Question:One of the most disturbing and incomprehensible accounts in the Old Testament concerns Elisha and the bears who mauled those who jeered at him? What should we make of this strange story?
Summary:The story is one of a sequence of events narrated to emphasize that Elisha was the legitimate successor to his prophetic predecessor, Elijah. Daunted by the prospect of many who would wonder if Elisha could measure up to Elijah’s greatness, Elisha asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit to rest upon him — figuratively invoking the Deuteronomic law that endows the firstborn and heir of the father with a double portion of his property. As bearer of Elijah’s mantle, Elisha performs similar miracles to Elijah, starting with the parting of the Jordan river, causing those who saw the event to witness, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.” Subsequently, the two brief episodes of the healing of the waters of Jericho and the much misunderstood mauling of the youths who mock the prophet “demonstrate Elisha’s authority and prove that he is the legitimate prophetic heir of Elijah. He has the capacity to bring life and blessing to those who recognize his authority, or death and judgment to those who reject him.” As elsewhere in the books of Kings, the narrator intends to show in no uncertain terms “that contempt toward divinely called prophets is disastrous for God’s people.”
The full article may be found at the Interpreter Foundation website: KnoWhy OTL29A — What Should We Make of the Story of Elisha and the Bears?