Animals in the Torah - Part 3

God as a lion

God as a lion

Due to its being the king of beasts, the lion is not only the symbol of human beings, but also of the King of Kings - HaShem himself. Sometimes the symbolism is positive, but on other occasions, as we shall see later, the lion represents HaShem as a destructive force of overwhelming power. On yet other occasions, the symbolism combines both aspects: fear of the lion not as a negative motif, but as representing all in the face of supremacy.

The lion has roared, who shall not be afraid - the Lord HaShem has spoken, who shall not prophesy? Amos 3:8

The midrash notes the irony of comparing HaShem to one of his creations, but concludes that there is no better way for the human mind to begin to appreciate HaShem's nature:

"The lion has roared, who shall not be afraid?" Amos 3:8 - and who shall give the strength and power to the lion? - was it not He himself? However we characterize him by way of his creations so as to use a person's ear by way of that which he can understand. Midrash Tanhuma Yitro 1:3

Still, the sages elsewhere stress that He cannot really be compared to a lion; at least, not to any single lion:

"The lion roars, who shall not be afraid? The Lord HaShem has spoken, who shall not prophesy?" - Not like one lion alone, but like every lion in the world. Avot De Rabbi Natan 2:6

Nevertheless, it is the might of the lion that is invoked when HaShem's revelation to the Jewish people is portrayed:


I am HaShem your Lord" - that is as it is written, the lion has roared; who shall not be afraid? Amos 3:8 -Shemot Rabbah 29:9

And when HaShem is described as fighting for Zion against the other nations, the imagery used is that of a lion fearlessly standing its ground against a multitude of people:

For thus says the Lord to me: like the lion and the young lion growling over its prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against it, it will not be afraid of their voice, nor be subdued by their mob; so shall the Lord of hosts send to fight for Mount Zion, and on its Hill. Isaiah 31:4

He has gone forth from his lair like a young lion, for their land is desolate because of the oppressive wrath, because of his fierce anger. Jeremiah 25:38

As with David, who killed the lion and was subsequently symbolized by a lion, HaShem's power is also described in terms of his being able to Vanquish lions:

Behold, it shall be like when a lion comes up from the jungle by the Jordan against a strong sheepfold; I can suddenly make him run away from there, and I can appoint over it whoever I choose. Jeremiah 49:19, 50:44

And in Perik Shira a midrash which lists the "songs" of the natural world, the lion's verse does not mention lion specifically, but describes HaShem in lionlike terms saying: "zeal even roar shall prevail over his enemies" Isaiah: 13 - Perik Shira the Talmud also relates HaShem to a lion:

there are three night watches, and over each and every watch the holy one roars like a lion as it says, "HaShem shall roar from upon high, and from the abode of his dwelling place, you shall do voice, you shall roar, roar on his abode."

The roaring of the lion is a significant theme in the Torah, especially vis-à-vis HaShem's representation as a lion, as we see in the following verse:

They shall walk after the Lord; he shall roar like a lion when he shall roar, then the children shall ramble from the west. Hosea 11:10

We shall now explain the roar of the lion in more detail.

The roar of the lion

Lions are very vocal animals with a wide repertoire of sounds, including grunting, growling, humming, snarling, and moaning. But the most prominent of their vocalizations is the roar. Not only does the lion have several different names in Scripture, but there are also several different terms for the lion's roar. The roar itself is not of a single variety; rather, there is a range of different volumes and intensities at which the lion may admit the roar. Lionesses also roar, but not as loudly or deeply as do males.

Lion's roar for many different reasons. One is in order to proclaim ownership of the territory, signaling lions of rival prides to stay away, often sounding a roar immediately before a hunt. They will also roar to maintain contact with other lions from their own pride, to intimidate hyenas and other opponents, and communal roaring may strengthen the bonds with the group. A lion's roar can be heard for several miles away.

Sometimes, scriptural description of lions roaring reflect what is known about the circumstances under which lion's roar. In one verse describing typical lion behavior as opposed to representing a metaphor, it is describing the pre-hunt roar:

The young lion's roar for their prey, and to seek their food from HaShem. Psalms 104:21

The typical roar, admitted as a proclamation over territory, is mentioned by Jeremiah, in reference to the destruction of the land of Israel:

The young lion's roar against them, they gave their cries, and they have made this land waste; his cities are burned without inhabitants. Jeremiah 2:15

This verse might be understood as referring to actual lions that have overrun the land and make desolate but the commentary is explaining it to be a metaphor alluding to the foreign rulers and soldiers who conquered Israel. Either way the roller roar is a declaration of territory conquered.

