A couple of days ago, just before I went to bed, I was perusing Facebook when a pair of photos popped up on my newsfeed. The top photo was a group of camels following one behind the other making their way across the desert. The caption read, “This Is A Caravan.” Below it was another picture of interest; revealing the thousands of people who are participating in the migration from Honduras to the United States. It too had a caption; “This Is NOT A Caravan.” With those images ineradicably imposed on my mind, I realized I had more than fulfilled my daily ration of Facebook, turned off the light, and said goodnight to the world. A few hours later, the Lord awakened me and brought to my attention a simple analogy from scripture that has a similar correlation to the pictures I had seen earlier.
In the Bible, there is a remarkable story about Elisha found in the second chapter of II Kings. This particular story takes me all the way back to my Primary Sunday School Class, a green flannel board, tiny cut-out figures, and a delightful teacher who could make those characters virtually come to life. I remember this one vividly because of the effect it had on my young impressionable mind. I also believe this story may very well be one of the most misunderstood of the entire Bible. That’s right, it’s the story of Elisha that involves children, cursing, and bears; not just any bears, but specifically she-bears. The narrative unfolds with Elisha leaving Jericho with plans to go to Bethel. On the way, he's met by a group of young lads (some translations say little children) who mock and taunt him about being bald. In response, Elisha speaks a curse over them and continues on his way. But, looking back over his shoulder, he becomes an eyewitness to two she-bears coming out of the woods, making their attack, and leaving forty-two innocent children dead on the scene. Elisha then proceeds on his way to Mount Carmel. Interesting, to say the least. Can you imagine what the media and fake news could do with that today? My nine-year-old takeaway was simple but far from being scripturally correct. I had several uncles who were as bald as cue balls. I never teased them about it for fear a bear might come and eat me. That seems pretty ridiculous now but for a nine-year-old, what can I say? But back to the point, how does that connect with the pictures of the Caravan from Honduras?
First of all, the Hebrew word for young lads, or little children, depending on what translation you are using doesn’t necessarily refer to small, elementary school children as depicted in the Sunday School literature and flannel board characters. I was told, the Hebrew word na`ar in this passage was the term most often to describe servants, soldiers, and young men. And, the same word was used to describe Isaac when he was twenty-eight (28) years old and Joseph when he was thirty-nine (39). If that is so, it seems more reasonable to believe the lads mentioned in this scripture were most likely young men in their mid to late twenties, maybe even early thirties. Try to let go of the impression of a bunch of little innocent school children outside playing ring-around-the-Rosie. That wasn’t the case at all. This was a large, organized group of accountable, young, adult men. It wasn’t by chance they were on the road that day, and they positively weren’t a welcoming party come to meet and greet with Elisha. Instead, their purpose and intent were to turn Elisha away from entering the city of Bethel, even if it meant violence. Why? I don’t think it’s known for sure, but some scholars believe the people of Bethel had been supplying water to the people of Jericho which would have been a lucrative business with a product in high demand. When Elisha purified the waters at Jericho, Bethel obviously lost a substantial source of income. All of a sudden, the accessible supply of water greatly exceeded the demand; businesses would have closed, and significant unemployment would have resulted from the miracle. It’s not hard to understand how the domino effect of a critical economic event such as this could have caused an extreme financial crisis within the city of Bethel. Everyone knows if you mess with jobs, income, and necessary means of supporting the family; people get angry, and most often someone is expected to pay. On that day, unless he turned away from Bethel, it was going to be Elisha. Hhmm. That sheds new light on this story for me. Does it for you? I think it’s interesting that what appears to be the root cause of the discord in this Bible story is very similar to the root cause of the fears and arguments relative to the financial and economic consequences of border control and immigrant assimilation faced by United States lawmakers today. I believe the Lord is speaking and showing us a comparison in this biblical event to what is happening today. The miracle blessed the people of Jericho, but the people of Bethel were hurt by it. Is that not precisely what many are saying is happening in our nation as a result of immigration? Let’s hold that thought and look a little deeper at our Bible story.
