2 Kings 2:24
And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) He turned back.—The boys were following him with their jeers. Thenius says, “The wanton young people, who had not courage to attack except in the rear, had stolen round him.”

Cursed them.—“To avenge the honour of Jehovah, violated in his person” (Keil). (Comp. Exodus 16:8; Acts 5:4.)

And there came forth.—Whether at once, and in the presence of Elisha, or not, is uncertain. Thenius supposes that on some occasion or other a terrible calamity had fallen on some person or persons after such a mockery of Elisha, or of some other prophet (!); and that in the desire to magnify the divinely maintained inviolability of the prophetic office, the author of the above narrative has overlooked the immoral character of cursing, especially in the case of wanton children. He then contrasts the behaviour of the “historical” David (2Samuel 16:10). But (1) the curse of a prophet was an inspired prediction of punitive disaster; (2) Beth-el was a chief seat of idolatry (1Kings 12:29, seq.; Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5; Amos 7:10), and the mobbing of the new prophetic leader may have been premeditated; (3) at all events, the narrative is too brief to enable us to judge of the merits of the case; and (4) what is related belongs to that dispensation in which judgment was made more prominent than mercy, and directly fulfils the menace of Leviticus 26:21, seq.

Two she bears.Hosea 13:8; Proverbs 17:12; Amos 5:19. (Comp. 2Kings 17:25.) Wild beasts were common in Palestine in those days.

Forty and two.—This may be a definite for an indefinite number. It shows that the mob of young persons who beset the prophet was considerable.

2 Kings 2:24. He looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord — “The word curse has in Scripture three different acceptations. It signifies, to inflict a curse; and in this sense God is said to have cursed the ground after the fall. It signifies, to wish a curse; and in this sense Shimei is said to have cursed David. Lastly, it signifies, to pronounce, or foretel, a curse or punishment; and in this sense Elisha is said to have cursed the children. The historian expressly asserts, that he cursed them in the name of the Lord. To speak in the name of the Lord, is to deliver what he commands; to prophesy in the name of the Lord, is to foretel what he reveals; and to curse in the name of the Lord, is to declare a curse which he is determined to inflict, and has authorized the prophet to denounce: so that in cursing these supposed children, Elisha acted as a minister of the Supreme Ruler of the world, and by his order foretold the punishment that was going to be inflicted upon these idolaters. His pronouncing this curse was not the cause of their catastrophe; but the certainty of their catastrophe, and the command of God, were the causes of his pronouncing this curse.” See Dr. Dodd, and Morris, vol. 1. ser. 7.

There came forth two she-bears out of the wood — Which probably had been robbed of their whelps, and thereby made more fierce and outrageous; and tare forty and two children of them — Here the word translated children is different from that used above, namely, ילדים, jeladim; but this also signifies, not only young children, but also those that are grown up to maturity, as Genesis 32:22; Genesis 34:4; Genesis 37:30; Ruth 1:5. In this extraordinary punishment, inflicted evidently by the hand of God on these young persons, we have demonstration, that the curse which the prophet denounced against them was not owing, as some have supposed, to the peevishness of his temper, or the ebullition of his anger: for though his rage had been ever so furious, it would not have supplied him with power to command these savage creatures to leave the woods at an instant, and to come to a place they did not frequent, as a public road must be supposed to be, in order to destroy these insolent youths. As his curse would have had no effect had it proceeded from a peevish temper, or from the violence of his passion, we have no just cause, from his cursing them, to suspect that he was actuated by any such principle. No: it was in the name of the Lord; not from any revengeful passion, but by the motion of God’s Spirit, and by God’s command and commission that he denounced the curse: and God caused the punishment to follow, partly to show his displeasure at such profaneness and malignity of mind against God, and his cause, and worship, as these youths were guilty of, for the terror and caution of all other ungodly persons, who abounded in that place; partly to vindicate the honour and maintain the authority of his prophets; and particularly of Elisha, now especially in the beginning of his sacred ministry; and partly to convince the people of the heinousness of idolatry, and to recover them to that purity of worship which the law was peculiarly intended to preserve.

Upon the whole, it appears that the persons who mocked Elijah were not infants, but arrived to years of maturity; that they did not insult him by chance, but by design; that they went out in great crowds on purpose; that they mocked him because he was the prophet of the true God, from whom they had apostatized; and that he did not wish their untimely end from a principle of revenge, but only predicted it as a prophet. The punishment will appear just, if we consider the time, place, persons, and all the circumstances of the case. These young persons might be guilty of many other heinous crimes, known to God and his prophet, besides that here recorded: they were at least guilty of idolatry, which by God’s law deserved death: add to this, that the idolatrous parents were punished in their children; and that if any of these children were more innocent, God might have mercy on their souls, and then the death they suffered was not a misery, but a real blessing to them, taking them away from that education which was very likely to expose them, not only to temporal, but eternal destruction. 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!On this occasion only do we find Elisha a minister of vengeance. Perhaps it was necessary to show, at the outset of his career as a prophet, that he too, so mild and peaceful could, like Elijah, wield the terrors of God's judgments (1 Kings 19:19 note). The persons really punished were, not so much the children, as the wicked parents 2 Kings 2:23, whose mouth-pieces the children were, and who justly lost the gift of offspring of which they had shown themselves unworthy. 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.

