(דּוֹב or דֹּב, dob, in Arabic dub, in Persic deeb and dob; Greek ἄρκτος) is noticed in 1Sa 17:34, l6, 37; 2Sa 17:8; 2Ki 2:24; Pr 17:12; Pr 28:15; Isa 11:7; Isa 59:11; La 3:10; Ho 13:8; Am 5:19; Da 7:5; Wisdom 11:17; Ecclus. 47:2; Re 13:2. Although some moderns have denied the existence of bears in Syria and Africa, there cannot be a doubt of the fact, and of a species of the genus Ursus being meant in the Hebrew texts above noted (Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 373). David defended his flock from the attacks of a bear (1Sa 17:34-36), and bears destroyed the youths who mocked the prophet (2Ki 2:24). Its hostility to cattle is implied in Isa 11:7 — its roaring in Isa 59:11 — its habit of ranging far and wide for food in Pr 28:15 — its lying in wait for its prey in La 3:10; and from 2Ki 2:24, we may infer that it would attack men. SEE ELISHA.
The genus Ursus is the largest of all the plantigrade carnassiers, and with the faculty of subsisting on fruit or honey unites a greater or less propensity, according to the species, to slaughter and animal food. To a sullen and ferocious disposition it joins immense strength, little vulnerability, considerable sagacity, and the power of climbing trees. The brown bear, Ursus arctos, is the most sanguinary of the species of the Old Continent, and Ursus Syriacus, or the bear of Palestine, is one very nearly allied to it, differing only in its stature being proportionably lower and longer, the head and tail more prolonged, and the color a dull buff or light bay, often clouded, like the Pyrenaean variety, with darker brown (Forskal, Descr. Anim. 4, 5, No. 21). On the back there is a ridge of long semi-erect hairs running from the neck to the tail. It is yet found in the elevated woody parts of Lebanon (Kitto, Phys. Hist. of Palest. p. 355). In the time of the first Crusades these beasts were still numerous and of considerable ferocity; for during the siege of Antioch, Godfrey of Bouillon, according to Math. Paris, slew one in defense of a poor woodcutter, and was himself dangerously wounded in the encounter. See Penny Cyclopedia, s.v.
The sacred writers frequently associate this formidable animal with the king of the forest, as being equally dangerous and destructive; and it is thus that the prophet Amos sets before his countrymen the succession of calamities which, under the just judgment of God, was to befall them, declaring that the removal of one would but leave another equally grievous (5:18, 19). Solomon, who had closely studied the character of the several individuals of the animal kingdom, compares an unprincipled and wicked ruler to these creatures (Pr 28:15). To the fury of the female bear when robbed of her young there are several striking allusions in Scripture (2Sa 17:8; Pr 17:12). The Divine threatening in consequence of the numerous and aggravated iniquities of the kingdom of Israel, as uttered by the prophet Hosea, is thus forcibly expressed: "I will meet them as a bear bereaved of her whelps" (Ho 13:8; see Jerome in loc.), which was fulfilled by the invasion of the Assyrians and the complete subversion of the kingdom of Israel. "The she-bear is said to be even more fierce and terrible than the male, especially after she has cubbed, and her furious passions are never more fiercely exhibited than when she is deprived of her young. When she returns to her den and misses the object of her love and care, she becomes almost frantic with rage. Disregarding every consideration of danger to herself, she attacks with great ferocity every animal that comes in her way, and in the bitterness of her heart will dare to attack even a band of armed men. The Russians of Kamtschatka never venture to fire on a young bear when the mother is near; for if the cub drop, she becomes enraged to a degree little short of madness, and if she get sight of the enemy will only quit her revenge with her life. A more desperate attempt can scarcely be performed than to carry off her young in her absence. Her scent enables her to track the plunderer; and unless he has reached some place of safety before the infuriated animal overtake him, his only safety is in dropping one of the cubs and continuing his flight; for the mother, attentive to its safety, carries it home to her den before she renews the pursuit" (Cook's Voyages, 3, 307).
In the vision of Daniel, where the four great monarchies of antiquity are symbolized by different beasts, of prey, whose qualities resembled the character of these several states, the Medo-Persian empire is represented by a bear, which raised itself up on one side, and had between its teeth three ribs, and they said thus unto it, "Arise, devour much flesh" (7, 5). All the four monarchies agreed in their fierceness and rapacity; but there were several striking differences in the subordinate features of their character and their mode of operation, which is clearly intimated by the different character of their symbolical representatives. The Persian monarchy is represented by a bear to denote its cruelty and greediness after blood. Bochart has enumerated several points of resemblance between the character of the Medo-Persians and the disposition of the bear (Hieroz. 1, 806 sq.). The variety of the Asiatic bear which inhabits the Himalayas is especially ferocious, and it is probable that the same species among the mountains of Armenia is the animal here referred to. The beast with seven heads and ten horns (Re 13:2) is described as having the feet of a bear. The bear's feet are his best weapons, with which he fights, either striking or embracing his antagonist in order to squeeze him to death, or to trample him under foot.
For the constellation Ursa Major, or "the Great Bear," SEE ASTRONOMY.