The story of a lion roaring as it approached Samson - discussed in the section "the power of the lion" appears to be a case of the roar that Lions emit when confronting potential threats:

When he came to the vineyards of Timnath, Behold, a young lion came roaring to meet him. Judges 14:5

Similarly, when describing the rage of the king as being similar to the roaring of the lion, it would appear to refer to the roars that Lions uttered during fights with other predators, including other lions:

The King's rage is like the roaring of the young lion; but his favor is like dew on the grass. Proverbs 19:12

On other occasions, when Scripture refers to the lion's roar as part of a poetic metaphor, it does not necessarily correlate with circumstances under which lions actually roar. Thus, in a prophecy referring to the king of Assyria conquering Israel, it seems to describe the lion roaring as part of a hunt, which does not occur with real-life hunts:

He has a roar like a lion; you will roar like the young lions, and he will growl and seize his prey, and he will carry it away and none will rescue it. Isaiah 5:29

Another verse, referring to wicked false prophets, likewise uses the imagery of a lion roaring during the attack:

There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in their midst. Ezekiel 22:25

Yet another verse, in an allusion to the mighty ones of Israel whose strongholds were shattered, anthropomorphically describes the lion roaring in anger at its habitat being destroyed:

There is a sound of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is gone; a sound of the roaring of young lions, for the jungle along the Jordan is destroyed. Zachariah 11:3

The prophet Amos, presenting a metaphor for their always being the reason for HaShem's actions, speaks of how lions will only roar when he has reason to do so - namely, having successfully hunted his quarry

Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his lair, if he has caught nothing? Amos 3:4

This notion is reflected in the statement in the Talmud describing the excesses of behavior that result from being overly satisfied:

Moses said before the holy one: master of the universe, it was due to the silver and gold that you bestowed upon Israel until they said "enough", That caused them to make the Golden calf. The school of Rabbi Yannai noted: the lion does not mall and roar - Hebrew word nohem - from having a trough of hay, but from having a dish of meat. Berachot 32a and Sanhedrin 102 a

As noted earlier, a primary reason why lion's roar is in order to declare ownership over territory. Such proclamations are often made immediately before hunting prey. Therefore, for human beings, the lion's roar is a sign of imminent danger and justifiably causes terror:

The terror of the King is like the roaring of the young lion; whoever provokes him to anger risks his life. Proverbs 20:2

A graphic description of the terror that this roar can inspire is given by Col. John Patterson, who was in charge of a railroad construction that suffered from the notorious man eating lions of Tzabo at the turn of the 20th century. Although himself an exceptionally brave man, he writes: "in the whole of my life I have never experienced anything more nerve shaking then to hear the deep roars of these dreadful monsters growing gradually nearer and nearer, and to know that someone or other of us was doomed to be there victim before morning dawned. Once they reach the vicinity of the camps, the roars completely ceased, and we knew that they were stalking for their prey. Shouts would then pass from camp to camp, "beware, brothers, the devil is coming", but the warning cries would prove to no avail, and sooner or later agonizing shrieks would break the silence, and another man would be missing from roll call next morning. With such an account in mind we can better understand the statement by Amos, which as we noted in the section "HaShem is a lion," is presented as a suitable metaphor for the experience one has with God's revelation:

The lion has roared; who shall not be afraid? Amos 3:8

When lions attack

It is very difficult for us today to grasp the impact that Lions have on people who live in proximity to them. At the turn of the 20th century, a Scottish hunter who traveled extensively in Africa wrote that "people living in the perfect safety of their homes in a Western country have no conception of the insecurity that is felt by Blacks in their kraals in the interior of Africa." The cause of this feeling of insecurity is chiefly the man eating lion and no other animal of the forest can inspire such terror in the human heart. In villages far in the heart of Africa, where the white man is never seen, not hundreds but thousands of Africans are annually eaten by these monsters.

Apparently however the situation in biblical lands, while dangerous, was not quite as bad as that in Africa. In Scripture, we find that claims of lions being present were invoked by those looking for an excuse to avoid leaving their homes:

The lazy man says, there is a lion outside, I shall be slain in the streets. . . . the lazy man says, there is a mature lion in the way; a lion is in the streets. Proverbs 22:13, 26:13

It seems that the person described in these verses is lazy rather than prudent because the risk is not as great as he claims. In the Talmud, we also see that fatal attacks by lions, while conceivable, were rare. In discussing the case of a sick man who gave his wife a conditional bill of divorce, which would only take effect in the event that he would not recover, the sages of Israel ruled that if he dies instead from a different sickness, the divorce is still valid; but "if a lion killed him, this is not considered a valid divorce.” The reason was that this eventuality was unusual and was not covered by the person's declaration. However, it was not all that unusual, since the Talmud discusses the idea of a lion killing a man.

The Talmud contains several references to the threat posed to people by lions in discussing the responsibilities of prayer, the Talmud recounts that there was a incident with a man who was eaten by a lion at a distance of three parasangs from Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi, and Eliyahu would not speak with him for three days as a result - of his not praying sufficiently for the people around him". Elsewhere the Talmud notes that although a woman's immersion in the mikvah - ritual bath - is supposed to take place at night, "Rabbi Ibi ordained that immersion should be performed on the eighth – clean - day before nightfall, on account of lions that roamed at night in that area."

The midrash tells the story of a person who learned of a certain herb that had the ability to revive the dead. He came across a dead lion and used the herbs to restore it to life, whereupon it killed him. The midrash deduces that "one should not help evil people, least evil befall you."

Lions also have a place in the language of Talmudic legal discussions. There is a repeated Talmudic metaphor of a crouching lion rendering a place unusable. The Talmud also discusses a hypothetical case in which a person makes a lion crouch somewhere in order to drive away people or animals. Such behavior is sometimes used as a figure of speech to denote un-neighborly action. There is also a Talmudic expression - , "driving a lion away from a neighbor's property," which is a frequent metaphor for a normative act of goodwill with which no payment can be charged.

