Detail from Willem van den Bundel's"The Prophet Elisha curses the children who mocked him"
We ended the year studying Elijah on Wednesday nights, and begin this year studying Elisha – a natural transition. We covered Elisha’s selection in I Kings 19:16-21 in December, as well as Elijah’s departure in II Kings 2. We returned to II Kings 2 last night to see the same scene from Elisha’s viewpoint – and move a few steps forward.
Elisha knew what was coming, though he was reminded in verses 3 and 5:
And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. (2 Kings 2:3 KJV)
And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. (2 Kings 2:5 KJV)
But later, those prophets did not listen to him. Even with foreknowledge, they were concerned about what happened to Elijah:
And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send. (2 Kings 2:16 KJV)
They shamed him:
And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not. (2 Kings 2:17 KJV)
He responded as most of us would – told you so!
And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not? (2 Kings 2:18 KJV)
II Kings 2:23-25 was hard for me to understand. I’ve read it several times. Pastor’s lesson and van den Bundel’s painting helped me understand more. His painting is filled with lush foliage, definitely not the Judean hillside that would have been the Bethel area. He painted what he knew, and the word “children” meant the children he saw around him. Perhaps the ones who insulted Elisha were older, yet not considered adults:
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. (2 Kings 2:23 KJV)
It is not a good idea to mock God’s chosen. It sounds to me as though they were daring him to go up the same way Elijah did, adding a literal insult to injury by pointing out his baldness. It also sounds to me as though Elisha understood they were mocking God, too. Yes, he cursed them, but the Bible doesn’t say that curse included bears – the punishment was in God’s hands.
Of course, just as van den Bundel painted from what was familiar to him, I’m interpreting from what is familiar to me.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7 KJV)