2 Kings 2:19-25
Healed Waters and Cursed Children
We’re taking a break today from Exodus. There are two specific reasons why. The first is that I have a very good friend in Great Yarmouth England, someone who has helped me immensely in this ministry. He has been nagging me to do a sermon on the bears in this passage for quite some time. Now, the nagging can end and he can pester me about something else.
The second reason is that when I did the Christmas and Resurrection Day sermons, I noted how easy they were to do. I didn’t have to study, but rather relied on what I knew. It gave me an afternoon off without a broken brain.
After saying this, Jim said I should do a different sermon from time to time just to keep things fresh and to give myself another afternoon off. Well, this sermon fills one of those two objectives. We are doing something fresh and different, but I spent many long hours studying this passage. I went to bed, as most Monday’s, with a broken brain.
Anyway, this is a fun passage that corresponds to another we did some time ago where Elisha retrieved an iron ax head from the Jordan by making it float. This is similar, but the overall picture is quite different in what it relays, plus there is the fun part about the bears and the jibes about being bald. Our text verse fits in very well with what is being pictured in this story. It is from Isaiah 3 –
Text Verse: And so it shall be:
Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench;
Instead of a sash, a rope;
Instead of well-set hair, baldness;
Instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth;
And branding instead of beauty. Isaiah 3:24
Both hair and baldness have symbolic meaning in the Bible. I’ve covered those points in the past, but we’ll look briefly at what they mean again in order to develop the theme of the passage. In addition to that, and before we get into the sermon itself, I want to highlight a chiasm which spans all of 2 Kings 2 and covers the passage we will look at today. I discovered this one back in 2007 –
There is always a reason for chiasms. They are intended to open up hidden meaning behind difficult passages. This one centers on the taking up of Elijah into heaven. Take time to look it over and ponder it. Wonderful things will be opened up to you when you do.
To me, the coolest part of the entire chiasm is the first and final point. If you notice, not only was there traveling to and from Bethel, but I wanted to know why it is mentioned, so I went to a map of Israel and discovered that the direction of travel is the same in both. That is an amazing point of wonder!
The directions have significance, as do all things recorded in the Bible. It’s all wonderful and it’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. A Blessing Upon the Waters (verses 19-22)
19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha,
The location of this account is Jericho. We know this from the previous passage in verse 18. The name of Jericho is actually spelled three different ways in the Old Testament. Therefore, its name is a bit complicated. Was one name its original and then the other spellings given as plays on words? If so, which was the original? It isn’t known.
What may be more likely is that because the names are derived from two separate words, the city’s name actually probably has two different meanings depending on who is talking, or what the reference was that was being given at the time. We do this with towns all the time, calling them by a name and a nickname.
Jericho means “City of the Moon” and also “Place of Fragrance.” It is also known as the “City of the Palms” in Deuteronomy 34:3. It is a part of the expanse of land that was once compared to the “Garden of the Lord” in Genesis 13:10.
In this account, it is the “men of the city” who come to Elisha. In the previous story in this chapter, it was the “sons of the prophets” who had looked for his assistance. Elisha’s powers were known, not just to the sons of the prophets, but to all of the people there.
The sons of the prophets had certainly told the people of the city of Elisha’s powers and they realized that his abilities could be used to their advantage. Therefore, the account reads, v’yomeru anshay ha’ir el Elisha – “And spoke the men of the city unto Elisha.”
The name Elisha comes from two words – el, meaning God and yasha meaning to be saved. So his name means God is Salvation or God the Savior.
19 (con’t) “Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant,
hinneh na moshav ha’ir tov – “Behold, [we] pray, the dwelling of the city is beautiful.” The location of Jericho was, and still is, known for its beauty. It lies on a broad plane not far from the Jordan, and running through it is the Prat River. It is adorned with groves of palm trees and sycamore-fig trees. This is seen in Luke 19 in the account of Zacchaeus the tax collector –
“Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ 6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.'” Luke 19:1-7
Along with this, there are aromatic shrubs which adorn the air with wonderful smells. In the distance, the shimmering mountains of Moab can be seen. In all, it was then as now a pleasant place.
19 (con’t) as my lord sees;
ka’asher adoni ro-eh – “such as my lord sees.” In these few words, we can infer that more is coming from their mouths. If the city is beautiful, and if it is apparently evident to Elisha, then they must have some point that they wish to make about it. The words demand more conversation.