When lions don't attack

The sages of the Talmud observed that Lions do not automatically kill people merely because they have the opportunity and ability to do so. The Talmud rules that "if a person fell into a lion's den, we do not attest that he is dead - such that his wife can remarry." The reason is that it is no means certain that the lions killed him; they might not be hungry, and he could have escaped. In another context discussing how a person is only prosecuted for murder if his actions were certain to lead to the victim's death, the Sages rule that a person is not prosecuted for murder if he tied up the victim and left him in the presence of a lion. While a variety of explanations are offered for this ruling, one explanation is that lions do not automatically kill people.

In another discussion, the Talmud introduces an interesting factor into the question of whether a lion will attack people:

Rabbi Poppa said: "We have a tradition: a lion does not attack two people." But surely we see that this does happen? That can be explained in accordance with Rabbi bar Abba, who said that a wild animal does not have power over a person until he appears to it like an animal, as it says, man does not abide in glory; appearing like an animal, he is ruled" Psalm 49:13; literally, "he is compared, is likened to an animal". Shabbat 150 1B

Ordinarily a lion is wary of attacking the human and especially if there are two people. But if they are not fulfilling their unique destiny as human beings, says the Talmud than the lion perceives them is merely another animal on the menu.

What about the possibility of a person successfully defending against a lion attack? As noted earlier, Scripture describes several people who were able to not only defend against a lion attack, but even kill the lion. Yet these people were singled out for being outstanding heroes; an ordinary person who is not usually expected to be able to defeat a lion; as such a person looking after someone's animals is not responsible in the case of an attack by a lion, unless he took the animals to a place where such an attack was bound to happen:

The lion, bear, and leopard. . . . are cases of unavoidable damage. This is only where they came of their own accord, but if he took the flock to a place that is infested with wild beasts and bandits, it is not a case of unavoidable damage. Mishna baba Metzia 7:9

The Talmud does, however note that it can sometimes be possible to successfully fend off an attack by a marauding lion:

If a shepherd was attending the flock and he abandoned them to enter town, and a wolf came and tore or a lion came and mauled, we do not say that had the shepherd been there he could have saved them - and he is therefore liable. Rather, we assess whether he could indeed have saved them - had he been present, in which case he is liable, and if not, he is exempt. . . . this is referring to where he heard the roar of the lion and went up - to the town and panic to save himself, rather than negligently leaving his job early. But what is there to assess - what could he possibly have done? - We assess whether he could have challenged the lion with shepherds and sticks. Baba Metzia 93 B

Indeed, Messia tribesmen in Africa will graze their cattle with a stick and a spear to fend off attacks by lions. Another way of defending against lion attacks is to satisfy the lion with something more expendable:

Rabbi Safra was traveling in a caravan, and a certain lion accompanied them. Every night, they would give over the donkey of one of them for it to eat. Baba Metzia, 116 a

Some explained that the lion was divinely guided in order to protect Rabbi Safra's group in the dark. It might be that the lion decided to satisfy itself with a donkey rather than risk eating a person. The sages also occasionally referred to the possibility of a lion this is mentioned as a legal scenario. in discussing the recommended stations when training various animals, including the lion. A trained lion also appears as part of a parable and the midrash:

"And the Angel of Esau Saw that he could not overcome him” - a parable: to what is this comparable? To a king who had a feral dog and a tame lion. The king would take his son and endear him to the lion, so that if the dog were to come to confront him the king would say, "the lion could not overcome him, and you think that you can overcome? Likewise if the nations of the world come to assail Israel, the holy one will say to them in your angel could not overcome him, and you seek to confront his children? Beraisheet Rabbah 77:3

It is indeed possible to train lions such that even children can approach them. Certain animal facilities today, where visitors are allowed and even encouraged to pet "tame" lions, accidents have been known to happen. In fact, there is a dispute in the Talmud whether a trained lion can ever be considered harmless; it is always a menace to society and as a result a lion can never be considered the rightful property of a person and can be freely killed.

In prophecies describing the tranquility and safety of the messianic era, a key feature is that lions will never pose a danger to prophecy, Already discussed, describes Lions as being docile - and is interpreted by some as alluding to dangerous human enemies. Another prophecy states that there will be a complete absence of lions in the Land of Israel:

No lion Shall be there, and the deviant beast shall not ascend there; they shall not be found there, and the redeemed shall walk it. Isaiah 35:9

chanoch's Commentary

Also know that the Land of Israel is explained in prophecy to become the whole world. If this prophecy holds true than there would be no lions anywhere in the world. This might be an authorization to cause the various loss of certain species in the world. I am not saying this might be true just another way to read prophecies and their impact on the world.

This is one aspect of the messianic era that has already come to fruition. While people may lament the Loss of biblical animals in the Land, the fact that there is a lack of danger of fatal attacks by lions is a good thing.

