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Arts Topics: The Lion of Judah

Lion [NAVE]

King of beasts, Mic. 5:8.
Fierceness of, Job 4:10; 28:8; Psa. 7:2; Prov. 22:13; Jer. 2:15; 49:19; 50:44; Hos. 13:8.
The roaring of, Psa. 22:13; Prov. 20:2.
Strength of, Prov. 30:30; Isa. 38:13; Joel 1:6.
Instincts of, in taking prey, Psa. 10:9; 17:12; Lam. 3:10; Amos 3:4; Nah. 2:12.
Lair of, in the wilds, Jer. 4:7; 25:38.
The bases in the temple ornamented by moldings of, 1 Kin. 7:29, 36.
Twelve statues of, on the stairs leading to Solomon's throne, 1 Kin. 10:19, 20.
Samson's riddle concerning, Judg. 14:14, 18.
Proverb of, Eccl. 9:4.
Parable of, Ezek. 19:1-9.
Kept in captivity, Dan. 6.
Sent as judgment upon the Samaritans, 2 Kin. 17:25, 26.
Slain by Samson, Judg. 14:5-9; David, 1 Sam. 17:34, 36; Benaiah, 2 Sam. 23:20; saints, Heb. 11:33.
Disobedient prophet slain by, 1 Kin. 13:24-28; an uamed person slain by, 1 Kin. 20:36.
Used for the torture of criminals, Dan. 6:16-24; 7:12; 2 Tim. 4:17.
Of a ruler's wrath, Prov. 19:12; Jer. 5:6; 50:17; Hos. 5:14; of Satan, 1 Pet. 5:8; of divine judgments, Isa. 15:9.
Gen. 49:9; Isa. 29:1; Ezek. 1:10; 10:14; Dan. 7:4; Rev. 4:7; 5:5; 9:8, 17; 13:2.


"The most powerful, daring and impressive of all carnivorous animals, the most magnificent in aspect and awful in voice." At present lions do not exist in Palestine; but they must in ancient times have been numerous. The lion of Palestine was in all probability the Asiatic variety, described by Aristotle and Pliny as distinguished by its short and curly mane, and by being shorter and rounder in shape, like the sculptured lion found at Arban. It was less daring than the longer named species, but when driven by hunger it not only ventured to attack the flocks in the desert in presence of the shepherd, (1 Samuel 17:34; Isaiah 31:4) but laid waste towns and villages, (2 Kings 17:25,26; Proverbs 22:13; 26:13) and devoured men. (1 Kings 13:24; 20:36) Among the Hebrews, and throughout the Old Testament, the lion was the achievement of the princely tribe of Judah, while in the closing book of the canon it received a deeper significance as the emblem of him who "prevailed to open the book and loose the seven seals thereof." (Revelation 5:5) On the other hand its fierceness and cruelty rendered it an appropriate metaphor for a fierce and malignant enemy. (Psalms 7:2; 22:21; 57:4; 2 Timothy 4:17) and hence for the arch-fiend himself. (1 Peter 5:8)


LION - li'-un: (1) Occurring most often in the Old Testament is 'aryeh, plural 'ardyoth. Another form, 'ari, plural 'arayim, is found less often.

1. Names:

Compare 'ari'el, "Ariel" (Ezr 8:16; Isa 29:1,2,7); char'el, "upper altar," and 'ari'el, "altar hearth" (Ezek 43:15); 'aryeh, "Arieh" (2 Ki 15:25); 'ar'eli, "Areli" and "Arelites" (Gen 46:16; Nu 26:17). (2) kephir, "young lion," often translated "lion" (Ps 35:17; Prov 19:12; 23:1, etc.). (3) shachal, translated "fierce lion" or "lion" (Job 4:10; 10:16; 28:8; Hos 5:14). (4) layish, translated "old lion" or "lion" (Job 4:11; Prov 30:30; Isa 30:6).