The place is beautiful, but there is an aspect that Elisha is probably not fully aware of; something lurking in the background which is contrary to the evident beauty. Or, if he is aware of it, there is something that they feel he can do about it.
19 (con’t) but the water is bad, and the ground barren.”
v’ha-mayim raim v’ha-aretz me’shakalet – “but the water is evil, and the earth is a cause of miscarriage.” The water was tainted, as if cursed. In turn, it caused the ground to be fruitless. The word shakol means to bereave of children, barren, make childless, etc.
It is the waters which made the ground barren and unfruitful. The trees would miscarry their fruit because of it, but even more Josephus says that it caused the women and animals to miscarry as well. In other words, “the ground” that the men refer to is intended to mean “the inhabitants” of that ground – both animal and plant. The reason for this went back to the time of Joshua. After the battle of Jericho, Joshua pronounced a curse on the city –
“Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, ‘Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.'” Joshua 6:26
Many years later, at the time of King Asa of Judah and King Ahab of Israel, a man did rebuild the land. This is found in 1 Kings 16 –
“In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the Lord, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.” 1 Kings 16:34
The area of Jericho was under a curse and the waters of Jericho were the instrumental cause of the curse.
20 And he said, “Bring me a new bowl,
v’yomer – qehu li tselokhith khadashah – “And he said, bring to me a jar new.” The word tselokhith, or “jar,” is only found here in the Bible. It is from the verb tsalach which indicates something prolonged or tall. Thus is it a long jar or a cruse.
That it was to be khadash, or new, certainly had importance to the prophet as he is quite specific. There is probably a dual reason for specifying a new container. First, it could not later be claimed that there was something previously carried in the jar which was actually responsible for the healing effects upon the waters.
Secondly, it was to be uncontaminated by previous use. Its purity was intended to typify the process of purification which would come upon the waters. This same concept of using something never used before is seen several times in Scripture. Most notably it is seen in the colt which was selected for Christ to ride into Jerusalem on. It had never been ridden according to the gospels.
20 (con’t) and put salt in it.”
v’simu sham melakh – “And put there salt.” Salt is one of the things in the Bible where its symbolic meaning can only be derived from the surrounding context. In some cases, it is used as a destructive agent. For example, when someone wanted to ruin the field of an enemy, they would sow the field with salt.
Salt was used in connection with covenant offerings and sacrifices. It was, and still is, used as a condiment to make food more palatable. It was also used as a preservative. In general, salt indicates concepts such as perpetuity and incorruption; and loyalty and friendship. It is further a symbol of the power of life which destroys death.
Elisha, as a prophet of God, is asking for this common and yet important substance as a response to their concern about the evil condition of the waters of Jericho. The fact that salt is used though gives additional weight to the miracle. The normal result of throwing salt into water is to make the waters more harmful. Thus, the new jar, and the salt in that jar, point to the divine nature of the miracle.
20 (con’t) So they brought it to him.
v’yiqhu elav – “And they brought unto.” In what under normal circumstance would seem a pointless thing to do, they complied with the request of Elisha. Naaman the Syrian came to Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. When he was asked to do a simple and seemingly pointless thing, he balked and got angry. Later, he was shown the folly of his ways and followed Elisha’s words –
Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
At times, the simple things we are asked to do are the things which seem the most pointless, and yet they are the very things which bring about the most wonderful results. How pointless it seems to so many to simply have faith in Jesus in order to be saved.
That isn’t a great and difficult trial where we can earn the praise of others. And yet, it is the simple act of the heart, directed to God in faith, which is the only thing that can actually save us!
21 Then he went out to the source of the water,
v’yetse el mowtsa ha’mayim – “And he went unto the spring of the waters.” Mowtsa comes from yatsa, meaning to come out. Thus, this is the exit of the waters. The Pulpit Commentary notes that –
“The ‘spring’ intended is supposed to be that now called Ain-es-Sultan, ‘the spring of the Sultan,’ which is the only copious source near the site of the ancient Jericho. The modern town lies at a distance of two miles from it. Ain-es-Sultan is described as ‘a large and beautiful fountain of sweet and pleasant water.'” Pulpit Commentary
21 (con’t) and cast in the salt there,
v’yashlek sham melakh – “…and cast there salt.” Directly into the source of the waters is where the salt was cast. As it was a flowing spring, it would appear that this could effect no true change in the waters. The salt would simply be purged back out of the stream as it flowed. Thus it is another symbol of the divine nature of what was to occur.