Metaphors for enemies and destruction

While we usually think of the lion is a positive symbol, by far the most common symbolic usage of the lion in Scripture is as a motif of death and destruction. We must bear in mind that today, lions are usually experienced in the safety of a zoo environment, or are antropomorphized in cartoons. Yet in biblical and Talmudic times, as we shall later discuss, lions posed a genuine threat to people's lives. As such, they are a symbol for powerful and dangerous people:

As a roaring lion, and a charging bear, so is a wicked ruler over the poor people. Proverbs 28:15

King David, in Psalms, spoke of Hashem saving him from lions in the literal sense:

You shall tread on the lion and on the Viper; the young lion and the serpent shall you trample under foot. Psalm 91:13

But on most occasions, he mentioned Lions is representing his human enemies:

Least like a lion they tear my soul, rending it in pieces, while there is none to save. Psalm 7:3

They open wide their mouths at me, like a tearing in roaring lion. . . . a pack of evil ones has surrounded me, they seize my hands and my feet like a lion. . . . save me from the lions mouth Psalm 22:14, 17, 22

Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my soul from their attacks, my precious life from the young lions. Psalm 35:17

My soul is among lions; and I lie down among those who are set on fire, the sons of men whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Psalm 57:5

Break their teeth, HaShem, in their mouth; shatter the fangs of the young lions, HaShem. Psalm 58:7

The midrash elaborates upon how David was using the lion to symbolizes his many foes:

”Least he tear me apart like a lion" Psalm 7:3 - just as a lion sits over his prey and tears it apart, so Doeg and Ahitophel sit over me to tear me apart. Midrash Tehillim 7 For the prophets, on the other hand, Lions did not represent personal enemies, but instead the wicked of all Israel:

My heritage is to me like a lion in the forest; it cries out against me; therefore I have hated it. Jeremiah 12:8

Her princes in her midst were his roaring lions; her judges were the wolves of dusk; they leave no bones for the morning. Zephanah 3:3

And in the story of Job, Elliphaz compares the wicked, in the punishment that they receive, to lions that are destroyed - as previously quoted in the section "the names of the lion":

As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish and by the blast of his anger are they consumed. The lion roars, and the mature lion gives voice, and the teeth of the young lions are broken. The mighty lion perishes for lack of prey, and the young of the fiery lion are scattered. Job 4: 8-11

The midrash relates that when the Jewish people was once distressed at the decrees of a non-Jewish ruler, Rabbi Yehoshua consold them with a fable about a lion which represented the ruler:

He expounded: there was once a lion that was mauling and eating its prey, and a bone became lodged in its throat. The lion announced, I will reward whoever will come and remove it! That Egyptian bird with the long thin neck, inserted its beak and removed the bone. It said to the lion, give me my reward! The lion replied, go - and boast that you entered the mouth of a lion and departed in peace. So, too, with us, it is sufficient that we entered this nation in peace and depart in peace. Beraisheet Rabbah 64:10

Earlier we saw that HaShem is often symbolized by a lion. This symbolism is used also to describe how, when Israel sins, Hashem himself is like an attacking lion in his response to them:

In vain did I strike your children; they received no correction; your own sword has devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion. Jeremiah 2:30

For I will be to Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah; I will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall save him. Hosea 5:14

Therefore I will be to them as a lion; as a leopard by the way I will watch them; I will meet them like a bear that is bereaved of her cubs, and I shall tear their closed up heart, and there I will devour them like a lion; the beast of the wilderness shall tear them apart. Hosea 13:7-8

As a result of all this, the Talmud considers that seeing a lion in a dream is a potentially serious matter, and steps should be taken to ensure that it is actualized in a positive manner:

One who sees a lion in a dream should arise and say, "the lion roars, who shall not be afraid?" Amos 3:8 - causing division to be fulfilled through God's salvation - before another verse preempts him-"the lion arose from the thicket-referring this to Babylon's persecution" Jeremiah 4:7. Barachah 56 B

The lion is a constant metaphor for Israel's enemies. Hence, the Sabbath song “Yah Ribon” includes the prayer "redeem your flock from the mouth of the lion."

The lion and Babylon

When a lion can be a symbol for any sort of threat, it most often appears in Torah literature as representing a particular enemy. The prophet Daniel had a vision in which he saw several strange beasts:

I saw on my vision by night.... Four great beasts came up from the sea.... The first was like a lion, and had Eagles wings; I looked till its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon its feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. Daniel 7:2-4

In classical Jewish thought, the four beasts in Daniel's vision represent the four kingdoms to which the Jewish people have been subjected. First of these was Babylon, under the reign of the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed the Temple and sent the nation into exile. It appeared in Daniel's vision is a lion, symbolizing the great power of this nation; indeed, Nebuchadnezzar's palace, excavated in the 20th century, was decorated with Lions. The lion in Daniel's vision also had the wings of an eagle, symbolizing the spread of this empire. Nebuchadnezzar was explicitly likened to a lion by Jeremiah:

Israel is a scattered sheep, the lions have driven him away; first the king of Assyria has consumed him, and in the end King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has broken his bones. Jeremiah 50:17

However when the sages connect Daniel's vision of a lion to Babylon, they mention a different verse:

