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Meaning of Bear in the Bible

In the Bible, bears hold deep symbolism and spiritual significance. They represent strength, ferocity, power, and even God’s judgment. The Hebrew word for bear is “dōḇ,” referring to the Ursus syriacus, a large and dangerous creature. Throughout biblical passages, bears are used as metaphors for the wicked and as a representation of God’s wrath. The image of a mother bear protecting her cubs conveys a sense of fear and consuming force. Bears consistently exemplify a formidable power in various contexts.

  • Bears in the Bible hold symbolic and spiritual significance.
  • They represent strength, ferocity, power, and God’s judgment.
  • The Hebrew word for bear is “dōḇ.”
  • Bears are used as metaphors for the wicked and God’s wrath.
  • The image of a mother bear protecting her cubs conveys fear and consuming force.

Bear References in Specific Bible Verses

Several specific Bible verses mention bears, highlighting their symbolic significance in biblical narratives. These references provide insights into the characteristics and associations attributed to bears in the Bible. Let’s explore some of these verses:

1 Samuel 17:34-37

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.’ And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.'”

In this passage, David recounts his experiences protecting his sheep from bears and lions, attributing his success to God’s intervention. It showcases the strength and courage associated with bears and emphasizes David’s reliance on God’s protection.

2 Samuel 17:8

“Hushai said, ‘You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people.'”

In this verse, Hushai compares David and his men to a bear that has been angered due to the loss of her cubs. The imagery conveys their ferocity and the potential danger they pose to their enemies.

2 Kings 2:24

“He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!’ And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.”

This passage narrates the story of a she-bear attacking children who had mocked the prophet Elisha. It serves as a reminder of the consequences of disrespecting God’s chosen representatives.

These specific Bible verses offer insights into the symbolic associations and characteristics attributed to bears in biblical narratives. They highlight the strength, ferocity, and potential danger associated with bears, shedding light on their metaphorical use in conveying spiritual and moral concepts.

Bear Symbolism in Apocalyptic Literature

In apocalyptic literature, bears play a significant symbolic role, particularly in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 7:5, a bear with ribs in its mouth is used to symbolize the Medo-Persian empire. The imagery of the bear represents the empire’s strength, cruelty, and dominance. The bear is raised on one side, emphasizing its unbalanced power and its willingness to crush its enemies. This bear symbolizes the empire’s oppressive rule and its ability to instill fear in those under its control. The bear’s presence in Daniel’s vision serves to convey the brutal nature of this empire and the consequences of its actions.

Apocalyptic literature often employs vivid and powerful symbolism to convey complex ideas and themes. Bears, with their fierce and formidable nature, are well-suited to embody these concepts. The use of bears in apocalyptic literature serves to emphasize the strength, ruthlessness, and destructive power associated with the kingdoms and empires being depicted. By invoking the image of a bear, the writers of apocalyptic literature effectively communicate the dominance and fear that these entities inspire.

Overall, the bear symbolism in apocalyptic literature, such as in Daniel’s vision, represents the oppressive rule and destructive capabilities of powerful empires. The ferocity and dominance of the bear image convey the harsh realities of these empires’ reigns and the consequences faced by those who oppose them.

Table: Bear Symbolism in Apocalyptic Literature

Symbol Meaning
Bear Strength, ferocity, dominance
Ribs in its mouth Signifies conquest and devouring of enemies
Raised on one side Unequal balance of power and dominance

Bear in the New Testament

In the New Testament, bears are mentioned less frequently than in the Old Testament. However, their inclusion serves to depict powerful and dangerous entities within the eschatological context of Revelation. The Greek word for bear is “ἄρκος,” and it appears only once in the New Testament in Revelation 13:2. This passage describes the emergence of a beast with legs like a bear, symbolizing its ferocity, madness, and maliciousness. The mention of a bear in the New Testament aligns with its portrayal as a formidable force associated with power and potential harm.

Bear in the New Testament

Bear Symbolism in Revelation

The inclusion of a bear in the book of Revelation contributes to its apocalyptic imagery, highlighting the destructive forces and judgment that will unfold in the end times. The bear, along with other beasts mentioned in Revelation, represents the chaotic and malevolent powers that oppose God’s sovereignty. The imagery of the bear’s legs underscores the strength and stability of the beast, emphasizing its ability to exert control and dominance. In the context of Revelation, the mention of a bear symbolizes the immense power and threat posed by the forces that stand against righteousness and God’s plan for redemption.

