Lion [N] [S]

Although most Hebrew and Greek words for lion are used in a figurative sense, nevertheless we can draw a number of inferences regarding the perceived characteristics and behavior of literal lions. They are, among other things, strong ( Pr 30:30 ), especially in their teeth ( Job 4:10 ) and paws ( 1 Sam 17:37 ), fearless ( Prov 28:1 ; 30:30 ), stealthy ( Psalm 17:12 ), frightening ( Ezra 19:7 ; Hosea 11:10 ; Amos 3:8 ), destructive ( 1 Sam 17:34 ; Micah 5:8 ), and territorially protective ( Isa 31:4 ). Yet for all its seeming autonomy, the lion is ultimately dependent on God ( Job 38:39-40 ; Psalm 104:21 ), answerable to him ( Job 4:10 ), and subdued in the millennial age ( Isa 11:6-7 ).

The many notable qualities of the lion are often applied figuratively in a variety of ways to individuals and nations. The king is frightening in his anger ( Prov 19:12 ; 20:2 ), the soldier courageous ( 2 Sam 17:10 ), national leaders vicious ( Ezek 22:25 ; Zeph 3:3 ), enemy nations destructive ( Isa 5:29 ; Jer 2:15 ) and protective of their conquests ( Isa 5:29 ), and personal enemies stealthy in their pursuit to harm ( Psalm 10:9 ; 17:12 ).

God is described with a number of leonine features. He is strong ( Isa 38:13 ), fearless in protecting his own ( Isa 31:4 ), stealthy in coming upon his prey ( Jer 49:19 ; Hosea 13:7 ), frightening ( Hosea 11:10 ; Amos 3:8 ), and destructive ( Jer 25:38 ; Lam 3:10 ; Hosea 5:14 ; 13:8 ). In am 3:8 "The Lion" even appears as a title for God.

The idea of a Lion of the Tribe of Judah is problematic because the fundamental passage ( Rev 5:5 ) is grammatically ambiguous and because there is no exact antecedent parallel. First, it is unclear whether in Revelation 5:5 we have one title of Christ (Lion of the Tribe of Judah) or two titles standing in apposition (The Lion; The One of the Tribe of Judah). Second, the alleged parallels are only approximate parallels. In Genesis 49:9 there is no lion of Judah; rather, Judah is a lion. In 2 (4) Esdras 11:37; 12:1, 31 the Messiah is pictured as a lion, but not specifically of Judah. In the Testament of Judah 24:5 the Messiah is from Judah but not specifically as a lion. Given the imprecision in the alleged parallels, the cautious interpreter would not make much of the tradition that combines "lion" and "of the Tribe of Judah" into one idea, but rather would understand Jesus the Lamb to be called Messiah under two images derived from separate traditions.

Finally, the lion figure is expansive enough in its manifold facets to suggest its application to Satan. Such meaning is possible in 2 Timothy 4:17, but 1pe 5:8 is its classic occurrence. Here Satan is portrayed as both frightening his prey and silently stalking it to devour it. This devouring is best seen as potentially successful and as consisting of physical death. Therefore, professing believers should not lose faith, even in the face of the devil's most relentless pressures to give up.

David K. Huttar

See also God; Messiah; Satan

Bibliography. G. J. Botterweck, TDOT, 1:374-88; R. K. Harrison, ISBE, 3:141-42; W. Michaelis, TDNT, 4:251-53; J. R. Michaels, I Peter.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Lion'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.

Lion. [N] [B]

"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 2 Kings 17:26 ; 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 )

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Lion'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.



(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" (Ezra 8:16; Isaiah 29:1,2,7); char'el, "upper altar," and 'ari'el, "altar hearth" (Ezekiel 43:15); 'aryeh, "Arieh" (2 Kings 15:25); 'ar'eli, "Areli" and "Arelites" (Genesis 46:16; Numbers 26:17).

(2) kephir, "young lion," often translated "lion" (Psalms 35:17; Proverbs 19:12; 23:1, etc.).

(3) shachal, translated "fierce lion" or "lion" (Job 4:10; 10:16; 28:8; Hosea 5:14).

(4) layish, translated "old lion" or "lion" (Job 4:11; Proverbs 30:30; Isaiah 30:6).

Compare Arabic laith, "lion":

layish, "Laish," or "Leshem" (Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:7,14,27,29); layish, "Laish" (1 Samuel 25:44; 2 Samuel 3:15).

(5) lebhi, plural lebha'im, "lioness", also labhi', and 'lebhiya' (Genesis 49:9; Numbers 23:24; 24:9); compare town in South of Judah, Lebaoth (Joshua 15:32) or Beth-lebaoth (Joshua 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 (Genesis 49:9); "young ones" of the jackal (Lamentations 4:3). Also bene labhi', "whelps (sons) of the lioness" (Job 4:11); and kephir 'arayoth, "young lion," literally, "the young of lions" (Judges 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 Timothy 4:17; Hebrews 11:33; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 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 (Judges 14:18), boldness (2 Samuel 17:10), ferocity (Psalms 7:2), and stealth (Psalms 10:9; Lamentations 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 (Psalms 91:13; Isaiah 11:6-8; 65:25). The roaring of the lion is often mentioned (Job 4:10; Psalms 104:21; Isaiah 31:4 (the Revised Version (British and American) "growling"); Jeremiah 51:38; Ezekiel 22:25; Hosea 11:10). Judah is a "lion's whelp" (Genesis 49:9), likewise Da (Deuteronomy 33:22). It is said of certain of David's warriors (1 Chronicles 12:8) that their "faces were like the faces of lions." David's enemy (Psalms 17:12) "is like a lion that is greedy of his prey." "The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion" (Proverbs 19:12). God in His wrath is "unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah" (Hosea 5:14). "The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 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 Kings 7:29,36; 10:19).

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 (Judges 14:5); by David (1 Samuel 17:34); by Benaiah (2 Samuel 23:20; 1 Chronicles 11:22); the prophet slain by a lion (1 Kings 13:24; also 1 Kings 20:36); the lions sent by the Lord among the settlers in Samaria (2 Kings 17:25); Daniel in the lions' den (Daniel 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 Judges 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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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'LION'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.