Cursed them; nor was this punishment too great for the offence, if it be considered that these children were grown up to some maturity; (See Poole "2 Kings 2:23";) that their mocking proceeded from a great malignity of mind against God; that they mocked not only a man, and an ancient man, whose very age commanded reverence, and a prophet; but even God himself, and that most admirable and glorious work of God, the assumption of Elijah into heaven, which makes it in some degree resemble the sin against the Holy Ghost; that they might be guilty of many other heinous crimes, which God and the prophet knew; and were guilty of idolatry, which by God’s law deserved death; that the idolatrous parents were punished in their children; and that if any of these children were more innocent and ignorant of what they said, God might have mercy upon their souls, and then this death was not a misery, but a real blessing to them, that they were taken away from that wicked and idolatrous education, which was most likely to expose them not only to temporal, but to an eternal destruction.

In the name of the Lord; not from any carnal or revengeful passion, but by the motion of God’s Spirit, and by God’s command and commission, as appears by God’s concurrence with him; which God did, partly for the terror and caution of all other idolaters and profane persons, who abounded in that place; partly to vindicate the honour and maintain the authority of his prophets, and particularly of Elisha, now especially in the beginning of his sacred ministry. And this did beget such a confidence in Elisha, that he durst venture to go into Beth-el after this was done; and such a terror in the Beth-elites, that they durst not avenge themselves of him.

Two she-bears; possibly robbed of their whelps, and therefore more fierce, Proverbs 17:12 Hosea 13:8; but certainly acted by an extraordinary fury, which God raised in them for this purpose.

Forty and two children: this Hebrew word signifies not only young children, but those also who are grown up to maturity, as Genesis 32:22 34:4 37:30 Ruth 1:5. And he turned back, and looked on them,.... With a stern countenance, thereby reproving them, and in order to intimidate them, and make them ashamed, and cause them to leave off, but to no purpose; they repeated their mockeries with great vehemence:

and cursed them in the name of the Lord; moved thereunto, not from passion and a spirit of revenge, but by an impulse of the Spirit of God:

and there came forth two she bears out of the wood; which are fiercest, and especially when bereaved of their whelps, as these might be; the wood seems to be near to Bethel, perhaps in the wilderness of Bethel, of which see Joshua 8:15, and Reland (y) thinks it is the same with the wood of Ephraim, 2 Samuel 18:6, though the Jews, to increase the miracle, say (z) there was no wood at all, and, if there was, that there were no bears in it; but though those creatures are mostly in northern countries, yet there were of them in Judea, see 1 Samuel 17:34.

and tare forty and two children of them; it seems there were more than these; but such a number of them they tore to pieces and destroyed; which was very extraordinary, and was an awful punishment for their wickedness, which they knowingly and willingly committed, and of their parents in them, who had trained them up in such impiety, and put them upon it, and sent them out to do it.

(y) Palestin. Illustrat. p. 378. (z) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 47. 1.

And he turned back, and looked on them, and {n} cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

(n) Perceiving their malicious heart against the Lord and his word, he asks God to avenge the injury done to him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
24. And he turned back, and looked on them] R.V. And he looked behind him and saw them. The young lads had come forth from the city, and Elisha had, as it seems, passed by them, before they began their mockery. The word translated ‘turned’ in A.V. is used specially of turning the face toward any object. It is so rendered by A.V. in Genesis 18:22, ‘And the men turned their faces’. Elisha turned about and saw in them the malice and evil spirit of their parents and kindred.

and cursed them in the name of the Lord] It was not to avenge himself. Their insult to him was but a symptom of their hatred of all that was connected with the pure worship of Jehovah. It was as Jehovah’s servant and in vindication of Jehovah’s honour that Elisha invoked a curse upon the revilers. ‘God and His seer looked through these children at the parents, at all Israel. He would punish the parents’ misnurturing their children, with the death of those children which they had mistaught’ (Bp Hall).

two she bears] Of the prevalence of wild beasts in the immediate neighbourhood of cities we have indications in the history of David who slew a lion and a bear as he was keeping his father’s flock (1 Samuel 17:36), and in the story of the disobedient prophet who was torn by a lion near this very city of Bethel (1 Kings 13:24).

tare forty and two] The punishment would touch the parents in a way which nothing else could have done.Verse 24. - And he turned back, and looked on them; rather, and he looked behind him, and saw them, as in the Revised Version. The boys, after the manner of boys, were following him, hanging upon him, not daring to draw too near, hooting him from behind, as ill-bred and ill-intentioned youths are apt to do. And cursed them in the name of the Lord. The action cannot be defended from a Christian point of view - Christians have no right to curse any one. But we can well understand that, under the old covenant, a prophet newly installed in office, and commencing his ministry, might deem it right to vindicate the honor of his office by visiting such conduct as that of these misguided youths with a malediction. Under the Law God's ministers were required to curse the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27:14-26). Elisha could not tell what would be the effect of his curse. It could have no effect at all excepting through the will and by the action of God. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood; or, the forest; i.e. the forest, which, as all knew, lay within a short distance of Bethel, and was the haunt of wild beasts (see 1 Kings 3:24). And tare forty and two children of them. It is not said how far the lads were injured, whether fatally or not. But the punishment, whatever its severity, came from God, not from the prophet, and we may be sure was just. For "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" A severe example may have been needed under the circumstances of the time, when a new generation was growing up in contempt of God and of religion; and the sin of the lads was not a small one, but indicated that determined bent of the will against good, and preference of evil, which is often developed early, and generally goes on from bad to worse. 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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