Elisha and the Bears: A Critical Monograph on 2 Kings 2:23–25 -- By: Richard G. Messner

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 03:2 (Spring 1962)
Article: Elisha and the Bears: A Critical Monograph on 2 Kings 2:23–25
Author: Richard G. Messner

Elisha and the Bears:
A Critical Monograph on 2 Kings 2:23–25

Richard G. Messner

Assistant Professor of Bible, Grace College
Winona Lake, Indiana

Abridged by the Author

“And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there come forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there come forth two she bears out of the wood, and tore forty and two children of them. And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.”

This was a time of acute crisis in the history of Israel. Elijah had become so dejected and discouraged at the religious condition of the nation that he longed to die. In the wilderness of Beersheba, where he had fled from the ruthless Jezebel, he said “…now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kgs 19:4b). Forty days later, at Horeb, while hiding out in one of the numerous coves of the mountains, the Lord spoke to him: “What doest thou here, Elijah?” In utter despair, Elijah said: “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away” (1 Kgs l9:l3-14).

Apparently the whole nation had turned its back on God; yet, there were known to God, though hidden from the sight of men, some seven thousand faithful Israelites who refused to bow the knee to Baal (1 Kgs 19:18).

It certainly seems unusual that at such a critical period the prayer of Elijah to be removed from the earth (1 Kgs 19:4) was heard and answered. But in the eyes of God, Elijah had finished his work—and now the young man Elisha was to carry on. This was, indeed, a perilous position and one filled with grave responsibility. Elisha, in his inexperience, was left in the midst of an apostate nation going from bad to worse.

From the banks of the Jordan Elisha retraced the journey which he had taken with Elijah. Stopping first at Jericho he performed a miracle by healing the bitter waters of the city. From Jericho Elisha began the tiresome twenty-mile journey to Bethel. Jericho lies some 1300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, while Bethel is situated about 2000 feet above. Hart-Davies gives a very graphic description of this journey. “The brevity of the Scriptural narra...

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