2 Kings 2:24 is a passage I pointed out to my girlfriend in February, 2001. She consideres herself a very devout believer of the bible, and interprets everything literally as it is written. This passage nearly caused her to break up with me as it frustrated her so.

Moments like that moved me to write: Why I Need to Leave.

What possible interpretations are there of this passage? well, I e-mailed this to her later:

This is what I was able to work up:
2 Kings 2:
23: And he goeth up thence to Beth-El, and he is going up in the way,
    and little youths have come out from the city, and scoff at him,
    and say to him, 'Go up, bald-head! go up, bald-head!'
24: And he looketh behind him, and seeth them, and declareth them vile in
    the name of Jehovah, and two bears come out of the forest, and rend
    of them forty and two lads.
What is interesting to me is that the language very clearly
explains that Elijah called the children vile in God's name: God did
not operate on his own.  It reads like Elijah asked God to take the
children for him.  That is very interesting.
Here is what I found on the web as interpretations:

(Matthew Henry, Modern Christian Interpretation):
        The Lord must be glorified as a righteous God who hates sin, and
    will reckon for it. Let young persons be afraid of speaking wicked
    words, for God notices what they say. Let them not mock at any for
    defects in mind or body; especially it is at their peril, if they
    scoff at any for well doing. Let parents that would have comfort in
    their children, train them up well, and do their utmost betimes to
    drive out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts. And
    what will be the anguish of those parents, at the day of judgment,
    who witness the everlasting condemnation of their offspring,
        occasioned by their own bad example, carelessness, or wicked teaching!
Hmm, he doesn't mention if the taking of the children of the bears was
actual or not, be he does say in effect, "Christ (through the holy spirit)
teaches people to raise there children not to mock old people, because God
is listening."

(Jameson-Fanssett-Brown, Interpretation Guide):

On 23 and 24:
        There came forth little children out of the city--that is, the
    idolatrous, or infidel young men of the place, who affecting to
    disbelieve the report of his master's translation, sarcastically
    urged him to follow in the glorious career.

        bald head--an epithet of contempt in the East, applied to a person
    even with a bushy head of hair. The appalling judgment that befell
    them was God's interference to uphold his newly invested prophet.

Okay, so this says that "bald head" does not actually mean "bald head," but
it is more like calling somebody something like an idiot in modern speak;
but this says that God took these children's lives to hold up His new
choice of prophet.  God makes interesting choices in exacting his

(John Wesley's Notes on the Bible, Protestant Interpretation):
(He invented the phrase, "practical piety.")

        Cursed them - Nor was this punishment too great for the offense,
        if it be considered, that their mocking proceeded from a great
        malignity of mind against God; that they mocked not only a man,
        and an ancient man, whose very age commanded reverence; and a
        prophet; but even God himself, and that glorious work of God,
        the assumption of Elijah into heaven; that they might be guilty
        of many other heinous crimes, which God and the prophet knew;
        and were guilty of idolatry, which by God's law deserved death;
        that the idolatrous parents were punished in their children;
        and that, if any of these children were more innocent, God
        might have mercy upon their souls, and then this death was
        not a misery, but a real blessing to them, that they were taken
        away from that education which was most likely to expose them
        not only to temporal, but eternal destruction.

Okay so this one simply says, "God killed the children because
it would have been a far greater injustice to leave them on the earth
and allow their idolatrous parents do them more harm and condemn
their souls to eternal destruction."

Okay, so this interpretation leads me to some direct questions I would
love to have some answers to:

1) If Christ is so compassionate and all forgiving, why were these
   children not offered to repent for their sins?  Why did the rules
   change so drastically in the New Testiment?

2) If I would choose to mock a worker for God, say a Pastor, Priest, or
   Pope: why, not by this example, would God choose to take my soul
   in a similar act?

I am very interested to see how the Korean Christians would interpret
this; as well as how Jews would (I didn't realize at first that this
section was from the Old Testament).  Please do find out!

Moreover, how do you interpret this?  What were your first feelings on
this passage?

Loves and kisses,