lion Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
lion in Smith's Bible Dictionary
"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 Israel; but they must in ancient times have been numerous. The lion of Israel 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, #1Sa 17:34; Isa 31:4| but laid waste towns and villages, #2Ki 17:25,26; Pr 22:13; 26:13| and devoured men. #1Ki 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." #Re 5:5| On the other hand its fierceness and cruelty rendered it an appropriate metaphor for a fierce and malignant enemy. #Ps 7:2; 22:21; 57:4; 2Ti 4:17| and hence for the arch-fiend himself. #1Pe 5:8|
lion in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
LI'ON . This animal was found in Palestine as late as the twelfth century, but has disappeared with the forests. Doubtless it was of the Asiatic species, with a short curly mane, smaller, more compact, and less formidable than the African lion. The king of beasts is mentioned about one hundred and thirty times in the Bible. Besides the general name, six Hebrew words are used for this animal, marking different conditions of Lion. age and prowess. His roar is described by four words, and his movements by six. Lebaoth, Arieh, Laish, and other places were named from this animal. Lions were captured in pitfalls, to which there is allusion in Eze 19:4, 1 Kgs 15:8; 2 Sam 23:20. Shepherds occasionally attacked them single-handed. 1 Sam 17:36. The Scriptures record how the lion, when famished, often attacked the flock, devoured men, and even ravaged villages. This animal was partial to the jungles of the Jordan, and when driven thence by the annual freshet was much enraged. Jer 49:19; Jer 50:44. As the symbol of royal power and strength, the most princely of all the tribes bore this animal on its banner. Gen 49:9, and in the Revelation Christ is called "the Lion of the tribe of Judah." The representations of this animal in the sculptures of Solomon's temple and palace will be remembered, as will also frequent rhetorical references to it as the symbol of various well-known characteristics, such as courage and ferocity.
lion in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
'ariy, 'arieh ("the bearer," Umbreit); guwr, "the whelp" (Genesis 49:9); kephir, "the young lion" in adolescent vigour, his "great teeth" grown (Psalm 58:6), having his own covert (Jeremiah 25:38); labiy, in adult maturity (Genesis 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 Israel. But the names Lebaoth (Joshua 15:32), Arieh (2 Kings 15:25), Ariel for Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:1-2; Isaiah 29:7), Laish (Judges 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 (Jeremiah 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 (2 Kings 17:25-26; Proverbs 22:13) and slew men (1 Kings 13:24; 1 Kings 20:35-36). Shepherds, as David, sometimes singly encountered it, and prevailed (1 Samuel 17:34-35; Amos 3:12); oftener in bands, frightening him with shouts into a pit covered over with reed or branches lightly, to entrap it (Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 19:8-9). Benaiah slew one in a pit or cistern, in which it had taken refuge in a snowstorm (2 Samuel 23:20).
Samson slew one at Timnath (Judges 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 Ezekiel 19:9. The lion symbolizes bravery, so the faces of the warriors of Gad who joined David are designated "the faces of lions" (1 Chronicles 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 (1 Kings 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 (Revelation 4:7, compare Ezekiel 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, Nahum 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 (Nahum 1:8). Lions haunted dens in Lebanon and Hermon (Song of Solomon 4:8). Balaam compares Israel to "a great lion (labiy) and a young lion" ('arieh): Numbers 23:24; Numbers 24:9. Amos 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 (Matthew 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 (1 Peter 5:8). Sha'ag is the lion's roar in seeking prey (Psalm 104:21); naham his cry when seizing it (Isaiah 5:29, compare Proverbs 19:12); hagah his growl defying any effort to snatch from him his prey (Isaiah 31:4); na'ar the cry of the young lion (Jeremiah 51:38); rabats is his crouching in his lair (Genesis 49:10); shacah and yashab (Job 38:40) his lying in wait; 'arab his secretly doing so (Psalm 10:9); ramas his stealthily creeping after prey (Psalm 104:20); zinneq his leap, flinging himself on it (Deuteronomy 33:22) (Smith's Bible Dictionary).