Prophetic Momentum

Jon Cressey writing mostly about church, prophets & prophecy...

One Bald man, two bears & 42 boys

It’s not quite a teddy bear’s picnic! A quick thought on an obscure text that I have read recently – and as an old, bald prophetic person I wondered what lessons I could learn from it! 

In seriousness though, in the dramatic narrative of 2 Kings 2:23-24, we encounter an episode that can initially confound modern readers: “From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’

He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.”

Peeling back the layers, there’s more to this event than meets the eye, prompting several pressing questions.

Firstly, why this severe consequence for what seems to be mere mockery? While today’s postmodern sensibilities might consider mocking someone’s baldness as merely cheeky or rude, in ancient Near Eastern culture, such mockery, particularly towards a prophet of Yahweh, was deeply sacrilegious. Prophets, with their role as God’s mouthpieces, were revered figures. To mock them was not just to show disrespect to the individual, but also to openly reject and deride the God they represented.

A considerable number of “boys” involved, estimated at forty-two, suggests this wasn’t a small group of rogue children, but possibly a large cohort. There is some thought amongst the commentators that perhaps these were ‘pubescent youth’. The question is, was this usual behaviour for them? Why weren’t they supervised? Why did no one step in to stop this rude and disrespectful behaviour?

Their origin and destination remain shrouded in mystery; it could be that their sheer number and behaviour point to a wider societal issue – perhaps a growing irreverence or even apostasy among the younger generation in Bethel, a city already notorious for its idolatrous golden calf.

The gravity of their action isn’t just in the teasing, but in the undermining of God’s prophetic authority. Had Elisha let this massive jeering mob go unchecked, what message would that send? It might suggest that God’s anointed can be derided without consequence, diminishing the prophetic voice’s value and integrity in society. We might consider this action unjust and that Elijah shouldn’t have done it – after all, how dare he? But the challenge is, could you do something like Elisha did and have the same result – God responding to your mere words?

In today’s context, many in the church sense an urgency to see God move powerfully within our nation. The balance we need to strike is not taking ourselves too seriously, but giving God the reverence He is due. If we belittle or dismiss God’s instruments or methods, we risk missing the profound ways He speaks and moves among us.

For the individual believer and the collective church, this account serves as both a warning and an encouragement. The warning is clear: do not trivialise God’s ordained channels of communication. Yes, sometimes the prophetic people can take themselves too seriously and forget that “message delivered” we are called to weigh what is said against the context of Scripture. The encouragement in this is the reminder that when God’s people face derision, God does not remain passive. At one level or another, He defends, validates, and upholds His chosen ones. We’ll still get mocked and even persecuted, but God sees it all.

In a world increasingly dismissive of the divine and the prophetic may we, with humility and discernment, heed the underlying message in this narrative to positively recognise and honour God’s voice, positioning  ourselves not for judgement but for an outpouring of His grace and love – an imperative in our postmodern age.

God has put this story in the narrative of Elisha for a reason …


One Bald man, two bears & 42 boys
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