"The first was like a lion" Daniel 7:4 - this is Babylon Jeremiah saw Babylon is a lion, as it is written "the lion has come up from his thicket" Jeremiah 4:7 Vayikra Rabba 13:5

This refers to another prophecy by Jeremiah:

The lion has come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the nations is on his way; he has gone out from his place to make your land desolate; and your city shall be laid waste, without inhabitants. Jeremiah 4:7

There are also other occasions on which Jeremiah refers to persecutors as being lions:

Therefore the lion of the forest shall slay them, and the Wolf of the plains shall destroy them, a leopard shall watch over their cities; everyone who goes out there shall be torn in pieces; because they're transgressions are many and their apostasy are great. Jeremiah 5:6

Here, there is also mention of wolves, but the midrash understands that it is specifically the lion which is referring to Babylon:

"Therefore the lion of the forest has attacked them" Jeremiah 5:6 - this refers to Babylon. Beraisheet Rabbah 99:2

Indeed, the Talmud consistently interpret scriptural references to Lions as alluding to Babylon:

"The lion roars, the bear growls, the wicked man rules over a poor nation Proverbs 28:15. "The lion roars. . . . "refers to the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, as it is written, "the lion arose from the thicket Jeremiah 4:7. Megillah 11 a

The Talmud notes that Nebuchadnezzar was even more terrible than the Assyrian leader Sennacherib:

"Lift up my voice, oh daughter of Gallim, cause it to be heard on to layish Isaiah 10:30.Do Not fear this man Sennacherib. This iis the dread of the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, who is likened to a mighty lion, as it is written, "up from his thicket." Sanhedrin 90 4B

The relationship between Nebuchadnezzar and Sennacherib is explained to be alluded to in the following verse:

For the waters at the moment shall be full of blood; for I will bring more upon the moment, a lion for those who escape more up and upon the remnants of the land. Isaiah 15:9

This verse is explained to mean that those who survived the invasion of Sennacherib were taken by Nebuchadnezzar.

There is only one verse in which the midrash expounds Nebuchadnezzar as being symbolized by a different animal:

He is a bear lying in wait for me lamentations 3:10 -this refers to Nebuchadnezzar; "a lion in hiding" -this refers to Netzunaradan the captain of the Armies of Nebuchadnezzar. Eicha Rabbah 3:4

But the only reason why Nebuchadnezzar is explained to be the bear rather than the lion is that the lion is a more terrible predator than the bear, and it thus must signify an even more terrible Babylonian figure: Netzunaradan. He was the commander of Nebuchadnezzar's guard who was in charge of the destruction of the Temple and the deportation of the Jews. The midrash later states that Netzunaradan is even referred to in Scripture as a lion, and explains why:

Netzunaradan is Arioch - the "commander of the King's guard" mentioned in Daniel 2:14. And why is he called Arioch? Because he would roar over the Captives like a lion – Ari -, until they reach the Euphrates. Eicha Rabbah 5:5

Some explained that Ariel, the name used for the Temple, is comprised of two words: ARI – El-"Lion of HaShem”. After the Jews sinned, HaShem left them. The El parted from Ariel, leaving the Ari, the predatory lion Nebuchadnezzar.

The redemption from Babylon

The lion represents the Babylonian destruction. But this was not a permanent destruction: there was a longing for Hashem to reunite with his people:

"From Lebanon come with me; from Lebanon, my bride, with me! Travel down from Amana's peak, from the peak of Senir and from Mount Hermon, from the dens of lions. . ." -Song of songs 4:8. . . . . "from the dens of lions"-from the Babylonian exile. Shemot Rabbah 23:6

The midrash states that HaShem, in anger at the destruction of his lions by the Babylonian lion, himself becomes the ultimate lion:

Nebuchadnezzar is called "Aryeh," as it says, "the lion arose from his thicket" Jeremiah 4:7, and he destroyed the holy Temple, took the kingship of the house of David, and exiled Israel. And the holy one said, "what has become of the den of lions?" Nahum 2:12 -where are my children? At that time, "he roars over his abode" Jeremiah 25:30. Shemot Rabbah 29

Another midrash elaborates upon this theme, seeing the Babylonian destruction and eventual redemption as being symbolized by lions at every step of the way:

Rabbi Avin said: the lion rose in the constellation of the lion -Leo, and destroyed the lion of Hashem. A lion arose - this is the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, as it says, "the lion arose from his thicket" Jeremiah 4:7. In the constellation of the lion: "when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month" Jeremiah 1:3. And destroyed the lion of God - “Ariel”, for example the Temple: "oh, lion of God, lion of God - city where David camped!" Isaiah 29:1. This is so that a lion shall come during the constellation of the lion and rebuild the lion of God. A lion shall come - this is the holy one, about whom it is written, "the lion has roared, who shall not be afraid?" Amos 3:8. During the constellation of the lion-" and I shall change their mourning to rejoicing..." Jeremiah 31:13. And rebuild the lion of HaShem - "HaShem is the builder of Jerusalem, he shall gather in the exiled of Israel" Psalm 147:2. Midrash Pesikta Derav Kahana 13:15

And another midrash presents yet more leonine symbolism relating to this theme:

