The well-known and noble king of beasts, frequently spoken of in Scripture. He often exceeds eight feet in length and four feet in height; and his majestic and dauntless aspect, his prodigious strength and agility, and his peculiar roar, make him the terror of the forests. Lions were common in Palestine, (See JORDAN,) and the Hebrews had seven different names for them, to distinguish the different ages, etc. Five of these occur together in Job 4:10-11. See also Na 2:11-12. The psalmist alludes to the stealthy creeping of the lion till he can spring upon his prey, when he says of the crafty wicked man, "He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den;....he croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones." The Bible reader will remember the exploits of Samson and of David, Jg 14:5-6; 1Sa 17:34-36, the story of the disobedient prophet slain by a lion, 1Ki 13:28, and of the obedient Daniel, safe in the lion's den, Da 6; also the sublime image of Jehovah's care for his people, in Isa 31:4.
The Lion of the tribe of Judah, Re 5:5, is Jesus Christ, who sprung from the tribe of Judah and the race of David, and overcame death, the world, and the devil. It is supposed that a lion was the device of the tribe of Judah; whence this allusion, Ge 49:9.
ariy, 'arieh ("the bearer," Umbreit); guwr, "the whelp" (Ge 49:9); kephir, "the young lion" in adolescent vigour, his "great teeth" grown (Ps 58:6), having his own covert (Jer 25:38); labiy, in adult maturity (Ge 49:9); libyah, "lioness"; la'ish, "an old (rather strong, from an Arabic root) lion": Job 4:11, where the five different terms occur; shachal is "the roaring lion"; labiy appears in the German lowe. The variety of names shows the abundance of lions in the regions of Scripture at that time. Now there are none in Palestine. But the names Lebaoth (Jos 15:32), Arieh (2Ki 15:25), Ariel for Jerusalem (Isa 29:1-2,7), Laish (Jg 18:7), incidentally, and so undesignedly, confirm the Scripture assertions as to their former existence.
The forests and tangled thickets have been almost swept away which were their former lair. Jordan's wooded banks, its "pride" (as some translated, but others "swelling"), gave cover to lions (Jer 49:19), "a lion from the swelling (so Calvin, the overflow forcing the lion from the woody banks) of Jordan." The Asiatic lion has a short curly mane, and is shorter and rounder than the African. It laid waste villages (2Ki 17:25-26; Pr 22:13) and slew men (1Ki 13:24; 20:35-36). Shepherds, as David, sometimes singly encountered it, and prevailed (1Sa 17:34-35; Am 3:12); oftener in bands, frightening him with shouts into a pit covered over with reed or branches lightly, to entrap it (Eze 19:4,8-9). Benaiah slew one in a pit or cistern, in which it had taken refuge in a snowstorm (2Sa 23:20).
Samson slew one at Timnath (Jg 14:5-6). Lion hunting is depicted as the amusement of the Ninevite kings, who followed the great hunter Nimrod's example. Captured lions were caged, which illustrates the image in Eze 19:9. The lion symbolizes bravery, so the faces of the warriors of Gad who joined David are designated "the faces of lions" (1Ch 12:8); also might and royalty, as in the winged lion figures with human heads in the Assyrian palace remains, and in Solomon's steps to his throne (1Ki 10:19-20); so the royal tribe Judah had the lion as its standard. Messiah is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David," yet also the Lamb, combining opposites. The first of the four living creatures was like a lion (Re 4:7, compare Eze 1:10), the kingly aspect of Messiah in Matthew.
Nineveh is compared to a lion's den, full of remains of its prey, appropriately, as lion figures abounded in the Assyrian palaces, Na 2:11-12, "where is," etc.? i.e. God will so destroy it that its site will be hard to find; fulfilled to the letter (Na 1:8). Lions haunted dens in Lebanon and Hermon (Song 4:8). Balaam compares Israel to "a great lion (labiy) and a young lion" ('arieh): Nu 23:24; 24:9. Am 3:4, "will a lion roar in the forest when he hath no prey?" i.e., God would not threaten wrath if there were not; a guilty nation, its object (Mt 24:28); "will a young lion cry out of his den if he (the old lion) have taken nothing?" The young lion lies silent until the parent lion brings the prey near, then the scent rouses him; so the prophet would not speak against Israel if God did not reveal to him Israel's sin requiring Israel's punishment.
