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The Brown Bear vision
William Branham shot a silver-tip grizzly bear while hunting in British Columbia in May of 1961. In a sermon called “Presuming” in June 1962, William Branham tells this story and then says, “Now, I'm going back into the country, that you might know, when I come back next year. I'm going to get a brown bear that's almost twice that size. You see if it's right or not. …God's perfect and never fails.” A month earlier, in a sermon called “Possessing All Things”, William Branham said that the vision of the brown bear was “THUS SAITH THE LORD.”
William Branham returned to British Columbia in late July 1962, preached six services on Vancouver Island, and then went hunting in northern British Columbia but did not fulfill the vision at that time. He returned to British Columbia again in October of 1964 with Pearry Green, but did not fulfill the vision at that time either. When William Branham passed away on December 25, 1965, the vision had never been fulfilled.
What does this mean? When William Branham said in 1962 that he would shoot a brown bear and that this was “Thus Saith The Lord”, was he speaking presumptuously?
|And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ |
— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD,
if the thing does not happen or come to pass,
that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken;
the prophet has spoken it presumptuously;
you shall not be afraid of him. ~ Deuteronomy 18:20-22
The 1962 Vision of the Brown Bear, by William Branham
April 1, 1962, in the sermon "Wisdom versus Faith":
- Coming home the other night, or the other day, or just 'fore I come home, I was--fell into a vision; and I seen some little fellows, thin, looked like young boys or something, had on caps. And we were standing hunting. And I'd shot a mammoth, big, brown-looking bear. And then, they turned around and said to me, said, "But there's some confusion about the meeting." And I said, "No matter what the confusion is, if I was supposed to go, wherever it was, I'll go anyhow. (See?) It doesn't matter." And the vision stopped. I don't know where that's at, but this is on tape. It's going to happen. See? Just remember; it's going to happen; it's a vision.
May 6, 1962, in the sermon "Possessing All Things":
- Many of you remember the vision that I had, where I had shot the grizzly bear, nine-foot grizzly bear (And the church remembers me telling it here.) and the caribou. I had another. Remember it's on tape here, I seen a great huge brown bear. That might be a Kodiak and it wouldn't have worked down there in Canada, 'cause they're not there. You see? But wherever it will be, it'll be. It will be; that's THUS SAITH THE LORD. It will be. See?
June 10, 1962, in the sermon "Presuming":
- Now, I'm going back into the country, that you might know, when I come back next year. I'm going to get a brown bear that's almost twice that size. You see if it's right or not. I seen it. When we was standing, put my hands on his haunches laying on the ground, like that. And I could put my hands on his hips like that, and him laying down. Now, you find out if that's right or not. There's a whole lot to that. But I just happened to think, I'm supposed to be teaching Sunday school. See? Oh, friends. You all see these little visions around here? No wonder you minister brothers sometimes get suspicious. "Well, it might be mental telepathy. It might be psychology." Show me somewhere else it's going on. What about these great psychologists, telepathists? They guess. It sometimes happens, sometimes it never. And it's this, that, or the other. But God's perfect and never fails.
Explanation for the failed vision
People who believe that William Branham is a true prophet explain away this vision in the following ways.
- Some claim that he will rise from the dead to fulfill this vision.
- Others defend William Branham by saying that a failed prophecy has a Biblical precedent in the prophet Jonah, because God told him to prophecy the destruction of Nineveh and it never came to pass.
- A third group believes that William Branham’s disobedience resulted in the vision not being fulfilled.
- Lastly, there is a group that will ask, "What vision?". This group is the 'faithful' group whose pastors have just never preached on this vision (and likely never will).
There are a few problems with these explanations:
William Branham died in 1965, and a large stone pyramid now sits on top of his grave in Indiana. He is not raising from the dead just to travel to British Columbia to shoot a bear.
The Jonah Excuse
“God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon” the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10) because they repented. Applying this scripture to William Branham’s life might make sense in the context of the vision of the destruction of Los Angeles (although there was no mass-repentance in L.A. as there was in Nineveh). However, this scripture does not work in the context of the hunting vision, as it would mean that the brown bear repented of its evil ways.
Years before the Jonah went to Nineveh, the prophet Jeremiah said that God would withhold his judgement to a Nation that would repent. "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it." (Jeremiah 18:7-8) There is no scriptural precedent that says God will relent of a vision that involves the destruction of a brown bear.
The problem with this excuse for a failed vision is that a false prophet could NEVER be held accountable for failing Deut 18:20-22:
- But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’ But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the LORD?’ If the prophet speaks in the LORD’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared. 