21 (con’t) and said, “Thus says the Lord:
v’yomer koh amar Yehovah – “And said, thus says Yehovah.” The prophet is the mouthpiece of the Lord, and therefore he is speaking on behalf of the Lord. However, he still makes the statement in the name of the Lord, the existent One, who cannot lie. If Elisha is truly a prophet of the Lord, and if the Lord truly is speaking through him, then what is stated could not possibly fail to occur.
21 (con’t) ‘I have healed this water;
rippiti la’mayim ha’eleh – “I have healed the waters these.” By the word of the Lord, the waters were healed at that moment. It could not have been the jar, and it could not have been the salt. Rather, it was by the spoken word of the Lord as the principle cause, and by the use of the jar and salt as the instrumental cause, that the miracle was to be effected.
The same word used to describe the Lord, rapha, at the healing of the bitter waters of Marah, is used here. There in Exodus 15, it said, “For I am the Lord who heals you.” Yehovah Rapha, the Lord who Heals, once again healed bitter waters for His people. In turn, the people would be healed by the act…
21 (con’t) from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’”
lo yihyeh misham owd maveth u’me-shakaleth – “…no to be from there anymore death or barrenness.” The promise is made. If termed in the positive rather than the negative, we could state it, “From now on, from this well there will only come life and fruitfulness.” The curse is reversed at the speaking of the word. And the result is…
22 So the water remains healed to this day,
v’yirapu ha’mayim ad ha’yom hazzeh – “and are healed the waters until the day this.” What brought only death and barrenness now brings health and restoration. And as a victorious note over time itself, the words “to this day” are stated. At any time that the account is read, the victory is realized in the mind of the reader. That which was dead is restored to life.
22 (con’t) according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.
kidbar Elisha asher dibber – “according to the word Elisha as he spoke.” This final clause is not intended to give Elisha credit for the miracle. That has already been given to the Lord in the pronouncement over the water. What this does is to solidify in the eyes of the people, and in the mind of the reader, that Elisha is a valid prophet of God. He spoke in the name of the Lord, and the Lord’s word through him was validated.
The land is beautiful where we now live
But the waters are evil and only death comes from the spring
We ask of the Lord to our plight please relief give
We petition Him to please do this thing
A curse lies upon us because of the barren land
As the waters come forth, it only makes it worse
Our desire is to dwell here; this is what we have planned
But life is made miserable by this ongoing curse
Come, O Lord and heal our waters
Restore life to us and heal the land where we live
Grant fruit to our trees and children to our daughters
Bring life once again; please, this mercy to us give
II. A Curse Upon the Youth (verses 23-25)
23 Then he went up from there to Bethel;
v’yaal mi’sham beit el – “And went up from there [to] Bethel.” Upon leaving Jericho, the Place of Fragrance, Elisha heads back to Bethel, the place where he had come from with Elijah. From there, they had gone to Jericho, and then across the Jordan where Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire.
From there, Elisha had returned alone to Jericho. Now he is returning to Bethel without Elijah. Bethel means “House of God.” At this location was the seat of the calf-idol worship which began at the time of Jeroboam, King of Israel. It was also a place where a group of the sons of the prophets still resided, probably as a witness against the idolatry of Israel.
23 (con’t) and as he was going up the road,
v’hu oleh ba’derek – “…and as he going up by they way.” It is a steep ascent from the plains of Jericho to the city of Bethel which is at an altitude of about 2800 feet. His walk would be along the main way which was commonly traveled while on such a trek. It was not specifically a road as we think of in the modern sense, but it would have been a well traveled way none-the-less.
23 (con’t) some youths came from the city and mocked him,
u’ne-arim qetanim yaseu min ha’ir v’yitqalesu bo – “and children little came forth from there the city and mocked him.” The words for “youths” or as some translate it “little children” bring the idea of innocent little tykes who were just being silly. Thus, many feel they were innocent and not deserving of what will happen.
However, Solomon uses the exact same term, naar qatan, about himself when he was crowned king of Israel. Though his age was unknown at the time, he was old enough to know that he was young enough not to know very much. Other people of adult age are described with this same term elsewhere in the Bible.