John’s Use of Symbolic Language

“John’s use of symbolic language in Revelation allows readers to grasp the grandeur and significance of the cosmic battle between good and evil. The inclusion of a bear as one of the beasts further intensifies the apocalyptic atmosphere, conveying the urgency and gravity of the impending judgment. The bear serves as a vivid reminder that God’s wrath will be unleashed upon those who oppose His divine order. It also underscores the need for believers to remain steadfast in their faith and to resist the allure of the beastly forces that seek to undermine God’s kingdom.”

The mention of a bear in the New Testament reinforces its symbolic significance and reinforces the ongoing theme of divine judgment and the struggle between good and evil throughout biblical literature.

Bear in Cultural and Historical Context

Biblical references to bears must be understood within their cultural and historical context. In the ancient Near East, bears were native to the mountainous regions of Western Asia, including Palestine. The behaviors and characteristics of bears were familiar to the people of that time, which influenced the symbolic associations attributed to bears in the Bible. It was common for bears to defend their territory and cubs with great ferocity, which likely contributed to their image as a symbol of strength and power.

Furthermore, bears held significant cultural and religious symbolism in ancient nations beyond the biblical context. For example, the Medo-Persian empire, symbolized by a bear in Daniel’s vision, was associated with the cruelty and savageness often attributed to bears. The cultures of the ancient Near East recognized the power and ferocity of bears and incorporated them into their religious practices and beliefs.

To fully grasp the meaning of bear symbolism in the Bible, it is essential to consider the cultural and historical significance attached to bears in ancient times. The biblical writers and their audiences would have understood the imagery and metaphors associated with bears, drawing upon their knowledge of these creatures’ behaviors and characteristics. By doing so, they were able to effectively convey ideas of strength, power, and divine judgment through the use of bear symbolism.

The Significance of Bear Behavior

The behaviors of bears, such as their ferocity when defending their young and their occasional attacks on humans, are mentioned in the Bible. These behaviors were not only observed by ancient civilizations but also used metaphorically to convey specific traits and characteristics. For instance, the bear is often used metaphorically to describe the wicked as bestial and lacking spiritual consciousness. Additionally, God’s wrath is depicted as a bear unleashed against sinful Israel. These symbolic associations of bear behavior contribute to the multifaceted significance of bears in biblical narratives.

Symbolic Associations of Bear Behavior Biblical Context
Ferocity and aggression Metaphorical representation of the wicked
Protection of territory and young Symbolic depiction of God’s wrath
Occasional attacks on humans Portrayal of divine punishment and judgment

“The Lord is like a lion and a bear that I have robbed of their cubs; I will tear and go away, and no one shall rescue.”

These verses emphasize the association between bear behavior and specific traits, reinforcing their symbolic significance in the wider biblical context. The inclusion of such imagery served to make the narratives relatable and accessible to the ancient audience, who were knowledgeable about the actions and characteristics of bears in their cultural and historical surroundings.

Bear Symbolic Associations and Ferocity in Behavior

Bears exhibit various behaviors in the wild that have been used symbolically in biblical narratives. One notable behavior is the ferocity displayed by bears when their young are threatened or taken away. This ferocity is frequently used as a metaphor to convey the wickedness and bestial nature of humans in biblical passages. For example, the book of Hosea (13:8) compares the destructive power of bear behavior to God’s wrath unleashed against sinful Israel, emphasizing the severity of the punishment.

“I will attack them like a bear robbed of her cubs and tear open the rib cage of their hearts.” – Hosea 13:8

Furthermore, the roaring and growling of bears, which can be heard from a distance, have been used to symbolize the brute force and overpowering might of God’s judgment. These behavioral characteristics of bears in the Bible serve as powerful imagery to depict the consequences of disobedience and the magnitude of God’s wrath.

To further highlight the symbolic associations of bear behavior, it is important to note the role of bears in ancient cultures. Many ancient nations recognized the power and ferocity of bears, incorporating bear symbolism into their religious practices and beliefs. This cultural context reinforces the enduring significance of bears and their behaviors as symbols of strength, power, and divine judgment.

