The Bear


Did you ever hear children say, "He is as cross as a bear? I hope it
will never be said of you, for nobody loves a child who is selfish and
unkind, or who speaks cross and angry words. The bear is certainly a
very cross animal; the name that was given to it in Bible times means a
grumbler or growler. It does not even like other bears, excepting its
own young ones, but chooses to live by itself in the gloomiest woods-
often in a dark cave, or in the hollow part of some great old tree.
When winter begins, it lies down to sleep, and does not wake up till
warm weather comes again; then it creeps out of its retreat, lean and
hungry enough-and cross enough, too. It is not a handsome animal; its
hair is rough and almost as close as wool, and its limbs are thick and
clumsy. It eats nuts, juicy leaves, and such fruits and berries as grow
in the woods; it is fond of honey, and will climb the highest trees to
reach it; and when it is very hungry, it will kill any animal that comes
in its way and is not too strong for it to conquer.

The bear loves its young ones more than almost any other animal does, as
this little story will show you. A bear with two cubs or young ones
once came over the ice near to a ship where the sailors had just killed
a large animal. The bears were very hungry, and the sailors threw over
some pieces of flesh for them; the old bear would tear them up, giving
most of the meat to the cubs, and keeping but little for herself.
Presently some one in the ship cruelly shot both the young ones-then
their mother was full of sorrow. She had been hurt herself by the guns,
but she crawled along to her cubs, put her paw upon them, and tried to
have them get up; and when she found that they did not move, she went a
few steps off, and then looked back with a sad, moaning noise, as though
she expected them to get up and follow her. When she saw that all her
efforts were useless, she walked around them several times, turned
towards the vessel with a terrible growl-for she was angry enough to
tear in pieces the men who had killed her young-and then lay down
between her cubs and died. Does not his help you to understand this
verse in the 17th chapter of 2d Samuel? "For thou knowest thy father
and his men, that they are mighty men, and they are chafed in their
minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps (or cubs) in the field;"-and this
also, Hosea 13:8, "I will meet them as a bear bereaved of her whelps."
Such verses as these show that the writers of the Bible were acquainted
with the habits of different animals: we never find any mistakes in what
they say about them. Solomon says in his Proverbs, "As a roaring lion
and a ranging bear, so is a wicked ruler over the poor people."

You have often read or heard the sad story in the 2d of Kings, how forty
-two children were killed at one time by two bears out of the wood. Do
you understand why God allowed this? Elijah, a holy servant of God, had
just been taken up to heaven in a bright chariot with horses of fire;
and these rude and wicked children called out to Elisha, "Go up, thou
bald head!"-that is, "Go up, as Elijah did, to heaven." This mockery
would have been very wrong, even if Elisha had not been a holy prophet,
for God has said, "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor
the face of the old man;" but the children were really dishonoring God
in their treatment of his servant, and it was for this reason that He
was so displeased with them.

Do you remember what David said when he was trying to persuade king Saul
to let him go and fight with the great giant Goliath? Saul thought he
was too young, and by no means strong enough; but David said, "Thy
servant was keeping his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a
bear, and took a lamb out of the flock, and thy servant slew both the
lion and the bear." He said also, "The Lord that delivered me out of
the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me
out of the hand of this Philistine." You see why David was not afraid
to meet the giant. It was not because he felt strong of himself, but he
believed that God would be near to help him; and it was the same feeling
that led him to say afterwards, "Though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me." Happy will
it be for you, dear child, if you can say the same words, with peace in
your heart, when you lie down to die.