In this account then are youths of an indeterminate age, but old enough to know right from wrong. They are also old enough to be outside the city on their own. These youths came from the city, apparently meaning Bethel, and mocked Elisha as he proceeded onward.
The word for “mock” here is a rare one in the Bible. This is the first of just four times that it is used. It comes from a primitive root meaning “to disparage.” Thus it means to “mock, scoff, or scorn.”
23 (con’t) and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”
v’yomeru lo “aleh qereakh aleh qereakh” – and said to him Go up, baldy! Go up baldy! There is much to consider here. First, was Elisha actually bald? If so, he stands in stark contrast to Elijah who was known as a hairy man. He was wearing Elijah’s mantle and would look amazingly different than the great prophet he replaced.
However, Jamieson-Faucett-Brown states that the term “baldy” was an epithet of contempt, even being applied to someone with a full head of hair. It would be like calling someone an “empty head” today. What appears to be the case is that he was, in fact, bald. As he will live for another 50 or so years, he was bald long before the normal time.
The term “go up” is what is curious. The jeer stands in the word “baldy,” but the word aleh, or “go up,” is given for a purpose. He is on his way up to Bethel, and so on the surface it seems that this is why they include “go up.” But it doesn’t explain anything about the derision. One would think they would just yell “baldy, baldy” at him and that would be sufficient.
However, it was already known in Bethel that Elijah was to be taken up to heaven. This was seen at the beginning of the chapter –
“Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?'” 2 Kings 2:3
Because of this, the children are mocking Elisha who was left behind while his master Elijah had been taken away. Their insults then are directed not toward Elisha so much as they are at the Lord. He had established Elisha in Elijah’s place. Now their taunts would fall upon the successor of the one who had destroyed the many prophets of Baal in times past. And so it is the Lord they are actually mocking.
24 So he turned around and looked at them,
v’yipen akharav v’yirem – “And he turned back and looked.” The word for “turned” is the verb panah. It means “face,” and thus it is a turning of the face for a purpose. And in fact, there is purpose in his actions. The boys were following him and deriding him as he walked, insinuating that he, and thus the Lord he served, was incapable of harming them in any way.
Elisha could have kept trudging along and muttered something under his breath. Instead, he decisively turned and looked at them. There would be no hiding what he was about to do. This is seen again in the account of Paul and the possessed girl in Acts 16 –
“And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour.” Acts 16:18
24 (con’t) and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord.
v’qallem b’shem Yehovah – “…and cursed them in the name of Yehovah.” The curse can have several meanings. One is to inflict a curse. This would be what the Lord did when He cursed the ground at the fall of man. Another is to wish for a curse upon another. The third is to pronounce a curse in this name of the Lord.
This would foretell a punishment which the Lord had determined to inflict. This is what Elisha has done. He has foretold the word of the Lord which is intended as a curse and which will be inflicted by the Lord. The curse makes the coming catastrophe certain.
24 (con’t) And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.
v’tetsenah shetayim dubbim min ha’yaar va’tebaqanah m’hem arbaim u-sh’ne yeladim – “And there came two she-bears out of the woods and tore as it were forty and two children.”
The word for “youths” here is not the same as the previous word. Here it is yeladim. It indicates something born, not specifically a certain age. A son is the yelad of his father. In other words, the punishment is not merely inflicted upon the youths, but on the parents of the children.
They had raised their children in a manner contrary to the way of the Lord and so the punishment came indirectly upon them for their irreverent attitude towards Him which was directly visited upon the children.
The word for she-bears is dubbim. It comes from a word which means to “flow gently” and is thus applied to the bear which is known for its slow and leisurely stride. The curse of the Lord is the principle cause of the carnage; the bears are the instrumental cause.
25 Then he went from there to Mount Carmel,
v’yelek mi’sham el har ha’karmel – “…and he went from there unto Mount Carmel.” Mount Carmel is the place where Elijah had defeated the 450 prophets of Baal. That is the only time that Carmel was ever mentioned in connection with Elijah’s ministry. It is to the place of that high point in the prophet’s career that Elisha next journeyed to. Carmel means “Fruitful field.”