Satan is the "roaring lion" as well as the subtle serpent (1Pe 5:8). Sha'ag is the lion's roar in seeking prey (Ps 104:21); naham his cry when seizing it (Isa 5:29, compare Pr 19:12); hagah his growl defying any effort to snatch from him his prey (Isa 31:4); na'ar the cry of the young lion (Jer 51:38); rabats is his crouching in his lair (Ge 49:10); shacah and yashab (Job 38:40) his lying in wait; 'arab his secretly doing so (Ps 10:9); ramas his stealthily creeping after prey (Ps 104:20); zinneq his leap, flinging himself on it (De 33:22) (Smith's Bible Dictionary).
There are several Hebrew words translated 'lion,' the principal of which is ari, from 'to tear.' The lion is declared to be the "strongest among beasts and turneth not away for any." Pr 30:30. This shows that the lion may be taken as a symbol of 'strength,' and as such the Lord is called the lion of the tribe of Judah, to which is attached the symbol of royalty, for Judah held the sceptre. Ge 49:9-10; Re 5:5. Satan also has a kingdom and is called a strong one, Mt 12:26; and he is the 'lion' seeking whom he may devour. He is compared to a 'roaring lion,' because he is like that animal, which roars when it is sure of its prey: cf. Am 3:4. The Lord knows how to deliver His servants even out of the mouth of the lion.
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,
but laid waste towns and villages,
and devoured men.
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."
On the other hand its fierceness and cruelty rendered it an appropriate metaphor for a fierce and malignant enemy.
and hence for the arch-fiend himself.
LION, ???, or ???, Ge 49:9; De 33:22; Ps 7:2; 22:13; Ho 13:8; Mic 5:8; a large beast of prey, for his courage and strength called the king of beasts. This animal is produced in Africa, and the hottest parts of Asia. It is found in the greatest numbers in the scorched and desolate regions of the torrid zone, in the deserts of Zaara and Billdulgerid, and in all the interior parts of the vast continent of Africa. In these desert regions, from whence mankind are driven by the rigorous heat of the climate, this animal reigns sole master. His disposition seems to partake of the ardour of his native soil. Inflamed by the influence of a burning sun, his rage is tremendous, and his courage undaunted. Happily, indeed, the species is not numerous, and is said to be greatly diminished; for, if we may credit the testimony of those who have traversed those vast deserts, the number of lions is not nearly so great as formerly. Mr. Shaw observes that the Romans carried more lions from Libya in one year for their public spectacles, than could be found in all that country at this time. The lion was also found in Palestine, and the neighbouring countries. The length of the largest lion is between eight and nine feet, the tail about four, and its height about four feet and a half. The female is about one-fourth part less, and without a mane. As the lion advances in years, his mane grows longer and thicker. The hair on the rest of the body is short and smooth, of a tawny colour, but whitish on the belly. Its roaring is loud and dreadful. When heard in the night it resembles distant thunder. Its cry of anger is much louder and shorter. The attachment of a lioness to her young is remarkably strong. For their support she is more ferocious than the lion himself; makes her incursions with greater boldness; destroys, without distinction, every animal that falls in her way, and carries it reeking to her cubs. She usually brings forth in the most retired and inaccessible places; and when afraid that her retreat should be discovered, endeavours to hide her track by brushing the ground with her tail. When much disturbed or alarmed, she will sometimes transport her young, which are usually three or four in number, from one place to another in her mouth; and, if obstructed in her course, will defend them to the last extremity. The habits of the lion and the lioness afford many spirited, and often sublime, metaphors to the sacred writers.