What’s the big deal about Elisha being bald? In most instances, the Jewish people considered baldness as a reproach. For some like Elisha, it happened in spite of that fact. He must have been prematurely bald because contrary to what we may have visualized by the cut-out character on the flannel board, he was not an old man when this took place. This happened at the very beginning of his ministry which lasted for more than sixty (60) years, and he was in his eighties (80’s) when he died. But, wasn’t that simple teasing that meant no harm? No way. You might say those taunts were the epitome of what we refer to today as bullying. Each shout proclaimed a derogatory, aggressive threat. Again, we see a significant difference from our childhood lessons. It wasn't gleeful giggles and laughter of innocent little children that Elisha was hearing.
No, these were insulting remarks. Even more so, they were intended as aggressive threats; as in, “if you don’t want to die, you better pray for a whirlwind to come and take you up like what happened to Elijah.” If you’ll stop and think about it, the only reason they could have been jeering Elisha to be taken up like Elijah would have been if they intended to harm him and that would be his only way of escape. I believe God is exposing the truth about what happened on the road to Bethel that day. Bottom line, they were against Elisha, and they weren’t making any bones about it. Interesting isn’t it? How can we be so blind to motives behind actions? I’m wondering, do we know and understand the real motivation behind the Caravan from Honduras? Is it indeed a group of impoverished people seeking asylum in the United States in hopes of a better life? Personally, I don’t know and am not making a judgment, but perhaps we should be inquiring of God about this situation. After all, in our story about Elisha, many have believed for a very long time that it spoke about innocent little children who we now realize were, in reality, an angry mob. However, God knows and searches the hearts, and if we go to Him in earnest prayer over this situation, I am confident He will reveal the truth as well as expose the lies. So now let us continue this chronicle with Elisha’s response to the young men of Bethel.
Did Elisha honestly curse them? In our society, we often associate this word “curse” with cussing someone out over something we don’t like or as an outward display of negative emotion. I assure you that was not what happened in this situation. Elisha didn’t lose his temper over being taunted about being bald. He didn’t spew out a bunch of angry, vulgar cuss words at those young men because they insulted him. No, Elisha spoke the Word of God to them. After all, he was God’s prophet on duty that day. What else could he have spoken, or would he have spoken, but the word of God? Elisha is typified throughout the scripture as a very personable person. He wasn't anything like his predecessor Elijah. Elisha was indeed the people’s prophet. The Scripture characterizes him as soft-spoken, kind-hearted, and of a gentle spirit. You might say he was the social butterfly of the prophets; continually involving himself with the sons of the prophets, acting as spiritual counsel to kings, and always in the middle of the affairs of the people. So what did Elisha say to those young men? What does it mean that he cursed them? At the time this story took place, Bethel was the center of pagan worship and idolatry. Jeroboam had sculpted a golden calf for the people to worship in hopes they would stay in Bethel and no longer go to Jerusalem to pay their tithes at the temple. Again, we see a conflict over economics and financial resources. Even though Bethel means “House of God” it’s obvious the people of Bethel were in total rebellion towards God and these young men who were attacking Elisha were putting God to the test. They thought they were being hostile toward Elisha, but in reality, they were showing hostility toward God. Elisha’s response would have been to preach the word of God; expose the sin, give an opportunity to choose repentance and forgiveness, and to explain the consequences of taking the alternate path. He did what any prophet of God would do, he preached the Word in the name of the Lord, and like all genuine messages from God; it was only a curse of judgment as long as there was no repentance. The text for his message could have been and probably was from Leviticus 26:21-23 which says,
"If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted. And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins." (NASB)
Do you see what that says? God told the people the beasts would kill their children because of their rebellion. Isn’t that amazing? That’s so powerful and right on point. Because look what happened next. Going back to II Kings 2:24 it says,
"...two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.”(NASB)
Amazing! A little research revealed bears can run between 25 and 40 miles per hour. I’m in awe at how only two bears could chase down and kill or maul forty-two young men; which leaves me wondering about the actual headcount of that big angry mob. Surely more got away than were mauled. Unless of course, the young men didn’t run from the bears. Maybe they were looking for recognition, trying to prove how infallible they were; perhaps it was something like a gang initiation and whoever could take the bear would become the new leader. Who knows? A bear skin would probably have been quite valuable so there may have been some financial incentive at play. Doesn’t it seem like economics keeps popping up in this story?