Bear Behavior

Biblical Symbol Behavior Symbolic Associations
Roaring and Growling Powerful vocalizations God’s judgment and overpowering might
Ferocity when Cubs are Threatened Aggressive defense of young Wickedness of humans and God’s wrath

Bear References in Extra-Biblical Texts

Bears are not only mentioned in the Bible but also appear in various extra-biblical texts, providing additional insight into the symbolic significance of these powerful creatures. These references serve to reinforce and expand upon the cultural and religious associations attributed to bears in biblical narratives.

The Wisdom of Solomon

In the Wisdom of Solomon (11:17), the author describes how God’s hands not only created the universe but also sent bears and lions upon the Egyptians as a form of divine punishment. This passage underscores the belief in divine intervention and the use of natural forces, such as bears, as instruments of divine judgment.


Another extra-biblical reference to bears can be found in the book of Sirach (47:3), where the author mentions bears alongside lions as creatures that David played with and conquered. This passage highlights David’s prowess and strength, illustrating his ability to overcome and subdue formidable opponents, even those as fierce as bears.

These extra-biblical references shed light on the broader cultural understanding of bears and their symbolic associations during biblical times. They demonstrate the enduring significance of bears in religious and cultural contexts, beyond their representations in the Bible alone.

Bear References in Extra-Biblical Texts

Extra-Biblical Texts Key Bear References
The Wisdom of Solomon God sent bears upon the Egyptians as divine punishment
Sirach David played with and conquered bears

Bear Symbolism in Ancient Nations

Bears have held symbolic significance in ancient nations, complementing their association with strength and power. In ancient Mesopotamia, for example, bears were often depicted in artwork and mythological texts as guardians and protectors. The Sumerians revered the bear as a symbol of divine authority and courage, while the Assyrians associated the bear with the goddess Ishtar, representing her protective and nurturing qualities.

Bear Symbolism

Ancient Greek and Roman cultures also incorporated bear symbolism into their religious and mythological beliefs. In Greek mythology, the goddess Artemis was often depicted with bears, symbolizing her connection to the wilderness and wild animals. The Romans associated bears with the goddess Diana, who was believed to have the power to transform into a bear herself.

Ancient Culture Bear Symbolism
Egypt The bear represented strength and protection, often associated with the goddess Isis.
Celtic Bears were revered as sacred animals, believed to possess healing and prophetic powers.
Norse The bear symbolized courage and warrior spirit, often associated with the god Odin.

Across various ancient nations, bear symbolism was deeply intertwined with religious rituals, folklore, and cultural practices. The reverence and fear inspired by bears contributed to their role as symbols of strength, protection, and divine power.


Bears are powerful symbols in the Bible, representing strength, ferocity, and God’s judgment. Their metaphorical use conveys the wickedness of humans and the wrath of God. It is essential to understand the cultural and historical context of bears in the biblical narratives, as they were native to the region and their behaviors were familiar to the people of that time.

Furthermore, bear symbolism extends beyond the Bible to ancient nations, such as the Medo-Persian empire depicted as a bear in Daniel’s vision. The recognition of bears’ power and ferocity in various ancient cultures underscores their enduring significance in religious and cultural contexts.

In conclusion, bears have a profound impact on biblical narratives and religious understanding. Their symbolic associations with strength, power, and divine judgment resonate throughout the Bible and beyond, making them a compelling and universal motif in human history.


What is the meaning of bear in the Bible?

Bears in the Bible have symbolic and spiritual significance, representing strength, ferocity, power, and God’s judgment.

Are there specific Bible verses that mention bears?

Yes, several Bible verses mention bears, including 1 Samuel 17:34-37, 2 Samuel 17:8, and 2 Kings 2:24.

How is bear symbolism used in apocalyptic literature?

In apocalyptic literature, bears are used symbolically to represent specific kingdoms or empires, as seen in the book of Daniel.

Does the New Testament mention bears?

Yes, the New Testament mentions bears, with the Greek word “ἄρκος” appearing in Revelation 13:2.

What is the cultural and historical context of bears in the Bible?

Bears were native to the region where the Bible was written, and their behaviors and characteristics were familiar to the people of that time.

How does the behavior of bears contribute to their symbolic associations?

The ferocity and behaviors of bears, such as their defense of territory and cubs, are used metaphorically to convey certain characteristics and attributes.

Are there references to bears in extra-biblical texts?

Yes, bears are mentioned in texts such as the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach, further highlighting their cultural and symbolic significance.

Was bear symbolism present in ancient nations?

Yes, bear symbolism was present in ancient nations, with associations between bears and characteristics such as cruelty and savageness.

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  • Greg Gaines

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