punishment, but always in the present world punishes the guilty infinitely less than they deserve.2:19-25 Observe the miracle of healing the waters. Prophets should make every place to which they come better for them, endeavouring to sweeten bitter spirits, and to make barren souls fruitful, by the word of God, which is like the salt cast into the water by Elisha. It was an apt emblem of the effect produced by the grace of God on the sinful heart of man. Whole families, towns, and cities, sometimes have a new appearance through the preaching of the gospel; wickedness and evil have been changed into fruitfulness in the works of righteousness, which are, through Christ, to the praise and glory of God. Here is a curse on the youths of Bethel, enough to destroy them; it was not a curse causeless, for it was Elisha's character, as God's prophet, that they abused. They bade him go up, reflecting on the taking up of Elijah into heaven. The prophet acted by Divine impulse. If the Holy Spirit had not directed Elisha's solemn curse, the providence of God would not have followed it with judgment. The Lord must be glorified as a righteous God who hates sin, and will reckon for it. Let young persons be afraid of speaking wicked words, for God notices what they say. Let them not mock at any for defects in mind or body; especially it is at their peril, if they scoff at any for well doing. Let parents that would have comfort in their children, train them up well, and do their utmost betimes to drive out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts. And what will be the anguish of those parents, at the day of judgment, who witness the everlasting condemnation of their offspring, occasioned by their own bad example, carelessness, or wicked teaching!As Beth-el was the older seat of the calf-worship 1 Kings 12:32-33; 1 Kings 13:1-32, a prophet of Yahweh was not unlikely to meet with insult there.

By the way - i. e. "by the usual road," probably that which winds up the Wady Suweinit, under hills even now retaining some trees, and in Elisha's time covered with a dense forest, the haunt of savage animals. Compare 1 Kings 13:24; and for the general prevalence of beasts of prey in the country, both earlier and later than this, see Judges 14:5; 1 Samuel 17:31; 2 Kings 17:25; Amos 5:19, etc.

23, 24. there came forth little children out of the city—that is, the idolatrous, or infidel young men of the place, who affecting to disbelieve the report of his master's translation, sarcastically urged him to follow in the glorious career.

bald head—an epithet of contempt in the East, applied to a person even with a bushy head of hair. The appalling judgment that befell them was God's interference to uphold his newly invested prophet.

He went up from thence unto Beth-el, to the other school or college of prophets, to inform them of Elijah’s translation and his succession into the same office; and to direct, and comfort, and stablish them, as he saw occasion.

Little children; or, children, or young men; as this Hebrew word oft signifies, as Genesis 22:5,12 Ge 41:12 2 Chronicles 13:7 Isaiah 11:6. It is more than probable they were old enough to discern between good and evil as their expression showeth.

Out of the city; Beth-el, which was the mother city of idolatry, 1 Kings 12:28,29 Ho 4:15 5:8, where the prophets planted themselves, that they might bear witness against it, and dissuade the people from it; though, it seems, they had but small success there.

Mocked him, with great petulancy and vehemency, as the conjugation of the Hebrew verb signifies; deriding both his person and ministry, and that from a profane contempt of the true religion, and a passionate love to that idolatry which they knew he opposed.

Go up; go up into heaven, whither thou pretendest that Elijah is gone. Why didst not thou accompany thy friend and master to heaven? Oh that the same Spirit would take thee up also, that thou mightest not trouble us nor our Israel, as Elijah did!

Thou bald-head; so they mock his natural infirmity, which is a great sin.

Go up, thou baldhead: the repetition shows their heartiness and earnestness, that it was no sudden nor rash slip of their tongue, but a scoff proceeding from a rooted impiety and hatred of God and his prophets. And he went up from thence unto Bethel,.... From Jericho, which lay in a plain, to Bethel, situated on an hill, and therefore is said to go up to it; hither he went, to acquaint the sons of the prophets with the assumption of Elijah, to condole their loss of him, and to comfort and encourage them, and confirm his own authority among them as a prophet in his stead:

and as he was going up by the way; the ascent to the city:

