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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Lions in the Bible

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Lions in the Bible

A search, using the Bible Gateway, returned 119 occurrences of "lion," "lioness," or other derivatives of the word, "lion" in the Bible. Links below are to some of these scriptures, as given in the World English Bible, which is public domain. Other versions are readily available from the targets of these links.

Genesis 49:9; Numbers 23:24, 24:9; Deuteronomy 33:20-22 are comparisons of one of the tribes of Israel, or of the whole nation, to a conquering lion. Genesis 49:9-10 is part of the prophecy of Jacob, about the character and future of his sons. A name sometimes used for Christ, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," is based on this passage. (See Revelation 5.)

Judges 14 includes the story of Samson, who killed a lion with his bare hands, and the results of this action.

1 Samuel 17 describes David, speaking to Saul, about how God helped him to fight off one or more lions.

2 Samuel 1:23, 17:10, and 23:20, praise valiant men, who fought like lions.

1 Kings 7:29 and 36 describe the use of lion figures as part of the appearance of the temple.

1 Kings 10:19-20 describe the use of lion figures in Solomon's throne. (Also 2 Chronicles 9:18-19)

1 Kings 13 includes a story of a prophet who disobeyed God, and was killed by a lion.

1 Kings 20:36 is, again, part of a story of a man being killed for disobedience to God.

2 Kings 17:25-26 tell us that God sent lions to kill some of the non-Jews that had been placed in Israel, because they didn't worship Him.

1 Chronicles 11:22 says that Benaiah, son of Jehoida, killed a lion. 

1 Chronicles 12:8 compares an elite band from the tribe of Gad to lions.

Job 4:10-11 describe the life of lions.

Job 10:16, 28:8 and 38:39 mention lions. 38:39 uses the word "lioness."

There are 11 mentions of lions in the Psalms, 7 in Proverbs. Ecclesiastes 9:4 mentions a lion, as does the Song of Solomon. That last reference also has the first of 8 uses of the word, "leopard," in the Bible. There are no occurrences of "tiger," which is not surprising, since tigers do not, and did not, live in Bible lands. There are no mentions of "cat," either, although there were cats, probably the ancestors of modern domestic cats, in Bible lands.

There are 10 uses of "lion" in Isaiah, who also uses "lioness." Isaiah 11 tells us about the coming "peaceable kingdom," wherein lions will be vegetarians, and other currently dangerous animals, and children, will get along with each other. Isaiah 65 repeats that idea. However, this is Isaiah 35:9: "No lion will be there, nor will any ravenous animal go up on it. They will not be found there; but the redeemed will walk there." Matthew Henry's commentary doesn't mention the possible differences between Isaiah 35:9 and the other passages. Neither does A. R. Fausset, or John Calvin.

See this post, which has reproductions of some of the 62 versions of The Peaceable Kingdom, which were painted by one man, Edward Hicks, and comments on this body of work.

Jeremiah refers to lions 10 times, all of them as examples of danger. The same is true of Lamentations 3:10. 

Ezekiel uses the word 10 times, also. Five of these are about how a nation started out well, like a lion cub, then went astray and was punished. But Ezekiel also presents the idea of "living creatures," with four faces, one of them that of a lion. And he describes the future final temple, which, like the first temple, has lion faces as part of the decoration.

Daniel uses the word 9 times. All but two of these are about the story of the den of lions. The next-to-last tells of God's delivery from lions, and probably also does. But the last reference, Daniel 7:4, is about some sort of angel (?) like those presented in Ezekiel.

Hosea has 4 occurrences, all about someone being like a lion.

Joel says that an invading nation will have teeth like a lion.

Amos has 4 verses that use the word, all deriving lessons from lion behavior.

Micah's one reference is about the remaining Jews being like a lion among other nations.

Nahum has 8 uses of the word, two of them "lioness," in three verses.

Zephaniah has 1 use, comparing the officials of unbelieving Israel to preying lions. 

There is 1 use in Zechariah.

In 2 Timothy, Paul compares God's deliverance of Paul, his servant, to being rescued from a lion.

Hebrews 11:33 says that the heroes of faith stopped the mouths of lions, through their faith, which is probably referring to Daniel's experience.

1 Peter 5:8 compares Satan to a roaring lion, trying to devour believers.

5 of the uses in Revelation are as part of the description of a "beast," and I won't discuss these.

A passage in Revelation 5 tells about the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Christ. He is also described as a lamb in the same passage. Either way, He has won the victory, and will be praised for it. This title, Lion of the tribe of Judah, is used for Him only in the first and last books of the Bible. (See Genesis 49:9-10)

Lions are Christ-like in that they are awe-inspiring, graceful, alert, powerful, not subject to being preyed on or afraid of other animals, and have social lives. It's no wonder that C. S. Lewis's Narnia books have a lion as Christ-figure.

Thanks for reading!