Compare Arabic laith, "lion": layish, "Laish," or "Leshem" (Josh 19:47; Jdg 18:7,14,27,29); layish, "Laish" (1 Sam 25:44; 2 Sam 3:15). (5) lebhi, plural lebha'im, "lioness"; also labhi', and 'lebhiya' (Gen 49:9; Nu 23:24; 24:9); compare town in South of Judah, Lebaoth (Josh 15:32) or Beth-lebaoth (Josh 19:6); also Arabic labwat, "lioness "; Lebweh, a town in Coele-Syria. (6) aur, gor, "whelp," with 'aryeh or a pronoun, e.g. "Judah is a lion's whelp," gur 'aryeh (Gen 49:9); "young ones" of the jackal (Lam 4:3). Also bene labhi', "whelps (sons) of the lioness" (Job 4:11); and kephir 'arayoth, "young lion," literally, "the young of lions" (Jdg 14:5). In Job 28:8, the King James Version has "lion's whelps" for bene shachats, the Revised Version (British and American) "proud beasts." the Revised Version margin "sons of pride"; compare Job 41:34 (Hebrew 26). (7) leon, "lion" (2 Tim 4:17; Heb 11:33; 1 Pet 5:8; Rev 4:7; 5:5; The Wisdom of Solomon 11:17; Ecclesiasticus 4:30; 13:19; Bel and the Dragon 31,32,34). (8) skumnos, "whelp" (1 Macc 3:4).

2. Natural History:

The lion is not found in Palestine at the present day, though in ancient times it is known to have inhabited not only Syria and Palestine but also Asia Minor and the Balkan peninsula, and its fossil remains show that it was contemporary with prehistoric man in Northwestern Europe and Great Britain. Its present range extends throughout Africa, and it is also found in Mesopotamia, Southern Persia, and the border of India. There is some reason to think that it may be found in Arabia, but its occurrence there remains to be proved. The Asiatic male lion does not usually have as large a mane as the African, but both belong to one species, Fells leo.

3. Figurative:

Lions are mentioned in the Bible for their strength (Jdg 14:18), boldness (2 Sam 17:10), ferocity (Ps 7:2), and stealth (Ps 10:9; Lam 3:10). Therefore in prophetical references to the millennium, the lion, with the bear, wolf, and leopard, is mentioned as living in peace with the ox, calf, kid, lamb and the child (Ps 91:13; Isa 11:6-8; 65:25). The roaring of the lion is often mentioned (Job 4:10; Ps 104:21; Isa 31:4 (the Revised Version (British and American) "growling"); Jer 51:38; Ezek 22:25; Hos 11:10). Judah is a "lion's whelp" (Gen 49:9), likewise Dan (Dt 33:22). It is said of certain of David's warriors (1 Ch 12:8) that their "faces were like the faces of lions." David's enemy (Ps 17:12) "is like a lion that is greedy of his prey." "The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion" (Prov 19:12). God in His wrath is "unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah" (Hos 5:14). "The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8). "Lion" occurs in the figurative language of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. The figures of lions were used in the decorations of Solomon's temple and throne (1 Ki 7:29,36; 10:19 f).

4. Narrative:

Nearly all references to the lion are figurative. The only notices of the lion in narrative are of the lion slain by Samson (Jdg 14:5); by David (1 Sam 17:34 f); by Benaiah (2 Sam 23:20; 1 Ch 11:22); the prophet slain by a lion (1 Ki 13:24; also 1 Ki 20:36); the lions sent by the Lord among the settlers in Samaria (2 Ki 17:25); Daniel in the lions' den (Dan 6:16). In all these cases the word used is 'aryeh or 'ari.

5. Vocabulary:

The Arabic language boasts hundreds of names for the lion. Many of these are, however, merely adjectives used substantively. The commonest Arabic names are sab`, 'asad, laith, and labwat, the last two of which are identified above with the Hebrew layish and labhi'. As in Arabic, so in Hebrew, the richness of the language in this particular gives opportunity for variety of expression, as in Job 4:10,11:

"The roaring of the lion ('aryeh), and the voice of the fierce lion (shachal),

And the teeth of the young lions (kephirim), are broken.

The old lion (layish) perisheth for lack of prey,

And the whelps of the lioness (bene labhi') are scattered abroad."

In Jdg 14:5-18, no less than three different terms, kephir 'arayoth, aryeh, and 'ari, are used of Samson's lion.

Alfred Ely Day

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