Question: "Why did the Prophet Elisha curse the “youths” for making fun of his baldness (2 Kings 2:23-24)?"

There are a few key issues we must understand in regards to this account. The text reads, “Then he (Elisha) 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!" 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 of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.” It seems unbelievable that God would cause two bears to maul a group of children for making fun of a bald man.

First, the King James Version has done us a disservice by translated the term as “children.” The Hebrew word can refer to “children,” but rather more specifically means "young men." Second, 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. Third, the mocking of “go up you baldhead,” is more than “making fun of baldness.” The word “baldhead” was likely a reference to leprosy (Leviticus 13:40-44). The phrase “go up” likely was a reference to Elijah, Elisha’s mentor, being taken up to Heaven earlier in 2 Kings chapter 2 (verses 11-12).

In summary, 2 Kings 2:23-24 is not an account of God mauling young children for making fun of a bald man. Rather, 2 Kings 2:23-24 is a record of an insulting demonstration against God’s prophet by a large group of young men.