As we continue this comparison, it seems to become even more closely related to the events of today? Doesn’t the open rebellion toward God, the power seekers, the lack of respect for those in authority, and the civil unrest point to the possibilities of trouble ahead? I believe so, and I think God is giving a wake-up call. However, before we get to that, we have another major point to follow. Why did the scripture specifically say she-bears? Well, the answer is found in the scripture, and God tells the people about the consequences of forgetting what He has done for them in Hosea 13:8.
“I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and I will tear open their chests; there I will also devour them like a lioness, as a wild beast would tear them.” (NASB)
There it is again; God is reiterating the consequences of rebellion. Another thing I read about bears was that there was not a more dangerous animal than a mother bear protecting her cubs. So, our question is “Did Elisha call out the bears?” No, he didn’t. Did God send the bears? Probably. Was it in response to what Elisha had said? No, it was because of the promise God had made in His word of what would happen to those who were hostile toward Him. Do you realize God never wastes effort? He kept His word and protected Elisha all at the same time. I have a feeling those bears showed up just at the right time. After all, you might say Elisha was kind of like God’s cub, and He didn’t take to kindly to those who were intending to do him harm. When Elisha couldn’t defend himself against so many, God intervened, and help arrived.
We, as Christians, should embrace this truth. Any hostility toward God and His people will not be taken lightly by God. He will keep His word and punish hostility toward Him and at the same time guard and protect those who are obedient do what He commands. So this brings us to the last question, “Why forty-two (42)?”
Do you suppose there may be a prophetic significance about the number forty-two (42) in this story? The term "little children" is used 42 times in the Old Testament. The children of Israel had 42 specific events or wanderings in the desert until they were finally given rest (Numbers 33:1-50). Forty-two can be created by the numbers 6 and 7, which shows a relationship between humanity and God's spirit as well as a connection between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. We know the number “42” always seems to represent blasphemy or direct attacks and hostility against the Lord. Revelation 13:5 talks about the Beast having a mouth that speaks arrogant blasphemies and how he will be given authority for 42 months. Interesting. These things are definitely food for thought.
When I consider the story of Elisha, the boys, the curse, and the bears; I believe the scripture gives a factual account of an event that literally happened. But, I also recognize allegorical references that can apply to current events of today. I pray the people of the United States do not fall into deception. After much prayer, God spoke the following prophetic encouragement to my heart.
“Wake up. Wake up. Take off the blinders. Don’t accept everything at face value but dig deep in prayer. Appeal to Me to find the motives behind the actions. Do not be deceived by what you think you see. Look carefully. Examine everything. Listen to the words I speak to your heart. My word still stands. It has not changed. I am still against those who show hostility towards Me, but I give every opportunity for repentance. Yet, there are those who mock and scorn Me on a daily basis. Show me your faithfulness. Seek after me. You are my beloved child, and I will guard you and protect you as ferociously as the she-bear protects her cubs. You are about to witness the strength of my arm outstretched. The events taking place have my attention, and I will have the last say in the matter. Have compassion where compassion is needed and wield the sword of My Word against the aggressor who is hostile toward me. Do not be afraid of the battle. Keep your eyes on me, lift up a shout of praise, and see the salvation I will bring.” Amen and amen.
I have great compassion for people of other countries who are less fortunate than those of us blessed to be United States citizens. I do not have a problem with people immigrating to this great country who do it according to our laws and are willing to embrace the American way of life. However, at the same time, my opinion is that those who come into this country with a desire to change it to align with philosophies and dogmata of the country they are attempting to leave; should stay where they are.
In reading and listening to news reports, it is evident some view the Caravan from Honduras as harmless people seeking asylum while others see it as an angry mob motivated entirely by the intent to create havoc and chaos at a critical time in our nation, and ultimately planning to bring destruction as they cross our border. Personally, I don’t know. But, if that is the case, perhaps God will once again use she-bears to protect His cubs. Maybe. Maybe not. In either case, He has a very impressive arsenal at His disposal. In the meantime, the most important thing at hand is for the Christians of the United States to rally before God with repentant hearts and come into obedience to His word. This is the only way we will remain in a safe place, and like Elisha, be protected when God begins to fight against His enemies.
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