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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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ארי , or ארה , Genesis 49:9; Deuteronomy 33:22; Psalms 7:2; Psalms 22:13; Hosea 13:8; Micah 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:

1. גור , a little lion, a lion's whelp, Deuteronomy 33:22; Jeremiah 51:38; Ezekiel 19:2; Nahum 2:13 .

2. כפיר , a young lion that has done sucking the lioness, and, leaving the covert, begins to seek prey. for himself. So Ezekiel 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 Psalms 91:13; Proverbs 19:12 .

3. ארי , a grown and vigorous lion, having whelps, eager in pursuit of prey for them, Nahum 2:12; valiant, 2 Samuel 17:10; arrogantly opposing himself, Numbers 23:24 . This is, indeed, the general name, and occurs frequently.

4. שחל one in the full strength of his age; a black lion, Job 4:10; Job 10:16; Psalms 91:13; Proverbs 26:13; Hosea 5:14; Hosea 13:7 .

5. ליש , a fierce or enraged lion, Job 4:11; Proverbs 30:30; Isaiah 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 Revelation 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, Jeremiah 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, Isaiah 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?" Amos 3:8 . "The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion. Who provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul," Proverbs 19:12; Proverbs 20:2; that is, he seeketh his own death. Solomon says, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," Ecclesiastes 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," Judges 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 1 Samuel 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," Jeremiah 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," Daniel 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."

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Lion'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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