Let a lion come, and build the holy Temple, for a lion, in the portion of the lion. "Let a lion come"-this is Bezalel, who was from the tribe of Judah, as it says, "Judah is a young lion and Oholiav is a young lion, who was from the tribe of Dan as it says “Lion of HaShem city of Jerusalem where the "lion of HaShem camped." This is the holy one as it is written "the lion has roared who shall not be afraid? Yalkut Midrashei Teiman,

And the ultimate fate of Babylon is to become symbolized by lions in a negative way:

Indeed, the midrash notes that while lions embody the cause of the destruction of the Temple as well as the agents of the destruction, they will ultimately represent the cessation of such threats:

HaShem says: with that which I punish, I feel... They send with Lions, as it is written, "her princes in her midst were as roaring lions - in their terror is station of the people" Zephania 3:3; they were punished with Lions: "the lion – Nebuchadnezzar - arose from his thicket..." Jeremiah 4:7; and they shall be comforted with Lions: "the lion shall eat straw like an ox" Isaiah 11:7. Pesikta Rabbatai 33

Daniel in the lion's den

The Fall of Babylon is linked to the fate of Daniel. As a young man, Daniel was brought to the Babylonian court of Nebuchadnezzar. But instead of assimilating into Babylonian culture, Daniel remained loyal to HaShem. He successfully interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dreams, including one that foretold that Nebuchadnezzar would lose his mind. After the rise of Nebuchadnezzar's successor, Belshazzar, Daniel correctly interpreted a mysterious sign, the handwriting on the wall, to mean that the Babylonian kingdom would fall to the Medes and Persians. Daniel was thus described as having a share in the downfall of Babylon, and there is a midrash that links Daniel to the lion symbolism mentioned earlier:

Judah corresponds to the kingdom of Babylon - both are symbolized by a lion. This one is compared to a lion: "Judah is a young" Genesis 49:9, and this one is compared to another lion: "the first was like a lion" Daniel 7:4. The kingdom of Babylon falls by the hand of Daniel, who comes from the tribe of Judah. Beresheet Rabbah 99:2

But Daniel's connection to lions does not, of course, end there. One of the most famous stories involving lions in Scripture is the story of Daniel in the lion's den. The lions were owned by King Darius, though he did not necessarily keep them for the purpose of executing criminals. He might have them for display, as a sign of his royal status. Alternatively, he may have even kept them for hunting purposes; the Assyrian king – Ashurnisapal - is known to have kept a group of lions and may have them for this purpose. An ancient cylinder seal depicts King Darius hunting a lion from a horse-drawn chariot; this may well have been a lion that he bred for the purpose of a "canned" lion hunt.

Daniel, an official in the court of King Darius, was a God-fearing Child of Israel from the Tribe of Judah. Some other officials, jealous of him, sought to find a way to destroy him. They established the law that anyone who asked the petition from any fellow King Or God, aside from the King, shall be cast into the lions them. Daniel disregarded this law, and continued to pray to HaShem, despite the fact that he was visible through the windows of his home. The officials gleefully reported his actions and to the dismay of the King, Daniel was thrown to the lions. A stone was placed on the mouth of the den, and sealed with the King's cygnet; the midrash says that God sent an angel, in the form of a lion, to sit on the stone, such that Daniel's enemies would not harass him. Miraculously, Daniel survived unharmed:

The king arose very early in the morning, and rushed to the lion's den. When he came to the den, he cried in anguished voice to Daniel, and said, "Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God, whom you serve continually, able to save you from the lions?" Then Daniel said to the king, "oh King, live forever. My God has sent his angel, who shut the lions mouth, so that they have not hurt me; because I was found innocent before him; and also before you, okay, I have done no wrong." Then the King was extremely glad for him, and commanded that Daniel should be taken out of the den. So Daniel was taken out of the den, and he was found to be entirely unhurt, because he believed in HaShem. Daniel 6:20-24

The midrash explains that the lions could not harm Daniel, because he was the true lion:

Why was Daniel saved from the lions? Because he prayed before the holy one, who was called a lion, as it is written, "they shall go after HaShem, he shall roar as a lion" Hosea 11:10; and Daniel was from the tribe of Judah, which is called a lion, as it says, "Judah is a lion," Genesis 49:9; and it is written, Daniel was from the sons of Judah" Daniel 1:6. Let a lion – HaShem - come save a lion – Daniel - from the mouth of a lion. Another explanation: because - in the eyes of the lions - he was similar to a lion; therefore, they did not harm him: Bamidbar Rabbah 13:6

Yossipon, a 10th century work of Jewish criminology, describes how "the beast in the den received Daniel as faithful dogs might receive the returning master, wagging their tails and licking him." Another midrash elaborates upon the interactions between Daniel and the lions:

When Daniel descended into the pit, and the angel said to the lions, "receive your relative - Judah is a young lion." Immediately, the lions leapt onto each other's backs until they reached the mouth of the den and received him.... Because their breath wreaks, Daniel placed their mouths on the ground, so that he could not smell them... And when it was time for him to ascend, the lions leapt onto each other's backs and lifted him up.... "He delivered Daniel from the hand of the lions" Daniel 6:28 -it does not say "from the mouth of the lions" but rather "from the hand of the lions" - this teaches that they did not harm him, not with their hand, nor their feet, nor their mouth nor their stench. Beresheet Rabbah Vayichi 49:9

