Go Up, You Baldhead!

Dan Kessinger

2 Kings 2:23-24 "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!" 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."

The great lesson from 2 Kings 2:23-24 may be lost to the reader because he finds the situation odd. I heard of a Bible class teacher who, after teaching this lesson, asked her class of little ones what they had learned from it. One little girl lisped, "It showth how much two bearth can hold!" Well, the bears did not eat everyone, but they did kill forty-two young people, a high number for only two bears.

Some object to the harsh consequence meted out to minors. The KJV reads "little children," and the RSV reads "small boys." Both of these translations are misleading here. The phrase may just as easily be translated "young men." [1] Burton Coffman compared this group to our modern street gangs, pointing out that little boys do not roam the countryside in groups of 40 or more. [2] This changes the situation dramatically. Those killed were not little children; their chant was not mischievous foolishness. They were threatening the man of God and demonstrating their contempt for God and his servant. They received exactly what they deserved.

This account is not a law against teasing a preacher, even if he is, uh, "follically challenged." My feelings have never been hurt by bald jokes. Even if I have heard them before (and again, and again ...), we can chuckle together over our pathetic hairlines. Now a young person really ought to exercise care in teasing an older person, lest he cross the line into disrespect. However, I cannot say that I have ever experienced anything other than good-natured brotherly love.

While this text is not an admonition against teasing, it is a warning to those who question God's plan. Recently in one of our local congregations, a lady publicly stated, "I don't like preachers." When one expresses contempt for the servants of God, he or she also reveals disdain for God. Alarmingly, her husband is an elder at that congregation. It does not take a "Solomon" to predict trouble from such an ungodly couple, and today that congregation is in deep trouble.

Do not misunderstand me; I know that not everyone is going to like me, and I do not like some individual preachers, either! Some who claim to preach (and teach, and serve as elders, and deacons) are a disgrace to their calling. However, to generalize such a statement about God's servants is blasphemous. What would we think of one who said, "I don't like elders" or "I don't like deacons" or maybe "I don't like Bible class teachers"? Such a person has partaken of the foolish conceit of the youths of Bethel.

Ephesians 4:11-12 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:"

We need to learn to love God's plan and God's people. The next time we are tempted to blaspheme the servants of God, we would do well to remember that doing likewise to Elisha resulted in the deaths of forty-two people. What fate do we deserve when we question God's plan? 704 Dewey Ave., St. Marys, WV 26170.

1 Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary (Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 1824) p 486.

2 Burton Coffman, 2 Kings (Abilene TX: ACU Press, 1993) pp 26-27.


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