And he went up from thence unto Bethel
From Jericho, which lay in a plain, to Bethel, situated on an hill, and therefore is said to go up to it; hither he went, to acquaint the sons of the prophets with the assumption of Elijah, to condole their loss of him, and to comfort and encourage them, and confirm his own authority among them as a prophet in his stead:
and as he was going up by the way;
the ascent to the city:
there came forth little children out of the city;
the word for "children" is used of persons of thirty or forty years of age; and though these are said to be "little", they were so well grown as to be able to go forth out of the city of themselves, without any to guide them, or to take care of them; and were of an age capable not only of taking notice of Elijah's baldness, but knew him to be a prophet, and were able to distinguish between good and evil; and, from a malignant spirit in them, mocked at him as such, and at the assumption of Elijah; which they had knowledge of, and to whom, taught by their idolatrous parents, they had an aversion: some Jewish writers F24 say, they were called "Naarim", which we render "children", because shaken from the commandments, or had shaken off the yoke of the commands; and "little", because they were of little faith:
and mocked him, and said unto him, go up, thou bald head; go up, thou
meaning not up the hill to Bethel, where his coming was not desirable to the greater part in it, being idolaters; and perhaps these children were sent out to intimidate him with their flouts and jeers from entering there; but having heard of Elijah going up to heaven, as was said, they jeeringly bid him go up to heaven after him, and then they should have a good riddance of them both; thus at the same time mocking at him for his baldness, and making a jest of the wondrous work of God, the assumption of Elijah; which, with behaving so irreverently to an hoary head, a prophet of the Lord, was very heinous and wicked, and therefore what befell them need not be wondered at.
F24 T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 46. 2.