*25 (fin) and from there he returned to Samaria.
u-mi’sham shav shomerom – “…and from there returned [to] Samaria.” It is with these seemingly anti-climatic words that both the passage and the chapter end. Elisha returned to Samaria where he would take up the duties of Israel’s main prophet in place of Elijah. There Elisha possessed his own home (2 Kings 6:32). The name Samaria means, “Watch Mountain” or “Place of Watching.”
There is a curse upon those who reject the Son
There is only a bad end awaiting each of those
For only in Him is the battle won
Only He defeated death and then arose
For those who fight against the Lord
Yes, for each and every one of those
They have rejected the truth of His word
It is a sad and woeful path which they chose
For them there is only one horrible end
It is the same for each and every one of those
For in their lives against Him their ammo they did spend
And counted themselves not His friends, but His foes
III. What It All Means
These two accounts follow logically one after the other in order to form a picture for us. Further, they follow the account of Elijah’s assent into heaven naturally as well. Elisha is to be the prophet who would replace Elijah. The contrasting nature of these accounts shows that he had the same authority from the Lord that Elijah had. Thus, he was a suitable replacement for ministering to the wayward people of Israel.
The first account occurs at Jericho, the “Place of Fragrance.” It is a place which had fallen under the curse of the Lord by the mouth of Joshua. Thus we have a clue as to the picture that is being made.
This same plain was compared to the Garden of the Lord in Genesis 13:10. Thus, in the account we see hints of Eden. The city is called “pleasant” by the people, but there was a curse upon it making the water bad and the ground barren.
The same word tov, or “pleasant,” is how Genesis describes all things accomplished by God in creation. Then both words, tov, or “pleasant,” and ra, or “evil,” are used to describe the tree in Genesis 2:9. In fact, it is the first time that ra, or “evil” is used in Scripture –
“And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
The people of Jericho are able to discern good from evil and they don’t like the evil. They want it corrected. The evil only causes death. They want life. And so they call on Elisha, God is Salvation, to correct the problem. He is a type, or picture, of Jesus. Jesus’ name, Yeshua, means “Salvation.” Thus He is “God is Salvation.”
They note to Him that there is evident beauty, but there is also bad water and barren ground, meaning ground which causes miscarriage, or death. Water in the Bible carries several connotations, the foremost of which are salvation and eternal life. But water is also directly equated with the word of God.
The water that they have is bad and produces death, they want water which is good and can provide life. It needs to be remembered that the place was cursed by Joshua, meaning “the Lord is Salvation.” He also pictured Christ. Thus, it is the Lord in the Garden of Eden who pronounced the curse, and so it is the same Lord who can heal from the curse.
And so in response, “God is Salvation” asks them to do something rather simple. In fact, it requires faith for them not to say, “What’s the point in this?” Their positive response initiates the action. It is a picture of our faith. The word of the Lord requires faith.
As was seen, he asks for a new jar filled with salt. The new jar is a picture of a new heart willing to accept the word of the Lord. It is unused and undefiled. As we saw, in general, salt indicates concepts such as perpetuity and incorruption; and loyalty and friendship. It is further a symbol of the power of life which destroys death.
The salt pictures that which heals us and which will then keep us perpetually incorrupt. These two things then, the jar and the salt, are what continue the action. They are a picture of God’s grace. We are given a new heart by His grace, and we are granted new and eternal life by it as well. Therefore, the process which is seen so far is reflected in Ephesians 2 –
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Each of the principles is seen in that set of verses, Christ Jesus, grace, and faith. Understanding this, we can again go to the account. The waters are under a curse; the life – or water – which man has access to is also under a curse. The waters symbolize that which gives life. The life they have is the law. It only brings death. This is seen in Romans 7:8, 9 –
“But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.”
But, based on an act of faith by the people, “God is Salvation” goes to the source of the waters and casts in the salt, right there where they come out. The salt pictures the Divine power which truly changes the water, from death to life. It is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory.
After the waters were healed, the pronouncement is made. “God is Salvation,” meaning Christ Jesus, proclaims “I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.” It is a picture of the eternal salvation of the believer. Death can no longer touch him, and he will never be barren again. From the moment he is healed, he becomes a new well, springing up to eternal life. It is reflective of what Jesus said concerning Himself –
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14
It is also reflected in Paul’s words to the Corinthians
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55
The section ends with the words of victory – “So the water remains healed to this day, according to the word of ‘God of Salvation’ (Elisha) which he spoke.” It is the word of God, the Bible, which speaks out to us the words of life and it is the Word of God, Jesus, who confirms that same word that He spoke.
