In this article, we will explore bears in the Bible, discover the Biblical meaning of these animals, and where we can find them in scripture. So, grab your Bible, and let’s jump in…
The Bible is full of mentions of various animals and beasts, and bears are among those. These ferocious animals are found in the middle east, but they aren’t mentioned very often in scripture.
But when they are, they have both literal and symbolic interpretations. Some are even mentioned in the context of prophecies or apocalyptic visions. This is where bears have a very interesting meaning.
So, what does it mean for us as modern believers when the Bible mentions bears? Well, I personally believe understanding topics like this helps us understand the Bible and Biblical prophecy better as a whole. With that said, let’s get started!
What Does The Bible Say About Bears?
Bears are mentioned approximately 14 times in the Bible, depending on your translation. And you have to make sure not to search for bear and think you are going to get the animal. Bear can also mean “carry the weight of; support.”
That’s not counting the Book of Job since the bear referenced there refers to a constellation (Ursa Major), not the actual animal.
Bears are native to the mountain regions of Western Asia and the middle east
Bible Verses About Bears
The Bible mentions bears in the following scriptures:
- 1 Samuel 17:34-37
In these verses, the Philistine Goliath challenges Israel’s armies under King Saul. Nobody has the courage to face the giant, but David is telling Saul how he would defeat lions and bears that came after his sheep and that he would defeat the Philistine with the strength and protection of the living God.
- 2 Samuel 17:8
This verse sees Hushai, a friend of David, warning Absalom that David and his men are as mighty and fierce as a bear robbed of her cubs. This happened shortly before Absalom’s death, during his rebellion against David.
- 2 Kings 2:24
Shortly after Elisha took over the mantle of Elijah, a group of boys started teasing and jeering at him. Elisha turned around and cursed the boys, after which two she-bears emerged from the woods and tore up 42 of them.
- Proverbs 17:12
Solomon says it’s better to meet a she-bear who’s been robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly. He illustrates that associating with foolish people will be worse than coming face-to-face with an enraged bear.
- Proverbs 28:15
This tells us that a wicked ruler is like a roaring lion or a charging bear; such a ruler causes nothing but destruction and misery. We can especially see this in the context of the next verse, which says, “A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor.”
- Isaiah 11:7
This verse speaks of a time of peace, where cows will feed with bears. It means that there will be no aggression and no hunger.
- Isaiah 59:11
This speaks of how people growl like bears and moan mournfully like doves, looking for justice and deliverance but finding none. This simply refers to how mournfully and deeply a bear’s growl can sound, saying that the people will mourn with deep sadness.
- Lamentations 3:10
This portion of scripture speaks of the terrible wrath of God on His unfaithful people. The prophet Jeremiah says that God was like “a bear lying in wait.” However, he then continues to speak about how he will remember the faithfulness of the Lord and how his faith will be restored.
- Hosea 13:8
This continues the symbolism of God executing judgment on unfaithful Israel by falling upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs.
- Amos 5:19
Amos sees another prophet speaking of God’s judgment on Israel, saying that people will not find rest. It will be “as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him.” The prophet is saying that there will be no escape from the wrath of God.
- Daniel 7:5
This tells us of Daniel having a vision of a beast that looked like a bear with three ribs between its teeth, and God told it to eat its fill of flesh.
- Revelation 13:2
This is the last mention of a bear in the Bible and the only mention in the New Testament. John saw a vision of a beast that looked like a leopard but with the feet of a bear and a mouth like a lion.
Bears in the Bible: Symbolism & Meaning
The Bible has two common meanings for bears, which are closely related.
Bears Symbolize Strength And Aggression
All the references above mention bears in the context of strength and aggression. That doesn’t mean it’s all negative, though; some scriptures use this aggression in a positive light.
2 Samuel 17:8, talking about David and his mighty men, says that they are like a bear that’s been robbed of her cubs. This was David defending his kingdom from the rebels, and the chapter goes on to say how they are mighty warriors.
For,” said Hushai, “you know your father and his men, that they are mighty men, and they are enraged in their minds, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field; and your father is a man of war, and will not camp with the people. – 2 Samuel 17:8
The rebellion happened due to the sin that infected the house of David, starting with David and Bathsheba. But still, David was the rightful king of Israel, anointed by God, and he was forced to flee when Absalom took the throne.
Yet David was not so easily defeated, and the rebellion eventually ended with the death of Absalom.
The fact is that David and his men were as strong and aggressive as bears, but their fight was justified. Where there was an injustice, they would use that aggression to right the wrongs.
We, as Christians, tend to look at Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek as a sign that we should be passive and peaceful, and we should indeed be humble and not seek justice for ourselves, just like Jesus did.
However, God does not expect us to stand idle while injustice occurs. If there’s something we can do to fix it (within moral, ethical, and legal requirements), we should do it with the strength and ferocity of a bear, knowing that we have our God with us.
This aggression is also what the prophetic symbolism of the bear refers to in Daniel and Revelations. It depicts a mighty, aggressive nation or person who rises to destroy and conquer.
“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’ – Daniel 7:5
The Wrath Of God
At least five of the scriptures we looked at mention a bear when describing the wrath of God and His judgment.
The first example is 2 Kings 2:24, where Elisha curses the boys (if you dig into the Hebrew these were not children of little boys…read more here) who were jeering him, and two bears tore them up.
This might seem like an extreme reaction to someone teasing you, but there’s an important lesson to learn: do not disrespect one who is anointed by God.
1 Chronicles 16:22 says, “Touch not My anointed ones, do My prophets no harm!”
God has always taken it very seriously whenever someone did anything against anyone He anointed. That’s also why David, after being anointed king, did not try to kill Saul, because he was also anointed. It’s a principle that David lived by because he understood how seriously God takes it.
But we can also see how often God used bears as symbols of His judgment on Israel after they started worshipping idols and refused to return to God, even after incredible miracles like those done by Elijah on Mount Carmel.
God uses the bear symbol to indicate that He would strike swiftly and powerfully, leaving no chance of escape, and that’s precisely what happened to Israel. To this day, except for Judah, the remnants of the tribes of Israel are scattered and lost.
Similarly, the bear in Daniel 7:5 likely refers to the Medo-Persian monarchy, which rose and destroyed many nations around them, devouring all of their wealth.
It was also God’s way to execute judgment upon the nations who defiled Israel, who, after all of their sins against God, were still God’s people.
Despite all the aggression, destruction, and judgment, we can see that God’s love still extended beyond that. He still executed vengeance on those who harmed His chosen people, even though they repeatedly rejected Him, generation after generation.
It’s easy to look at how God refers to bears in the Bible and see the vengeful God Who executes judgment and destroys those who oppose Him. And, yes, the Bible often depicts that side of God.
But if we can’t see through that and recognize God’s love, grace, and compassion, we will never truly understand our relationship with Him and be free to worship Him not just as the mighty God but also as our Father.
Bears symbolize might, strength, and aggression. Prophetic books use them to illustrate strong rulers and nations, while most of the references in the Bible deal with the judgment of God. And yet, through all of that, we can see the mercy and goodness of God portrayed in it. The same mighty God Who executes judgment is also our loving and merciful Father. What a privilege to call Him that.
More Animals Of The Bible
Did you enjoy this article on Bears in the Bible? Then I would encourage you to look at other animals I have written about! I think this is a neat way to look at unique topics of the Bible. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…