Beware of Bears!
Can we talk more about those bears??
I lived on a floating logging camp in Alaska when I was a child. One of the things we did for entertainment, was walk ashore and around the island’s dirt road to the dump. There, down in a hollow, not very far from where we would stand, were several bears rummaging for a meal.
I have zero memory of being concerned about those bears, and the adults in my life must have had no concern either, because we visited more than once. Everybody did. I’m not sure why type of bear they were, probably Brown bear.
Did you know there are 6 types of bears in Alaska?
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there are about 135,000 bears in Alaska. Of those, around 25,000 to 30,000 are black bears. With an estimated population of just over 500 Kodiak bears. There are also Brown bears, Glacier bears, Polar bears, and the Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear, which by the way, according woodsmanreport.com, is a subspecies of the grizzly bear that is found on the Alaska Peninsula and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds! They are also one of the most dangerous animals in Alaska.
I learned today that the largest population of bears in Alaska is on Admiralty Island, located in Southeast Alaska. The island is home to an estimated 1,600 brown bears (That’s a lot of bear!!) That’s also more than any other island in Alaska and more than double the number of bears found on Kodiak Island, which is the second highest island in terms of bear population.
I have been thinking about that brief mention last week of bears. Two she-bears to be exact. The story at a quick glance seems so unjust. As a matter of fact, all you get is a quick glance. The story, the entire story is told in only 2 verses!
“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. 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.” 2 Kings 2:23-24 KJV
That’s it. Just under 80 words. End of story. What is going on here? Was Elisha so sensitive? Did he trigger so easily?
Here is a man of God who performed many powerful miracles. He counseled kings for years and years, he clearly is blessed by God, doing God’s work. And yet here is this story, told in just 2 verses that paints him in such bad light. Or does it?
First of all, these were not “little kids”.
I found several commentaries, and I think we can safely list their age as between 12 and 30 years of age.
This group of young men would be more like a modern-day street gang. They were not children. They were young men mocking God’s prophet.
“These youth had heard of Elijah's ascension, and they made this solemn event the subject of their jeers, saying to Elisha, “Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.” At the sound of their mocking words the prophet turned back, and under the inspiration of the Almighty he pronounced a curse upon them. The awful judgment that followed was of God. “There came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two” of them (2 Kings 2:23, 24). (Source: whiteestate.org)
It is also possible there they were threatening him in a passive-aggressive way and Elisha was fearful of his life.
The one thing we need to note, Elisha did not ask for a bear-mauling. He “cursed them in the name of The Lord” and God responded.
It’s also entirely possible that had God not sent those bears, that “street gang” would have killed Elisha. Perhaps Elisha didn’t curse them because they hurt his feelings but rather because he was afraid this group of thugs was going to kill him?
Only God knows. Only God knew the hearts of those young men. Only God knew Elisha’s fear. Only God knew the outcome. God knew and He chose to send the two bears in response to Elisha’s curse.
I found this in Conflict and Courage, page 225 “Had Elisha allowed the mockery to pass unnoticed, he would have continued to be ridiculed and reviled by the rabble, and his mission to instruct and save in a time of grave national peril might have been defeated. This one instance of terrible severity was sufficient to command respect throughout his life. For fifty years he went in and out of the gate of Bethel, and to and fro in the land, from city to city, passing through crowds of idle, rude, dissolute youth; but none mocked him or made light of his qualifications as the prophet of the Most High....”
One strong “rebuke” was all that was needed. His reputation preceded him.
I was watching a program over the weekend that touched a place in my heart that had not been touched much. A black man was teaching his young son what to do if he is ever contacted by police. How he should do exactly what he is told. How not to move without permission. Show nothing but respect. Give them no reason to be afraid of you. If they ask to see your driver’s license, you ask for permission to reach in your wallet and get it…The conversation was very solemn and one I have never had to worry about due to the color of my skin. However, it’s good to teach our children how to be respectful, regardless of race.
Those young men that were mocking a prophet of God, had very little of it. Perhaps if they had been taught more respect, they would not have ended up torn limb from limb.
“Reverence, in which the youth who mocked Elisha were so lacking, is a grace that should be carefully cherished. Every child should be taught to show true reverence for God. Never should His name be spoken lightly or thoughtlessly. Angels, as they speak it, veil their faces. With what reverence should we, who are fallen and sinful, take it upon our lips! ... Conflict and Courage page 225
What can we take from this story? “the fact that the bears mauled 42 of the youths indicates that there were more than 42 youths involved. This was not a small group of children making fun of a bald man. Rather, it was a large demonstration of young men who assembled for the purpose of mocking a prophet of God.”
This story “…is not an account of God mauling young children for making fun of a bald man. Rather, it is a record of an insulting demonstration against God’s prophet by a large group of young men…The penalty was clearly justified, for to ridicule Elisha was to ridicule the Lord Himself. The seriousness of the crime was indicated by the seriousness of the punishment. The appalling judgment was God’s warning to all who would scorn the prophets of the Lord.” (Source: Gotquestions.org)
Psalm 29:2 “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array.”
Ascribe: “to give” or “to set” or “to set apart” also “to make one’s own.”
Give Him the respect He is due.
“For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me…” Psalm 86:10-13 ESV
by Jeanette Stark – Monday, March 13, 2023