Any prophet whose vision failed would simply say: "I am terribly sorry. I disobeyed the Lord so my vision failed. You can't kill me now."
Of course, in the Old Testament such an excuse would not be acceptable and the false prophet would have been stoned. As a result, this excuse is simply that. A non-biblical excuse which must be rejected.
William Branham's Disobedience Resulted in the Failure of the Vision
Ed Byskal, who accompanied William Branham on several of his hunting trips, has stated publicly that William Branham discussed his disobedience and the resultant failure of this vision in this quote:
- So I, in these thirty--going on thirty-two years of ministry, I have tried to stay true to the Word. I don't know of one thing I've ever had to alter on, because I just read it out of the Bible, said just what the Bible said, and let it go like that. And so I haven't had to take back or rearrange, because I just said it the way that the Bible says it. And I find out, if God has spoken anything, then we must go with that Word in order to make It be fulfilled. We seen that, as I told you last night, of a vision just recently (See?), that it... I had to be there, and warning to be there, and telling me six months before to be on that spot, and stand there, and saying, "Go down there (three times) with them." And I just walked on with the other men. And the vision passed right through exactly, God's part; and I was left standing. So we want to remember; you've got to stay on the Word, just stay right with the Word. And where the Word leads, you go right with the Word, then It'll bring you out all right. I'm sure.
While this explanation will meet the requirements of dissonance reduction (see Cognitive Dissonance), it fails on a number of levels:
- 1. The quote above is vague and does not specifically address the issue. William Branham stated publicly that he would shoot the brown bear and that it could not fail because it was "Thus Saith The Lord".
- 2. The minister referred to above quotes William Branham as stating that:
- "I am the Jonah in this group. This is only the second time in my life that I know that I have disobeyed a vision."
- By this, the minister stated that prophets like Moses failed God and disobeyed direct commands of God but were still prophets. However, this statement does not adequately deal with the fact that William Branham said something would take place in the name of the Lord and it did not.
- 3. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 is very clear:
- But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. 
- “But any prophet who fakes it, who claims to speak in my name something I haven’t commanded him to say, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die.” You may be wondering among yourselves, “How can we tell the difference, whether it was GOD who spoke or not?” Here’s how: If what the prophet spoke in GOD’s name doesn’t happen, then obviously GOD wasn’t behind it; the prophet made it up. Forget about him. 
- Excuses for disobedience are not permitted.
- 4. The minister who publicly testified of his personal experiences relating to William Branham's disobedience has serious credibility problems. The majority of his congregation, including almost the entirety of the church leadership, left the church because of his personal moral failures. As a result, anything that this minister states must be view as highly suspect.
- 5. “Thus Saith The Lord” should be stronger than an individual’s lack of obedience. Does God permit a prophet to say, "I did something wrong personally and that is why the vision did not come to pass"?
- We can find no example in scripture that suggests this is the case. There is only one exception for a prophesy not to be fulfilled – and this involves repentance by the person (or nation) being judged. If it was acceptable for one prophet to say "Oops! I made a personal mistake, and that’s why the vision was not fulfilled," then every false prophet would claim this as an easy-out excuse. For this reason, the Word of God only permits one explanation for a failed vision, because repentance satisfies the wrath of God. That is why Ezekiel says, “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” (Ezekiel 18:30)
- 6. We also looked in the scripture for the spiritual significance of shooting a bear, and could not find one. This vision was only to promote William Branham’s own ministry, and it failed.
So what will you do with this failed vision? Will you succumb to cognitive dissonance and trivialize an obvious wrong?
The 1961 Vision of the Grizzly Bear
People are sometimes confused by the story about the vision of William Branham shooting a grizzly bear with that of him shooting a brown bear. William Branham told the vision of shooting a grizzly bear several times. The first time that he tells the story of this vision was on October 1, 1961, five months after he had shot the grizzly bear.
