Atheists point out that Elijah was on his way to a certain city and a bunch of small children came out and started mocking the Prophet “Hey old bald head, why don’t you go up” and the old man had a temper tantrum and he put a curse on these little kids and God decided to bring a couple of wild bears over the woods and to maul all these little kids and kill them. What a cruel God. What kind of a God would do a thing like that?
The nation was in a very perilous place. They still worshiped Baal in many parts of Israel. This Prophet’s word needed to be taken dead serious because the whole nation’s existence hung in the balance.
2 Kings 2:23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”
In Hebrew “some youths” is talking about young men. They may have been 19-22 years of age, not little five-year-old children. This was a mob. There were 42 of them that got hurt by the bear. This was not just a couple of little kids that came out and made fun of him, this was a mob of people who started to mock him. More than likely, they had every intention of killing him because they came from a city that still worships Baal, the false god. They have caught the man of God on the road and they’re going to no doubt assassinate him.
“Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” When they say, what they’re doing is they’re mocking the ascension of Elijah. The Prophet was called away by God and the inference is “why don’t you just disappear off the face of the earth like your boss did?” Do they believe that Elijah truly left this earth in a chariot of fire? I can assure you they didn’t. They were mocking, not too unlike the people of 2 Peter who Peter says are going to be mockers in the last days. What are they gonna say? “Where’s the promise of Jesus coming? You Christians have been saying that Jesus is coming for 2,000 years. When is he gonna come?” Do they really believe he’s going to come? Of course not, they’re just mocking the fact that Christians do. Here we have this mob of young men demeaning the Prophet and then questioning whether Elijah truly was caught away. “Why don’t you go up?” they said. Verse 24 “So he turned around and looked at them and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord and two female bears came out from the woods and mauled 42 of the youths. Then he went from there to Mount Carmel and from there he returned to Samaria. 42 of them were mauled. It didn’t say one of them died. They embellished the story. It quite likely saved his life and 42 of them went away bleeding. There may have been a hundred of them there, 42 went away bleeding.
That’s a good lesson. Don’t mess around with God’s people. The nation of Israel’s very existence is at stake. This man’s word stands. He’s not to be mocked, he’s going to give a message a few days later to King Jehoshaphat that’s going to determine the fate of the entire nation. Don’t bring into question the veracity of this Prophet’s words. He turned and cursed them. He did exactly the right thing. God judged them and they went scurrying back to the city, they no doubt learned a pretty good lesson – don’t mess around with God’s Prophets particularly when they’re in the midst of a very precarious situation.
Jehoshaphat the King had gone into an alliance with a very questionable King and Elisha said “The only reason I’m here is because of you, Jehoshaphat. I show respect to you but this other King is very questionable but I’m still going to tell you what God’s going to do. You go out and fight against those people and God’s going to give you the victory but you do it exactly the way God is telling you to do it. He’s going to give you the victory. Jehoshaphat listened to the words of the Prophet and indeed the entire nation of Israel was saved from a horrible bondage. God used Elijah and Elijah to return the whole nation back to a God-given religion and he cleansed the land from idols and saved the entire nation.
When atheists pick up on this little story and say “Isn’t God mean?” No, actually he’s quite just and he’s long-suffering and this mob of young men brought this judgment on themselves. They should have listened to the words of the people who were at Mount Carmel and saw the fire of God come down from heaven and consume the sacrifice but they didn’t respect that miracle, they didn’t want to hear about that. They took things into their own hands and they made a big mistake. When the atheist scours through the Old Testament, he’s always going to find stories he doesn’t like. The Bible says the wicked don’t understand judgment. The Old Testament is God’s dealing with Israel and the Ten Commandments were given not to save people but to just show them how bad they are. 1 Timothy 1:9 says “The law wasn’t made for righteous people but for ungodly people and for sinners.” How are you going to know that you need a Savior unless you finally realize you’ve broken the Ten Commandments? Do you know anybody that has not lied? I don’t. Do you know anybody that’s never stolen anything? I don’t. Do you know anybody that hasn’t committed adultery? Jesus said “If you lust after a woman in your heart, you’re guilty of adultery.” Do you know anybody that’s never lost their temper? Jesus said if you’re angry with your brother without a cause, that’s like murder. We are, according to what I have just shared, murderers, adulterers, liars and thieves. That’s only four of the commandments. We’ve broken the other six too. We need a Savior. What the law, the Old Testament is saying is “You’d better get right with God. Otherwise if you die without being saved, you’ll give an account of your own sins, you’ll have to pay for your own sin.” Who would be so foolish to want to do that? The law shows the justice of God. People can say God’s being harsh. He’s not being harsh; he’s being just. They just don’t understand the seriousness of sin, that’s their problem. Then we go to the New Testament. The Lord Jesus said “Come unto me all you that are weary and heavy-laden and I’ll give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He graciously opens his arms to everybody that would come to him by faith, be born into the family of God. Eternal life is a free gift with no strings attached. He that believes has eternal life.