The lion has several names in Scripture, according to his different ages or character:
2. ????, a young lion that has done sucking the lioness, and, leaving the covert, begins to seek prey. for himself. So Eze 19:2-3: "The lioness hath brought up one of her whelps; it became a chephir; it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men." See Ps 91:13; Pr 19:12.
3. ???, a grown and vigorous lion, having whelps, eager in pursuit of prey for them, Na 2:12; valiant, 2Sa 17:10; arrogantly opposing himself, Nu 23:24. This is, indeed, the general name, and occurs frequently.
5. ???, a fierce or enraged lion, Job 4:11; Pr 30:30; Isa 25:6. A regard to these characteristics and distinctions is very important for illustrating the passages of Scripture where the animal is spoken of, and discovering the propriety of the allusions and metaphors which he so often furnishes to the Hebrew poets. The lion of the tribe of Judah, mentioned Re 5:5, is Jesus Christ, who sprung from the tribe of Judah, and overcame death, the world, and the devil. The lion from the swelling of Jordan, Jer 50:44, is Nebuchadnezzar marching against Judea, with the strength and fierceness of a lion. Isaiah, describing the happy time of the Messiah, says, that then the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling should lie down together; and that a little child should lead them; and that the lion should eat straw like the ox, Isa 11:6-7, which is hyberbolical, and signifies the peace and happiness which the church of Christ should enjoy. "The lion hath roared, and who shall not fear?" Am 3:8. "The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion. Who provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul," Pr 19:12; 20:2; that is, he seeketh his own death. Solomon says, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," Ec 10:4; showing that death renders those contemptible who otherwise are the greatest, most powerful, and most terrible.
Then went Samson down, and, behold, a young lion roared against him, and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand, Jg 14:5-6. An instance in quite modern times of an unarmed man attempting to combat a lion is related by Poiret: "In a douar, or a camp of Bedouin Arabs, near La Calle, a French factory, a young lion had seized a cow. A young Moor threw himself upon the savage beast, to tear his booty from him, and as at were to stifle him in his arms, but he would not let go his prey. The father of the young man hastened to him, armed with a kind of hoe; and aiming at the lion, struck his son's hand, and cut off three of his fingers. It cost a great deal of trouble to rescue the prey from the lion. I saw this young man, who was attended by Mr. Gay, at that time surgeon to the hospital of La Calle." David, according to 1Sa 17:34, had, when a shepherd, once fought with a lion, and another time with a bear, and rescued their prey from them. Tellez relates, that an Abyssinian shepherd had once killed a lion of extraordinary size with only two poles. "Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong," Jer 49:19. The comparison used by the prophet in these words will be perfectly understood by the account which Mr. Maundrell gives of the river Jordan: "After having descended," says he, "the outermost bank of Jordan, you go about a furlong upon a level strand, before you come to the immediate bank of the river. This second bank is so beset with bushes and trees, such as tamarisks, willows, oleanders, &c, that you can see no water till you have made your way through them. In this thicket anciently, and the same is reported of it at this day, several sorts of wild beasts were wont to harbour themselves, whose being washed out of the covert by the over-flowings of the river gave occasion to that allusion: 'He shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan.'" "He shall be cast into the den of lions," Da 6:7. "In Morocco," says Host, "the king has a lions' den, into which men, particularly Jews, are sometimes thrown; but the latter generally come off unhurt; because the keepers of these animals are Jews, who may safely be with them, with a rod in the hand, if they only take care to go out backward, as the lion does not suffer any one to turn his back upon him. The other Jews do not let their brethren remain longer than a night among the lions, as they might otherwise become too hungry; but ransom them with money, which is, in fact, the king's object." In another place in the same work we find the following description of the construction of this lions' den: "At one end of the royal palace there is a place for ostriches and their young; and beyond the other end, toward the mountains, there is a large lions' den, which consists of a large square hole in the ground, with a partition, in the middle of which there is a door, which the Jews, who are obliged to maintain and keep them for nothing, are able to open and shut from above, and can thus entice the lions, by means of the food, from one division to the other, to clean the other in the mean time. It is all in the open air, and a person may look down over a wall, which is a yard and a quarter high."