there came forth little children out of the city; the word for "children" is used of persons of thirty or forty years of age; and though these are said to be "little", they were so well grown as to be able to go forth out of the city of themselves, without any to guide them, or to take care of them; and were of an age capable not only of taking notice of Elijah's baldness, but knew him to be a prophet, and were able to distinguish between good and evil; and, from a malignant spirit in them, mocked at him as such, and at the assumption of Elijah; which they had knowledge of, and to whom, taught by their idolatrous parents, they had an aversion: some Jewish writers (x) say, they were called "Naarim", which we render "children", because shaken from the commandments, or had shaken off the yoke of the commands; and "little", because they were of little faith:

and mocked him, and said unto him, go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head; meaning not up the hill to Bethel, where his coming was not desirable to the greater part in it, being idolaters; and perhaps these children were sent out to intimidate him with their flouts and jeers from entering there; but having heard of Elijah going up to heaven, as was said, they jeeringly bid him go up to heaven after him, and then they should have a good riddance of them both; thus at the same time mocking at him for his baldness, and making a jest of the wondrous work of God, the assumption of Elijah; which, with behaving so irreverently to an hoary head, a prophet of the Lord, was very heinous and wicked, and therefore what befell them need not be wondered at.

(x) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 46. 2.

And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23–25. Elisha curseth the mocking children and some of them are destroyed (Not in Chronicles)

23. from thence unto Beth-el] Going back by the same way which he had come some days before with Elijah.

there came forth little children] The margin of R.V. gives ‘young lads’. The word in the original is that which Solomon uses in his prayer at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:7), ‘I am but a little child’. This was at the time when he had just been elevated to the throne. So that although the word may mean ‘a little child’ it is not necessary nor possible in the present passage to understand by it anything but such young persons as were well aware of the outrage and wickedness of their conduct.

Go up, thou bald head] As the prophet drew near to the city these youths recognised him by his garb for one of the Lord’s prophets. It may be that he was wearing Elijah’s mantle. Such a man would be thought fit sport for the children of the Baal-worshippers of Bethel, and they were most probably set on and encouraged in their mockery by their parents. Their home education and all the associations of the place would have given them a contempt for the true servants of God. The fault of what they did lay as much in their surroundings as in themselves. It would seem that Elisha was prematurely bald, for he lived a long time after Elijah’s assumption, and this physical defect the insolent youths seized upon at once as a ground for ridicule. Elijah, the hairy man, had probably long shaggy locks, and so the contrast between the two would be marked at once.Verse 23. - And he went up from thence unto Bethel. The ascent is steep and long from the Jordan valley to the highlands of Benjamin, on which Bethel stood, probably one of not less than three thousand feet. The object of Elisha's visit may have been to inform the "sons of the prophets" at Bethel (ver. 3) of the events that had befallen Elijah. And as he was going up by the way - i.e., by the usual road or pathway, for, in the strict sense of the word, roads did not exist in Palestine - there came forth little children out of the city. "Little children" is an unfortunate translation, raising quite a wrong idea of the tender age of the persons spoken cf. On the other hand, Bishop Patrick's assertion that the words are to be "understood of adult persons, who had a hatred to the prophet," is quite untenable. Naarim ketanaim would be best translated (as by our Revisers in the margin) "young lads" - boys, that is, from twelve to fifteen. Such mischievous youths are among the chief nuisances of Oriental towns; they waylay the traveler, deride him, jeer him - are keen to remark any personal defect that he may have, and merciless in flouting it; they dog his steps, shout out their rude remarks, and sometimes proceed from abusive words to violent acts, as the throwing of sticks, or stones, or mud. On this occasion they only got as far as rude words. And mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head! go up, thou bald head! It has been maintained that the scoff of the lads contained an allusion to the ascension of Elijah (Patrick, Pool, Clarke), of which they had beard, and was a call upon Elisha to follow his master's example in quitting the world, that they might be no longer troubled with him. But it is not at all apparent that the lads even knew who Elisha was - they would probably have jeered at any aged person with whom they had fallen in; and by "Go up" they merely meant "Go on thy way; 'the force of their jeer was not in the word' aleh, but in the word kereach, "bald head." Baldness was sometimes produced by leprosy, and then made a man unclean (Leviticus 13:42-44); but the boys probably flouted the mere natural defect, in which there was no "uncleanness" (Leviticus 13:40, 41), but which they regarded as a fit subject for ridicule. Their sin was disrespect towards old age, combined, perhaps, with disrespect for the prophetical order, to which they may have known from his dress that Elisha belonged. But the disciples of the prophets at Jericho were so unable to realize the fact of Elijah's translation, although it had been previously revealed to them, that they begged permission of Elisha to send out fifty brave men to seek for Elijah. פּן־נשׂאו: whether the Spirit of the Lord has not taken him and cast him upon one of the mountains, or into one of the valleys. פּן with the perfect is used "where there is fear of a fact, which as is conjectured almost with certainty has already happened," like μὴ in the sense of "whether not" (vid., Ewald, 337, b.). יהוה רוּח is not a wind sent by Jehovah (Ges.), but the Spirit of Jehovah, as in 1 Kings 18:12. The Chethb גּיאות is the regular formation from גּיא or גּיא (Zechariah 14:4); the Keri with the transposition of א and ,י the later form: גּאיות, Ezekiel 7:16; Ezekiel 31:12, etc. The belief expressed by the disciples of the prophets, that Elijah might have been miraculously carried away, was a popular belief, according to 1 Kings 18:12, which the disciples of the prophets were probably led to share, more especially in the present case, by the fact that they could not imagine a translation to heaven as a possible thing, and with the indefiniteness of the expression ראשׁך מעל לקח could only understand the divine revelation which they had received as referring to removal by death. So that even if Elisha told them how miraculously Elijah had been taken from him, which he no doubt did, they might still believe that by the appearance in the storm the Lord had taken away His servant from this life, that is to say, had received his soul into heaven, and had left his earthly tabernacle somewhere on the earth, for which they would like to go in search, that they might pay the last honours to their departed master. Elisha yielded to their continued urgency and granted their request; whereupon fifty men sought for three days for Elijah's body, and after three days' vain search returned to Jericho. עד־בּשׁ, to being ashamed, i.e., till he was ashamed to refuse their request any longer (see at Judges 3:25).

