Bears in the Old Testament

Maya asked me to give her a list of all of the Old Testament references to bears (the large shaggy variant). I thought to make quick work of it with Logos Bible Software, and in only a few seconds I fired off a search. ‘Bear’ occurs 179 times in the OT (288 times in the whole Bible), but most of them are verbs and not the kind of beast for which Alaska and Montana are famous. It would take far too long to analyze that many hits for our target word. My faith in technology prevented me from just turning to something like Young’s Analytical Concordance, although I knew that that would get me what Maya needed – albeit with less style.

Without wasting a minute, I created a syntax query that searched for words with an English gloss tag of ‘bear’ and a semantic tag of ‘creature’ in the Anderson-Forbes Hebrew Database. That narrowed it down to the twelve occurrences that Maya was after. It would have taken me slightly longer with a paper Young’s. In fact, it saved me enough time to write an insignificant post on the subject before handing the list to Maya.


Note: Two other solutions would be, of course, to 1) search for the gloss ‘bear’ tagged as a noun, and 2) to do a plain search for the Hebrew word for bear. But, really, how interesting would that be?


  1. Well done! Great example of how a syntax search can be used to disambiguate a search on a word and give you the hits you’re looking for!

  2. The bigger question is, “Why?” Seems like a strange request – to explore the references to furry creatures in the OT. I’m sure Maya has a logical purpose = I’d love to hear it.

  3. Phil: Thanks for the comment. Hey, I really appreciate your contributions at the Logos blog!

    Alissa: I think it had something to do with some presumptuous (IMO) interpretations of prophecies in the OT concerning nations that oppose Israel and, as some would have it, a modern, northern country that is often characterized as a bear.

  4. i was starting to think that i might be the only person who thought about this, at least at present i know i’m not nuts :) i will be sure to look into a number of several other blogposts just after i get a bit of caffeine in me, it is challanging to read with out my coffee, I was until the wee hours of the morning last night playing myspace poker and after polishing off a few brewskies i finished up getting rid of all my facebook poker chips take care :)

  5. my favorite web page. thank you

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