(prop. אֲרַי, ai, or אִריֵה, aryeeh'; Sept. and N.T. λέων), the most powerful, daring, and impressive of all carnivorous animals, the most magnificent in aspect and awful in voice. Being very common in Syria in early times, the lion naturally supplied many forcible images to the poetical language of Scripture,, and not a few historical incidents in its narratives. This is shown by the great number of passages where this animal, in all the stages of existence-as the whelp, the young adult, the fully mature, the lioness-occurs under different names, exhibiting that multiplicity of denominations which always results when some great image is constantly present to the popular mind. Thus we have,
1. גּוֹר, gor, or גּוּר, gur (a suckling), a lion's "whelp," a very young lion (Ge 49:9; De 33:20; Jer 51:38; Eze 19:2-3,5; Na 2:11-12).
2. כּפַיר, kephir' (the shaggy), a " young lion," when first leaving the protection of the old pair to hunt independently (Eze 19:2-3,5-6; Eze 41:19; Ps 91:13; Pr 19:12; Pr 20:2; Pr 28:1; Isa 31:4; Jer 41:18; Ho 5:14; Na 2:11; Zec 11:3), old enough to roar (Jg 14:5; Ps 104:21; Pr 19:12; Jer 2:15; Am 3:4); beginning to seek prey for itself (Job 4:10; Job 38:39; Isa 5:29; Jer 25:38; Eze 19:3; Mic 5:8); and ferocious and blood-thirsty in his youthful strength (Ps 17:12; Ps 91:13; Isa 11:6). This term is also used tropically for cruel and blood-thirsty enemies (Ps 34:10; Ps 35:17; Ps 58:6; Jer 2:15); Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is called a "young lion of the nations," i.e., an enemy prowling among them (Eze 32:2); it is also used of the young princes or warriors of a state (Eze 38:13; Na 2:13).
3. אֲרַי, cari' (the pulleer in pieces, plur. masc. in 1Ki 10:20, elsewhere fem.), or אִריֵה, aryueh' (the same with ה paragogic, also Chald.), an adult and vigorous lion, a lion having paired, vigilant and enterprising in search of prey (Na 2:12; 2Sa 17:10; Nu 23:24, etc.). This is the common name of the animal.
4. שִׁחִל, sha'chal (the roarer), a mature lion in full strength (Job 4:10; Job 10:16; Job 28:8; Ps 91:13; Pr 26:13; Ho 5:14; Ho 13:7). Bochart (Hieroz. 1:717) understands the swarthy lion of Syria (Pliny, Il. N. 8:17), deriving the name from שָׁחֹר, black, by an interchange of liquids. This denomination may very possibly refer to a distinct variety of lion, and not to a black species or race. because neither black nor white lions are recorded, excepting in Oppian (De Venat. 3:43); but the term may be safely referred to the color of the skin, not of the fur; for some lions have the former fair, and even rosy, while in other races it is perfectly black. An Asiatic lioness, formerly at Exeter Change, had the naked part of the nose, the roof of the mouth, and the bare soles of all the feet pure black, though the fur itself was very pale buff. Yet albinism and melanism are not uncommon in the felina; the former occurs in tigers, and the latter is frequent in leopards, panthers, and jaguars.
5. לִיַשׁ, la'yish (the strong), a fierce lion, one in a state of fury, or rather, perhaps, a poetical term for a lion that has reached the utmost growth and effectiveness (Job 4:11; Pr 30:30; Isa 30:6).
6. לבַיא, lebia', or לבַי, lebi' (lowcin/g, roaring), hence a lion, lioness (Nu 24:9; Ho 13:8; Joe 1:6; De 33:20; Ps 57:4; Isa 5:29). Bochart (Hieroz. 1:719) supposes this word not to denote the male lion, but the lioness; and Gesenius (Thes. page 738) says this rests on good grounds, as it is coupled with other nouns denoting a lion, where it can hardly be a mere synonyme (Ge 49:9; Nu 24:9; Isa 30:6; Na 2:11); and the passages in Job 4:11; Job 38:39; Eze 19:2, accord much better with a lioness than with a lion.
7. In Job 28:8, the Heb. words a בּנֵי שִׁחִוֹ, beney sha'chats, are rendered "the lion's whelss." 'The terms properly signify "sons of pride," and are applied to the larger beasts of prey, as the lion, leviathan, so called from their proud gait, boldness, and courage. The lion is often spoken of as "the king of the forest." or "the king of beasts;" and in a similar sense, in Job 41:34, the leviathan or crocodile is called the "king over all the children of pride," that is, the head of the animal creation (see Bochart, Heroz. 1:718). SEE WHELP.
