[Justification for the mauling of 42 youths by bears in 2 Kings 2:23-24.]
The mauling of the forty-two youths is a mainstay of the atrocities lists. Once again, the context will show that this is not an unreasonable act at all. First of all, the word that is translated “youths” more accurately means teenagers or young adults. Second, the reference to “bald head” probably refers to Elisha’s shaved head in mourning that his mentor Elijah was taken from him (male pattern baldness was not common in ancient times, so this explanation is the most likely). So a group of at least 42 young men is jeering at Elisha’s bereavement, and “go on up” is probably a threatening wish that the same thing that happened to Elijah would happen to Elisha. Elisha is therefore protecting himself by cursing them (and God obviously agrees because he sends the bears). 42 of the young men are mauled (the word can refer to an injury as minor as a scratch). That two bears were able to injure so many indicates that the youths were fighting the bears, and didn’t scatter.
Furthermore, in the ancient world, what were 42 young men doing idle? They should have been helping their families. They were dangerous juvenile delinquents. A modern day equivalent would be finding one-self in a shady, abandoned part of town, and a gang of young thugs starts jeering.