The King, relieved that his favorite courtier had survived, decided to exact punishment upon the ministers who had conspired against him:

The King commanded, and those men who had accused Daniel, were brought and thrown in the den and the lions: and the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones into pieces before they reached the bottom of the den. Daniel 6:25

According to the midrash, Daniel's enemies claimed to the King that the reason why he was unharmed is that the lions were not hungry. The King responded that if so, all the ministers, along with their wives and children, should spend the night with the lions. As a result, says the midrash, the enemies of Daniel were torn apart, with every person being pulled apart by four lions, one seizing each of his limbs. Another midrash relates to the ministers claim that Daniel had fed and tamed the lions, and so the King had the ministers likewise feed the lions, but they were killed anyway. The midrash sees one of Daniel Psalms as describing how the efforts of Daniel's enemies rebounded on them, and explains the connection between Daniel and David:

regarding Daniel's enemies David says, "God shall shoot them with arrows, and they shall be struck down suddenly, their tongue shall be their downfall" Psalm 64:8-9. "The righteous shall rejoice in the Lord" Psalms 64:11 - this is Daniel.... Why did David recite the Psalm / song for Daniel? For both were descended from the tribe of Judah, and both were from the lineage of Kings, and both were saved from lions, and both involved with building the Temple. Beresheet Rabbah Vayechi 49:9

The miraculous survival of Daniel in the lion's den has earned an important place in Jewish history, such that if a person were to ever come across the remains of that den, a blessing is to be pronounced:

If a person sees the lion's den, he should say, blessed is the one who performed miracles for our fathers in this place. Brachot 57 B; 62 B

Agents of divine retribution

In the story of Daniel, the lions followed God's will in refraining from killing; but ordinarily, lions follow God's will in the opposite role. As the dominant predator the line is perfectly suited to being a naturalistic agent of divine retribution. There are several instances in Scripture of the lion fulfilling this role. One such instance is a story related about a prophet who disobeyed HaShem's command, and with grave consequences. After he departed on his donkey, he encountered a lion:

When he set out, a lion met him by the way, and killed him. His corpse was cast onto the road, and the donkey stood by it, with the lion also standing by the corpse. Some men passed by, and saw the corpse lying in the road, and the lions standing by the corpse; and they went and told the story in the city where the old prophet lived. And when the prophet who brought him back from the road heard of it, he said, "that is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion, who has torn him, and killed him, according to the word of the Lord, which you spoke to him;. And he said to his sons, "Saddle the donkey," and they did so. He went and found the corpse lying in the road, and the donkey and the lions standing by the corpse; the lion had not eaten the corpse, Nor had the lion eaten the donkey. First Kings 13:24-28

Normally, a lion would be much more likely to attack a donkey than a human being, since a donkey more closely resemble resembles its natural prey in the wild. Furthermore, it would be unusual for a lion to make a kill and then make no attempt to eat it. This apparent behavior demonstrated that its attack of the person was not part of ordinary predatory behavior, but instead was the result of it being on the divine mission.

Later another lion attack against a disobedient person takes place. Here, evidence of the killing being a divine mission comes not from a lion changing its behavior, but instead from the fact that the event was foretold by a prophet:

Then he said to him, "because you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you leave me, a lion shall kill you." And as soon as he departed from him, a lion found him, and killed him. First Kings 20:36

In both of these incidents, it was individuals who were killed by lions. But in the later incident, there were more there; there were massive attacks by lions on people who defied HaShem's laws:

The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthhat, Avvah, Hamath, and Safaribim, and he settled them in the towns of Samaria in place of the Israelites; they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its towns. When they began living there, they did not fear the Lord; so the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. It was told to the king of Assyria: "the people that you exiled and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know the judgments of the God of the land. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them, because the people do not know his judgments." Second Kings 17:24-26

Scripture proceeds to describe How, in order to avoid the problem of lion attacks, the people learned how to practice the laws of Judaism. People described in these verses, collectively known as the Kuthim, are described in the Talmud as “Gerai Arayot”, "converts due to lions."

chanoch's Commentary

The King of Assyria is Sennecrib. It was his policy to conquer an area and remove the population to another area to pacify future rebellions. The people described above are usually called Samaritans. The Talmud also calls them Gerai Arayot. The Samaritans are not considered Children of Israel since their consciousness was that of an idol worshiper even though they did the Mitzvot. Today the Samaritans have become Children of Israel since the Mitzvot do change people's consciousness. Remember the teaching teach your children to do Mitzvot even Lo Lishmah since eventually they will come to do the Mitzvot Lishmah. Lishmah is usually translated as for its own sake. This means without an agenda – just to share pleasure with the Creator.

Some see another reference in Scripture to lions being sent by HaShem to attack sinners. There is a prophecy regarding those who traveled through the desert to seek aid from Egypt, without first seeking counsel from HaShem:

The pronouncement of the beasts of the South; to the land of trouble and anguish, from where the fiery lion and the mighty lion come. Isaiah 30:6

This is explained by some to mean that the people would be attacked by wild animals, as a punishment for their actions.