Through Christ, and in the knowledge of His word, man has access once again to that land of delight lost so long ago. Eden is restored, the waters are healed, and life eternal is granted.
Directly after the healing of the waters, follows the account of the youths and the bears. From Jericho, the Place of Fragrance, which was delivered from a curse, God is Salvation goes to Bethel or the House of God. This is a picture of Christ, the Giver of life ascending to His rightful place in heaven. However, there are those who fail to recognize this fact.
They are the naysayers concerning His work. They disbelieve that He is able to save and that He has come from heaven and is returning to heaven. In their mocking, they cry out two specific things: “GO UP” and “BALDY.” Each carries significance.
The taunting of Elisha to “Go up” was an indication that they did not believe that Elijah had gone up to heaven in a whirlwind. Thus it was an accusation that Elisha had usurped the office which he held. The taunting of Jesus by the unregenerate is the same. It is a denial that He has the right to the office to which He has attained.
Elijah means “Yehovah is God.” Elisha means “God is Salvation” – in essence, Yeshua is God, or Jesus is God. This then pictures those Jews specifically who have rejected Christ Jesus as Savior. They say that He is simply attempting to usurp who Yehovah is. ”
Calling Elisha “Baldy” takes a moment of explanation. Hair in the Bible indicates awareness, especially an intense awareness of sin, or of God’s wrath, or His revelation. In the case of Elisha, it was an accusation that he was crazy in thinking that God would translate Elijah. They imply that Elisha was demented for claiming this. It was an attack against his authority as the prophet of God.
In picture, the term “Baldy” being applied to “God is Salvation,” meaning Jesus, shows that they reject God’s revelation, they reject an awareness of sin which necessitated His coming, and they reject that they could be harmed by His wrath through this supposedly false Prophet and usurper of Yehovah.
In their rejection of Him, they stand accursed of God. The apostles speak of such people. Two examples from Paul are –
“If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!” 1 Corinthians 16:22
And specifically speaking of the Judaizers who reject the gospel of Christ and who insist on reinstating the law, he says this –
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8, 9
The curse, in the name of the Lord, rests on any who would reject the truth of Christ, God is Salvation. He is Yehovah incarnate. He is the Word of God. The pronouncement is made and the curse stands. In order to show that this is true, a specific number is given – forty-two.
It’s not like Elisha sat around watching the boys get torn to pieces and counting them as they were. Rather, the Spirit of God recorded this number for us to see and understand. First, it notes that two female bears came out of the woods.
The word for she-bears is dubbim. It comes from a word which means to “flow gently” and is thus applied to the bear which is known for its slow and leisurely stride. That bears were selected rather than lions or some other beast is significant.
The bear is not mentioned many times in Scripture, but one thing is common among its uses. It is that they are ferocious, especially when robbed of their cubs. Its usually slow and gentle stride is exchanged into an aggressive and violent attack. This is stated several times, such as in this verse from Hosea –
“I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs;
I will tear open their rib cage,
And there I will devour them like a lion.
The wild beast shall tear them.” Hosea 13:8
In this account, the Lord said he would tear at them for their rejection of Him and their flagrant idolatry against Him. Though the Lord is gentle and longsuffering, like the bear in its normal conduct, the bears here are a symbol of His violent and aggressive anger at those who have rejected “God is Salvation,” Christ.
Instead they have mocked Him and called Him a false usurper of His rightful position. In essence, they have robbed God of His Son. The mentioning that there were two bears is not insignificant either.
The two bears represent the two testaments of Scripture. They were leisurely and slowly accumulated and compiled, but they have all of the force of the word of God. It is these testaments which stand as a witness against those who reject Christ.
The change in wording for “youths” is also perfectly reflected in the gospels. First they are called nearim qetanim, young people. Later they are called yeladim, indicating someone’s children. The curse is laid upon the second term and the reason is seen in the words of Matthew 27:25, where the curse for denying Christ was uttered with the people’s own mouths –
“And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.'” Matthew 27:25
Further, in the account of Elisha, it said that forty-two were torn apart. EW Bullinger provides the meaning of the number and it is astonishingly accurate to what it pictures. He says that –
“FORTY-TWO is a number connected with Antichrist. An important part of his career is to last for 42 months (Rev 11:2, 13:5), and thus this number is fixed upon him. … Its factors are six and seven (6×7=42), and this shows a connection between man and the Spirit of God, and between Christ and Antichrist: … Being a multiple of seven, it might be supposed that it would be connected with spiritual perfection. But it is the product of six x seven. Six, therefore, being the number of Man, and man’s opposition to God, forty-two becomes significant of the working out of man’s opposition to God.”