As "king of beasts," "the lion is the largest and most formidably armed of all carnassier animals, the Indian tiger alone claiming to be his equal. One full grown, of Asiatic race, weighs above 450 pounds, and those of Africa often above 500 pounds. The fall of a fore-paw in striking has been estimated to be equal to twenty-five pounds' weight. and this, with the grasp of the claws, cutting four inches in depth, is sufficiently powerful to break the vertebra of an ox. The huge laniary teeth and jagged molars, worked by powerful jaws, and the tongue entirely covered with horny papilla, hard as a rasp, so as to crush the frame of the victim and clean its bones of the flesh, are all subservient to an otherwise immensely strong, muscular structure, capable of prodigious exertion, and minister to the self- confidence which these means of attack inspire. In Asia the lion rarely measures more than nine feet and a half from the nose to the end of the tail, though a tiger-skin has been known of the dimensions but a trifle less than thirteen feet. In Africa they are considerably larger, and supplied with a much greater quantity of mane. Both lion and tiger are furnished with a small horny apex to the tail-a fact noted by the ancients, but only verified of late years (see the Proceedings of the Council of the Zoological Society of London, 1832, page 146), because this object lies concealed in the hair of the tip, and is very liable to drop off." Yet this singular circumstance has not escaped the attention of the Assyrians, and it is foiund represented on the ruined inscriptions of Nineveh (Bonomi's Nineveh, pages 245, 246).
"All the varieties of the lion are spotted when whelps, but they become gradually buff or pale. One African variety, very large in size, perhaps a distinct species, has a peculiar and most ferocious physiognomy, a dense black mane extending half way down the back, and a black fringe along the abdomen and tip of the tail, while those of Southern Persia and the Dekkan are nearly destitute of that defensive ornament. The roaring voice of the species is notorious to a proverb, but the warning cry of attack is short, snappish, and sharp" (Kitto). This is always excited by opposition, and upon those occasions when the lion summons up all its terrors for the combat, nothing can be more formidable. It then lashes its sides with its long tail, its mane seems to rise and stand like bristles round its head, the skin and muscles of its face are all in agitation, its huge eyebrows half cover its glaring eyeballs, it discovers its formidable teeth and tongue, and extends its powerful claws. When it is thus prepared for war. even the boldest of the human kind are daunted at its approach, and there are few animals that will venture singly to engage it. Like all the felinae, it is more or less nocturnal, and seldom goes abroad to pursue its prey till after sunset. When not pressed by hunger it is naturally indolent, and, from its habits of uncontrolled superiority, perhaps capricious, but often less sanguinary and vindictive than is expected. In those regions where it has not experienced the dangerous arts and combinations of man it has no apprehensions from his power. It boldly faces him, and seems to brave e the force of his arms. Wounds rather serve to provoke its rage than to repress its ardor. Nor is it daunted by the opposition of numbers; a single lion of the desert often attacks an entire caravan, and after an obstinate combat, when it finds itself overpowered, instead of flying, it still continues to combat, retreating and still facing the enemy until it dies.
"Lions are monogamous, the male living constantly with the lioness, both hunting together, or for each other when there is a litter of whelps, and the mutual affection and care for their offspring which they display are remarkable in animals doomed by nature to live by blood and slaughter. It is while seeking prey for their young that they are most dangerous; at other times they bear abstinence, and when pressed by hunger will sometimes feed on carcasses found dead. They live to more than fifty years; consequently, having annual litters of from three to five cubs, they multiply rapidly when not seriously opposed. Zoologists consider Africa the primitive abode of lions, their progress towards the north and west having at one time extended to the forests of Macedonia and Greece, but in Asia never to the south of the Nerbundda nor east of the Lower Ganfges. Since the invention of gunpowder, and even since the havoc which the ostentatious barbarism of Roman grandees made among them, they have diminished in number exceedingly, although at the present day individuals are not unfrequently seen in Barbary, within a short distance of Ceuta" (Kitto). "At present lions do not exist in Palestine, though they are said to be found in the desert on the road to Egypt (Schwarz, Desc. of Pal.; see Isa 30:6). They abound on the banks of the Euphrates, between Bussorah and Bagdad (Rassell, Aleppo, page 61), and in the marshes and jungles near the rivers of Babylonia (Layard,Nineveh and Babylon, p. 566). This species, according to Layard, is without the dark and shaggy mane of the African lion (ibid. 487), though he adds in a note that he had seen lions on the River Karûn with a long black mane. But, though lions have now disappeared from Palestine, they must in ancient times have been numerous. The names Lebaoth (Jos 15:32), Beth-Lebaoth (Jos 19:6), Arieh (2Ki 15:25), and Laish (Jg 18:7; 1Sa 25:44) were probably derived from the presence of, or connection with lions, and point to the fact that they were at one time common. They had their lairs in the forests which have vanished with them (Jer 5:6; Jer 12:8; Am 3:4), in the tangled brushwood (Jer 4:7; Jer 25:38; Job 38:40), and in the caves of the mountains (Song 4:8; Eze 19:9; Na 2:12). The canebrake on the banks of the Jordan, the 'pride' of the river, was their favorite haunt (Jer 49:19; Jer 1; Jer 44; Zec 11:3), and in this reedy covert (La 3:10) they were to be found at a comparatively recent period, as we learn from a passage of Johannes Phocas, who traveled in Palestine towards the end of the 12th century (Reland, Pal. 1:274). They abounded in the jungles which skirt the rivers of Mesopotamia (Ammian. Marc. 18:7, 5), and in the time of Xenophon (De Venat. 11) were found in Nysa."
