Bears are large mammals with thick fur and powerful teeth and claws. Despite their somewhat clumsy appearance, they can run much faster than a human, and most are very good tree climbers. Their diet is varied, depending on availability, but can include fruits, insects, honey, carrion, fish and smaller animals. The Syrian Brown Bear, Ursus Syriacus, which could reach a standing height of 6 feet and weigh 500 pounds, is the bear referred to in The Bible, where references to bears were both literal and symbolic.
Literal bears in Bible History:
"And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth." 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 smote him and delivered it out of his mouth; and if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him and killed him." (1 Samuel 17:33-34 RSV)
"So the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word which Elisha spoke. 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." (2 Kings 2:22-24 RSV)
The proverbial "bear robbed of her cubs" is very ancient:
"Hushai said moreover, "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." (2 Samuel 17:8 RSV)
"Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly" (Proverbs 17:12 RSV)
Symbolic bears are also found in Prophecy:
"Daniel said, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another."
"The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand upon two feet like a man; and the mind of a man was given to it." [see King Nebuchadnezzar and Ancient Empires - Babylon and Daniel's Statue]
"And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side; it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, 'Arise, devour much flesh.'" [see Ancient Empires - Persia]
"After this I looked, and lo, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back; and the beast had four heads; and dominion was given to it." [see Ancient Empires - Greece]
"After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrible and dreadful and exceedingly strong; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns." [see Ancient Empires - Rome]
"I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things." [see The Great False Prophet and The Lawless One]
"As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took His seat; His raiment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came forth from before Him; a thousand thousands served Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened." (Daniel 7:2-10 RSV)
Fact Finder: Is the same symbolic "bear" that the prophet Daniel saw also seen by the apostle John in the Book of Revelation?