This is exactly what is seen in this account. There has been a rejection of Christ’s ministry, denying His divine Son-ship, and thus a curse is the result. As this is the number of anti-Christ, we can go to John to define what the spirit of anti-Christ involves –
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:22 & “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 1:7
The demeaning of Christ who has gone on His path to the House of God can only carry a curse in the name of the Lord. And so we see a contrast in the two accounts. God is Salvation, or Jesus, was at Jericho, the Place of Fragrance, which was under a curse, and which put forth only death and miscarriage, and yet He became an instrument of life and blessing.
On the other hand, at Bethel, the House of God, where one would expect to find life and blessing, instead there is a curse leading to the stench of death and the loss of children. Paul exactingly supplies the New Testament verses to parallel these two accounts –
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” 2 Corinthians 2:15, 16
To end the journeys of Elisha, it says that he went first to Mount Carmel and then to Samaria. The naming of Mount Carmel, which means “Fruitful Field,” is to show that where the prophets of Baal were destroyed, Christ would sow a fruitful field. This will be realized after the last half of the tribulation period of forty-two months, pictured by the killing of the 42 youths. Israel will again be reconciled to God through Him.
Following that, Elisha returned to Samaria, the Place of Watching. This will be realized in the Millennium where Christ watches over His people. It will be a time where the world is kept in marvelous peace and harmony. In these two accounts there is simply a snapshot of the redemptive works of Christ in and for those who call out to Him.
In them are the twofold manifestations of His messiah-ship. In one case there is the ability to pronounce blessing and life, and in the other there is the power to pronounce curses and death. All power has been granted to Him on earth and in heaven.
As with each and every one of the Bible’s unusual and even quaint stories, there is a hidden meaning waiting to be drawn out. And the hidden meaning always points us to Jesus Christ. He is the center and focus of all of Scripture and in Him alone is there to be found peace, health, healing, and restoration with God.
He is the Mighty God who can heal the waters, bring life to that which is dead, and sweeten even the most bitter soul. Let us endeavor to always look for Him in our quiet time in God’s superior word.
And lastly, if you have never called out to God through Christ in order to be reconciled to Him, now is the time of God’s favor. I tell you that today is the day of salvation! Call on Christ and be reconciled to God through Him…
Closing Verse: “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;
12 “And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,”
Says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:11, 12
Next Week: Exodus 26:31-37 Getting through these will lead to marvelous success… (The Veil and the Screen – Points of Access) (73rd Exodus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if your waters are bitter and there is no hope, He can sweeten the waters and restore life to your weary soul. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
Healed Waters and Cursed Children
Then the men of the city to Elisha said
“Please notice, pleasant is the situation of this city
As my lord sees, but instead
The water is bad, and the ground barren; such a pity
And he said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it
So they brought it to him as he did to them submit
Then out to the source of the water he went
And in there the salt he cast
And said, “Thus says the Lord (a marvelous event!)
‘I have healed this water; it is sweet again at last
From it there shall be no more death or barrenness
Be assured of these words to you I address
So the water remains healed to this day
According to the word of Elisha which he did say
Then he went up from there to Bethel
And as he was going up the road to his dread
Some youths came from the city and mocked him, for a spell
And said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”
So he turned around, and at them he looked
And pronounced a curse on them
In the name of the Lord; their goose was surely cooked
And two female bears, out of the woods they came
And mauled forty-two of the youths for their words of shame
Then he went from there to Mount Carmel
And from there to Samaria he returned
It seems the events of Elisha’s life were way beyond normal
But from them, many lessons can be learned
How marvelous it is, O God
To see these stories come alive when we look for Jesus
And we shall continue to seek Him in this life as we trod
Until that day when He comes again for us
Until that day, even until that marvelous day of days
Be pleased to hear, and be adorned with all of our praise
Hallelujah and Amen…