The two following miracles of Elisha (2 Kings 2:19-25) were also intended to accredit him in the eyes of the people as a man endowed with the Spirit and power of God, as Elijah had been. 2 Kings 2:19-22. Elisha makes the water at Jericho wholesome. - During his stay at Jericho (2 Kings 2:18) the people of the city complained, that whilst the situation of the place was good in other respects, the water was bad and the land produced miscarriages. הארץ, the land, i.e., the soil, on account of the badness of the water; not "the inhabitants, both man and beast" (Thenius). Elisha then told them to bring a new dish with salt, and poured the salt into the spring with these words: "Thus saith the Lord, I have made this water sound; there will not more be death and miscarriage thence" (משּׁם). משׁלּכת is a substantive here (vid., Ewald, 160, e.). המּים מוצא is no doubt the present spring Ain es Sultn, the only spring near to Jericho, the waters of which spread over the plain of Jericho, thirty-five minutes' distance from the present village and castle, taking its rise in a group of elevations not far from the foot of the mount Quarantana (Kuruntul); a large and beautiful spring, the water of which is neither cold nor warm, and has an agreeable and sweet (according to Steph. Schultz, "somewhat salt") taste. It was formerly enclosed by a kind of reservoir or semicircular wall of hewn stones, from which the water was conducted in different directions to the plain (vid., Rob. Pal. ii. p. 283ff.). With regard to the miracle, a spring which supplied the whole of the city and district with water could not be so greatly improved by pouring in a dish of salt, that the water lost its injurious qualities for ever, even if salt does possess the power of depriving bad water of its unpleasant taste and injurious effects. The use of these natural means does not remove the miracle. Salt, according to its power of preserving from corruption and decomposition, is a symbol of incorruptibility and of the power of life which destroys death (see Bhr, Symbolik, ii. pp. 325,326). As such it formed the earthly substratum for the spiritual power of the divine word, through which the spring was made for ever sound. A new dish was taken for the purpose, not ob munditiem (Seb. Schm.), but as a symbol of the renewing power of the word of God. - But if this miracle was adapted to show to the people the beneficent character of the prophet's ministry, the following occurrence was intended to prove to the despisers of God that the Lord does not allow His servants to be ridiculed with impunity.

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