- About two months ago, or hardly that long, I was woke up one morning. I believe, I'm not sure... I told it to most of the church. There's many here has heard me tell this before it come to pass. And in the--a vision I saw, that I'd saw a great animal, looked like a deer. And it had great high horns. And it was... I had to go around a side shale, like this, to get to it. And it was a very famous animal. It was a great trophy animal. And there was a man that I saw that had on a green checkered shirt. And then on the road, after I'd got the animal, I'd heard a--a voice say that, "Those horns are forty-two inches high." That's about this high. And it was a mammoth animal. And on the road back, I saw a great huge silver-tip grizzly bear. Now, that's the famous bear. There's four in the grizzly family. One is the silver-tip, which is the famous. Next is called, the native name, kadish, which is a black with a round ear; the second. Third is the regular grizzly, which is between black and brown, a huge bear. And the next is the Kodiak, which is only found on Kodiak Island and--and western Alaska; he's great, mammoth, biggest of all bears, but he's a grizzly. But the silver-tip is black, and the white is on--the silver is on the end of the tip of the hair. He's the famous one, very high-strung, ill-tempered bear. I shot the bear with a heart shot, killed him.
In May 1961, on a hunting trip in Northern British Columbia, William Branham shot a silver-tip grizzly bear which he stated he prophesied in advance, although this prophecy was not recorded on tape.
The following year, in 1962, he tells of a vision in which he shoots a brown bear that is even larger than the grizzly he shot.
- Many of you remember the vision that I had, where I had shot the grizzly bear, nine-foot grizzly bear (And the church remembers me telling it here.) and the caribou. I had another. Remember it's on tape here, I seen a great huge brown bear. That might be a Kodiak and it wouldn't have worked down there in Canada, 'cause they're not there. You see? But wherever it will be, it'll be. It will be; that's THUS SAITH THE LORD. It will be.
- Now, I'm going back into the country, that you might know, when I come back next year. I'm going to get a brown bear that's almost twice that size. You see if it's right or not. I seen it. When we was standing, put my hands on his haunches laying on the ground, like that. And I could put my hands on his hips like that, and him laying down. Now, you find out if that's right or not.
While William Branham did go hunting a number of times after he told this vision, he did not shoot the large brown bear that he spoke of. Those that went hunting with him have admitted that this vision was never fulfilled.
Now… some have excused the failure of this vision as being directly related to William Branham’s disobedience to God. His disobedience prevented the vision from being fulfilled. In fact, one minister quotes William Branham as having said that it was “only the second time I know that I disobeyed a vision.”
By this statement, this minister attempts to excuse William Branham’s failed prophecy.
But what does the Bible say?
First, Deuteronomy 18:20-22 does not permit any excuse relating to the failure of a vision or prophecy.
- But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. 
If Deuteronomy 18 did allow for excuses, a prophet with a failed vision could simply have said, “Oops… sorry… I disobeyed God… so you can’t kill me.”
Secondly, the prophet Jeremiah does provide a specific rule that can apply with respect to a prophecy that fails to come to pass.
- The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. 
However, the failure of the brown bear vision does not fall within the allowance that Jeremiah provided.
Sure Jonah disobeyed God, but that was not the reason that Nineveh was spared. Nineveh repented and so that great city was spared. But William Branham’s vision did not relate to a kingdom or nation. He gave it as an attempt to vindicate his own prophetic ministry. God decided not to provide that vindication.
So on what basis can anyone excuse the failure of the brown bear vision from being fulfilled?
These warnings tell us that we should test the prophecies of those who claim they are prophets. This is the only way to know whether you should embrace or abandon their teaching.
Why would you accept a prophet who says things that do not come to pass?
Why did God provide clear tests we mentioned for judging a prophet if He wanted you to ignore them?
Do you really want to believe something so badly that you are willing to accept an excuse and reject the plain teaching of the Bible?
How are you going to explain that to God?
- You may be wondering among yourselves, “How can we tell the difference, whether it was GOD who spoke or not?” Here’s how: If what the prophet spoke in GOD’s name doesn’t happen, then obviously GOD wasn’t behind it; the prophet made it up. Forget about him.
This article is one in a series outlining a number of William Branham's visions that appear to have failed - you are currently in the article that is in bold:
- The Municipal Bridge Vision
- The Vision of the Meetings in South Africa
- The Franklin D. Roosevelt Prophecy
- The Brown Bear Vision
- Fred Barker
- Failed Prophecies
There were also many visions that changed significantly over time.
- Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Dt 18:20–22.
- COUNTDOWN_ JEFF.IN V-11 N-3 SUNDAY_ 62-0909M
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Dt 18:20–22 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009).
- Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Dt 18:20–22 (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005).
- William Branham, October 1, 1961, It becometh us to fulfill all righteousness
- See POSSESSING.ALL.THINGS JEFF.IN 62-0506
- PRESUMING S.PINES.NC 62-0610M
- Deuteronomy 18:-20-22
- Jeremiah 18:7-10
- Matthew 7:15
- 1 John 4:1
- Deut 18:21-22 (The Message)