"Naturalists are disposed to consider the lion as a genus, consisting of some three or four species. Two of these are found in Asia, the one called, from the scantiness of its mane, the maneless lion (Leo Goozeratensis), found only in Western India, and the other furnished with that appendage in its ordinary profusion (L. A siaticus), which is spread over Bengal, Persia, the Euphratean Valley, and some parts of Arabia. This is smaller, and more slightly built than the African lions, with a fur of a lighter yellow. It is doubtful, however, whether it is really more than variety."
"The lion of Palestine was in all probability the Asiatic variety, described by Aristotle (II. A. 9:44) and Pliny (8:18) as distinguished by its short curly mane, and by being shorter and rounder in shape, like the sculptured lion found at Arban (Layard Nineveh and Babbylon, page 278). It was less daring than the longermaned species, but when driven by hunger it not only ventured to attack the flocks in the desert in presence of the shepherd (Isa 31:4; 1Sa 17:34), but laid waste towns and villages (2Ki 17:25-26; Pr 22:13; Pr 26:13), and devoured men (1Ki 13:24; 1Ki 20:36; 2Ki 17:25; Eze 19:3,6). The shepherds sometimes ventured to encounter the lion single-handed (1Sa 17:34), and the vivid figure employed by Amos (Am 3:12), the herdsman of Tekoa, was but the transcript o a scene which he must have often witnessed. At other times they pursued the animal in large bands, raising loud shouts to intimidate him (Isa 31:4) and drive him into the net or pit they had prepared to catch him (Eze 19:4,8). This method of capturing wild beasts is described by Xenophon (De Ven. 11:4) and by Shaw, who says, 'The Arabs dig a pit where they are observed to enter, and, covering it over lightly with reeds or small branches of trees, they frequently decoy and catch them' (Travels, 2d ed. page 172). Benaiah, one of David's heroic bodyguard, had distinguished himself by slaying a lion in his den (2Sa 23:20). The kings of Persia had a menagerie of lions (גֹּב, gob, Da 6:7, etc.). When captured alive they were put in a cage (Eze 19:9), but it does not appear that they were tamed. In the hunting scenes at Beni-Hassan tame lions are represented as used in hunting (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 3:17). On the bas-reliefs at Kouyunjik a lion led by a chain is among the presents brought by the conquered to their victors (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, page 138)." Wilkinson says: "The worship of the lion was particularly regarded in the city of Leontopolis, and other cities adored this animal as the emblem of more than one deity." It was the symbol of strength, and therefore typical of the Egyptian Hercules (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 5:169). In Babylon it appears to have been the custom to throw offenders to be devoured by lions kept in dens for that purpose (Da 6:7-28). This is thought to be confirmed by the evidence of several ancient monuments, brought to light by the researches of recent travelers, on the sites of Babylon and Susa, which represent lions destroying and preying upon human beings. SEE DEN. The Assyrian monuments abound in illustrations of lionhunting, which appears to have been a favorite pastime, especially with royalty (Layard, Nineveh, 1:120). SEE HUNTING.
