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2 Kings 2:23From 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!” 24He 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. 25And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.

They seem to be just misbehaving naughty lads making fun of the prophet but God's hand was heavy on them. In any case, God is the sovereign God.

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    Touch not mine anointed, saith the Lord - and do my prophets no harm. [I Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15 , KJV]. Elisha did not have the personal power to make bears do anything. All Elisha did was to curse the children. What followed was beyond his capacity to expedite. What the prophet was doing - in the name of the Lord - the children were mocking, sarcastically : "go up .. go up !" – Nigel J May 22 at 13:10
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    The Hebrew word doesn't only mean children, but also include young men. Think of the British word "lad". If 42 lads all came at you at once, you might feel threatened or angry too. – curiousdannii May 22 at 13:54
  • @curiousdannii The Hebrew is וּנְעָרִ֤ים קְטַנִּים֙ Biblehub (Strong 5288, 6996) the first word being 'young' or 'little' and the second word being 'lads' or 'youths'. – Nigel J May 22 at 14:58
  • The Lord also says: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."(Dt. 32:35). Cursing in the name of Lord without God's sanction is NOT of God. It is not their prerogative nor arbitrary. – Sam May 23 at 3:17
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All these answers are good. I'd like to add another point: Calling him "bald-head". Scripture implies, especially when we read I Corinthians 11, that hair is indicative of authority. Notice this takes place immediately after Elisha takes up Elijah's mantle. I would suggest that by calling him "bald" these young men were calling Elisha a fraud, an imposter without divine authority. A serious charge to level against a prophet of Israel.

Getting mauled by bears pretty much settled the question.

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  • A man who is bald is clean. Lev 13:40,41 – David May 25 at 13:33
  • @David Contextually that passage is talking about leprosy. Baldness does not generally indicate cleanliness... the passage is saying baldness does not necessarily mean leprosy. In the context of Elisha, the youths were mocking him -- for what, being clean? Nonsense. They were mocking him by calling him a fake. – Iconoclast May 25 at 13:44
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Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the lads.

maul: (of an animal) wound (a person or animal) by scratching and tearing.

2 bears vs 42 lads

I don't think they were killed but they were damaged and fled so that Elisha could went on his way to Mount Carmel. I think people read too much into it. They were just a nuisance that blocked the prophet's way.

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