Our Children and She Bears
Have you ever known a bratty, rebellious, and disobedient child? You know the child I am talking about. The child who does not listen to the teacher, who will go left when he is told to go right. This troublesome child is always cutting up, making jokes, and distracting the other students. To make matters worse, when this child’s teacher turns to the parents for help, the teacher is met with denial and allegations. As the parents walk away, commenting on the unfairness of the teacher, the child knows he has gotten away with it yet again. The next day, the child mocks his parents, his teacher, and any adult in authority. He also picks on other children, making fun of anything he finds stupid or just plain different.
Being any person other than the parents of such unruly children is very frustrating. Most disciplinary measures are wasted if not backed by the parents. Sometimes an adult can become so frustrated with such disobedience and disrespectfulness that they would like to sic a bear on the child. The Bible tells us of one man who did this very thing in dealing with forty-two unruly and disrespectful children. According to 2 Kings, Elisha did the following: “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” (2 Kings 2:23-24).
I recognize Elisha’s disciplinary methods may seem extremely harsh to us. However, there are three important observations to keep in mind before passing judgment on Elisha. The first observation has to do with the Hebrew words translated as “little (qâṭôn) children (na‛ar).” While these two words can refer to little children, they can also refer to older children. “(F)or katon signifies not only little, but young, in opposition to old; and naar signifies not only a child, but a young man grown to years of maturity. Thus Isaac is called naar when twenty-eight years old, Joseph when thirty-nine, and Rehoboam when forty” (Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge). According to the Pulpit Commentary, it is suggested these young people may have been teenagers or a bit older. The second observation pertains to whom these young people were showing disrespect. Elisha was a prophet of God, having just taken the place of Elijah. These young people were showing great contempt for God’s chosen prophet. By showing disrespect for God’s prophet, these young people were also showing disrespect for God. The third observation focuses upon the hearts of these forty-two young people. It may be that Elisha dealt harshly with these young people because of their hearts. If these young people were rejecting Elisha and his authority, then as they grew older, they would continue on their disobedient and disrespectful path. A similar punishment regarding rebellious young people can also be seen in Deuteronomy 21:18 – 21. According to the Law of Moses, if a parent had a stubborn and rebellious child who was unwilling to listen to rebuke, who was a glutton and a drunkard, then the parents were to bring him to the elders of the city and all the men of the city would stone the young person to death. The latter part of verse 21 reads, “(S)o you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear” (Deuteronomy 21:21). Such a harsh punishment was ultimately for the good of Israel.
As parents, we all must recognize the potential foolishness of our own children. Solomon wrote, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; . . .” (Proverbs 22:15a) It is easy to admit that one’s child is behaving foolishly. However, admitting this fact is meaningless if we, as parents, are unwilling to properly and sufficiently correct our children. Solomon also wrote, “. . . The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15b) When parents fail to correct their children, they are carving a path for the foolishness to increase. If left unchecked, the “harmless foolishness” of a five year old can grow into a bratty twelve year old. The foolishness of the bratty twelve year old can grow into a disrespectful, rude, and rebellious seventeen year old. Solomon illustrates the urgency of beginning the disciplining process at an early age. Solomon wrote, “Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction” (Proverbs 19:18). Loving our children requires us, as parents, to discipline them, bringing them up in the way of the Lord. Solomon wrote, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24;p cf. Proverbs 22:6).
I would like to present you with the following challenge. The next time your child is accused of acting up, disobeying, or some other misdeed, will you say to your child, “Did you do what they are charging?” or will you say to your child, “Why did you do what they are charging?” What is the difference between the two questions? The first question essentially challenges the word of the accuser and opens the door for the child to deny the accusation. On the other hand, the second question gives credibility to the charge and demands accountability from the child. While it may be possible someone might bring a false charge against your child, you, in your heart, know your child. If other people are having difficulties with your child, it is very likely you have already been facing the same difficulties at home. However, whereas other people are unwilling to excuse, overlook, and accommodate your child’s misbehavior, you have chosen to accept and explain away your child’s behavior. Recognize your responsibility to correct and discipline your child. Do your best to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Be willing to listen to the reports of your child’s misdeeds and seek to drive the foolishness from the heart of your child. Would your child have been one of the forty-two children slain by the she bears or would your child have shown respect for the prophet of God and his authority? Give this question grave consideration. The future of your children depends upon how honestly you address the foolishness within their lives.