"The terrible roar of the lion is expressed in Hebrew by four different words, between which the following distinction appears to be maintained: שָׁאִג, shâag' (Jg 14:5; Ps 22:13; Ps 104:21; Am 3:4), also used of the thunder (Job 37:4), denotes the roar of the lion while seeking his prey; נָהִם, nâham' (Isa 5:29), expresses the cry which he utters when he seizes his victim; הָגָּה, hâgâh,' (Isa 31:4), the growl with which he defies any attempt to snatch the prey from his teeth; while נָעִר, nâ'ar' (Jer 51:38), which in Syriac is applied to the braying of the ass and camel, is descriptive of the cry of the young lions. If this distinction be correct, the meaning attached to nâham will give force to Pr 19:12. The terms which describe the movements of the animal are equally distinct: רָבִוֹ, râbats' (Genesis 49:9; Eze 19:2), is applied to the crouching of the lion, as well as of any wild beast, in his lair; שָׁחָה, shâchâh', יָשִׁב, yâshab' (Job 38:40), and אָרִב, arab' (Ps 10:9), to his lying in wait in his den, the two former denoting the position of the animal, and the latter the secrecy of the act; רָמִשׂ, râmas' (Ps 104:20), is used of the stealthy creeping of the lion after his prey; and זַנֵּקzinnêk' (De 33:22), of the leap with which he hurls himself upon it" (Smith). "The Scriptures present many striking pictures of lions, touched with wonderful force and fidelity; even where the animal is a direct instrument of the Almighty, while true to his mission, he still remains so to his nature. Thus nothing can be more graphic than the record of the man of God (1Ki 13:28), disobedient to his charge, struck down from his ass, and lying dead, while the lion stands by him, without touching the lifeless body or attacking the living animal, usually a favorite prey. (See also Ge 49:9; Job 4:10-11; Na 2:11-12.) Samson's adventure also with the young lion (Jg 14:5-6), and the picture of the young lion coming up from the underwood cover on the banks of the Jordan, all attest a perfect knowledge of the animal and its habits. Finally, the lions in the den with Daniel, miraculously leaving him unmolested, still retain, in all other respects, the real characteristics of their nature." "The strength (Jg 14:18; Pr 30:30; 2Sa 1:23), courage (2Sa 17:10; Pr 28:1; Isa 31:4; Na 2:11), and ferocity (Ge 49:9; Nu 24:9) of the lion were proverbial. The 'lion-faced' warriors of Gad were among David's most valiant troops (1Ch 12:8) and the hero Judas Maccabaeus is described as 'like a lion, and like a lion's whelp roaring for his prey' (1 Macc. 3:4)." Hence the lion, as an emblem of power, was symbolical of the tribe of Judah (Ge 49:9). Grotius thinks the passage in Eze 19:2-3, alludes to this fact that Judaea was among the nations like a lioness among the beasts of the forest; she had strength and sovereignty. The same type of sovereignty recurs in the prophetical visions, and the figure of this animal was among the few which the Hebrews admitted in sculpture or in cast metal, as exemplified in the throne of Solomon (1Ki 10:19-20) and the brazen sea (1Ki 7:29,36). The heathen assumed the lion as an emblem of the sun, of the god of war, of Ares, Ariel, Arioth, Re, the Indian Siva, of dominion in general, of valor, etc.; and it occurs in the names and standards of many nations. This illustrated Da 7:4, "The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings." The Chaldaean or Babylonian empire is here represented (see Jer 4:7). Its progress to what was then deemed universal empire was rapid, and therefore it has the wings of an eagle (see Jer 48:40, and Eze 17:3). It is said by Megasthenes and Strabo that this power advanced as far as Spain. When its wings were plucked or torn out, that is, when it was checked in its progress by frequent defeats, it became more peaceable and humane, agreeably to that idea of Ps 9:20. A remarkable coincidence between the symbolical figure of Daniel's vision and the creations of ancient Assyrian art has lately been brought to light by the researches of Lavard and Botta on the sites of Babylon and Nineveh. SEE CHERUB. In Isa 29:1, "Woe to the lion of God, the city where David dwelt," Jerusalem is denoted, and the terms used appear to signify the strength of the place, by which it was enabled to resist and overcome all its enemies. SEE ARIEL. The apostle Paul says (2Ti 4:17), "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." The general opinion is that Nero is here meant, or, rather, his prefect AElius Cesarianus, to whom Nero committed the government of the city of Rome during his absence, with power to put to death whomsoever he pleased. SEE PAUL. So, when Tiberius died, Marsyas said to Agrippa, "The lion is dead." So likewise speaks Esther of Artaxerxes, in the apocryphal chapters of that book (ch. 14:13), "Put a word into my mouth before the lion." There are some commentators who regard the apostle's expression as a proverbial one for a deliverance from any great or imminent danger, but others conclude that he had been actually delivered from a lion let loose against him in the amphitheater. That the same symbol should sometimes be applied to opposite characters is not at all surprising or inconsistent, since different qualities may reside in the symbol, of which the good may be referred to the one, the bad to another. Thus in the lion reside courage and victory over antagonists. In these respects it may be and is employed as a symbol of Christ, called the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Re 5:5), as being the illustrious descendant of that tribe, whose emblem was the lion. In the lion also reside fierceness and rapacity. In this point of view it is used as a fit emblem of Satan: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1Pe 5:8). On the subject generally, see Bochart, Hieroz. 2:1 sq.; Rosenmüller, Alterlft. IV, 2:111 sq.; Wemyss, Clavis Symbolica, s.v.; Penny Cyclopaedia, s.v.; Wood, Bible Animals, page 18 sq.; Tristram, Natural History of the Bible, page 115 sq.