The Lion of Judah
The lion has been feared and admired by people through the ages. Today, we can drive into the lion’s shrinking habitat and feel safe in our safari jeep. Or we can stand behind an iron fence and watch the lion pacing in its cage. But the tables were turned in Bible times. Lions were much more common, and humans had to watch out for them. David had to protect his sheep from lions, and he chose an army captain who had a famous fight with a lion (1 Samuel 17:34-36; 2 Samuel 23:20). Others did not do so well. When an unnamed prophet disobeyed God, he was killed by a lion (1 Kings 13:23-26).
It is no wonder that the lion became a symbol of fierce attack. When the apostle Peter was writing to his fellow Christians in Asia Minor, he warned them to be on guard because "the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Along with this fierceness came a reputation for being strong. Even the mighty Samson had respect for the strength of the lion (Judges 14:18). When Jacob prophesied about his sons, he described Judah as a lion’s cub who would grow up to establish a mighty kingdom (Genesis 49:9-10). This prophecy was fulfilled because the Southern Kingdom, represented by the tribe of Judah, lasted longer than the other tribes of the Northern Kingdom.
It was into the tribe of Judah that Jesus was born (Hebrews 7:14). He died to save us from our sins, and was raised to reign forever at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). In that great victory He earned a title of honor: the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). As One so strong, the Son of God could promise Christians that He would give them an eternal home in heaven.