The lion is regarded as being so likely to be an agent of divine retribution that any encounter with the lion is seen as being a close encounter with HaShem's judgment of death:

If a person encounters a lion, and it did not eat, he should give blessings and praise to the name of the Holy One; perhaps this lion was destined to eat him and and the Holy One did have mercy on him and it did not eat him. Tanna Devai Eliyahu Rabbah 18

The midrash relates an extraordinary account of how someone who voluntarily is exposed to lions in order to check if any divine retribution was required. Rabbi Meir was tricked by a woman into becoming drunk, and when he fell asleep, she entered his bed. When he discovered what had happened, he was stricken with guilt. Rabbi Meir went to ask the Rosh Yeshivah what he should do in order to atone, even if it meant being fed to wild animals. After deliberating, the Rosh Yeshivah said that Rabbi Meir should be offered to the lions. He ordered two men to tie him up in a place where lions were found, with the instruction that if Rabbi Meir is eaten, his bone should be returned for a eulogy in which he would be praised for accepting divine judgment. They tied him up, and a lion approach in the night, but did not touch him. The Rosh Yeshivah ordered him to be tied him up again on the following night, and the same thing happened again. The Rosh Yeshivah ordered that Rabbi Meir be tied up for a third and final time. This time, the lion attacked him, dislocated a rib, and ate a tiny amount of flesh. The Rosh Yeshivah, concluding that Rabbi Meir was now exempt from further retribution, ordered that Rabbi Meir be taken to a doctor for healing. When Rabbi Meir returned home a voice came from Heaven and said “Rabbi Meir has earned his place in the world that is coming”.

The lion can sometimes serve as an agent of divine protection rather than retribution, due to its ability to present a lethal threat:

There was an incident with the person who forgot to bring in his wheat into his home before ascending on the festival, and when he returned, he found lions encircling his wheat. Shir HaShirim Rabbah 7.3

The Hunger of Lions

The Talmud relates of the sages once appeared before King David in order to inform him of the people's economic distress:

The sages of Israel entered to King David and said, our master the King, your people Israel needs sustenance. He said to them, let them go and arrive sustenance from each other - mutual trade. They said to him, a handful does not satisfy the lion, and nor can the cistern fill up from its ring. Berachot 3B, Sanhedrin 16 A

A cistern cannot fill up only from the rain that falls directly into the stone ring placed on its mouth; runoff from a larger area must be channeled into the cistern for it to be effective. And a lion will not be satiated with a handful of food - it usually eats from 42 to as much is 90 pounds of meat at one sitting. King David, understanding that the nation lacked sufficient resources to sustain itself, advised them to launch raids in order to obtain resources that would provide sustenance for all the people.

The prodigious appetite of the lion is also demonstrated in a verse which shows how little of what is left when a shepherd manages to retrieve its prey from a marauding lion:

Thus says the Lord: as the shepherd rescues out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or the tip of the ear; so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued with the corner of the bed, and the corner of the couch. Amos 3:12

There is an inherent contradiction in the nature of the lion vis-à-vis its food. On the one hand, the lion is the king of beasts and the most powerful animal, which should be in that it has the easiest time of procuring food. But on the other hand, as a meat eater, and the largest one at that, the lion has the ultimate challenge in finding sufficient food. This tension is seen as being reflected in the following verse, well-known from appearing in the final paragraph of Bercat HaMazon – Blessing after a meal in which bread has been consumed:

The young Lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek God shall not lack any good thing. Psalm 34:11

Some see the reference to young Lions in this verse is metaphorically referring to powerful people. But others explain it as referring to actual lions. Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pekuda, the renowned medieval philosopher, notes that helpless creatures, such as fetuses in the womb and the humble ants, have their needs readily provided for them. Lions, on the other hand despite being the mightiest of animals, have to struggle to survive. This is a lesson for man that is ultimately HaShem provides one's sustenance, rather than physical power. Note that the lion mentioned in this verse is the Kefir, that has just learned to hunt for itself. Perhaps this emphasizes that having the power and the skills to obtain one's needs does not guarantee success.

chanoch's Commentary

In my opinion, this is becoming quite clear that HaShem provides sustenance to all creatures as one watches the current political scene in the United States and also what one truly learns from the actions of terror and terrorists in recent months. No one actually suffers chaos without the approval of HaShem in order to motivate changes in human behaviour that will eventually lead that human and others to achieve their tikune.

Elsewhere in Scripture, this concept is presented from the opposite perspective. It's pointed out that when young Lions roar for their food - as referenced in the section "the roar of the lion", this is due to the way that HaShem has set up the world:

You bring on darkness and it becomes night when all the beasts of the forest roam and roar for their prey. When the sun rises, they are gathered in, to crouch in their lairs. Psalm 104:20 - 22

The commentaries explain that this does not mean that the lions are consciously addressing HaShem with the roaring. Rather, it means that the lions roar to seek their food, which is arranged by HaShem through various natural causes. The circle of life is arranged such that each animal carves out its own unique niche in the ecosystem, finding its sustenance in its own way. HaShem has set up the world in such a way that even lions, with their prodigious appetites, are able to find food.

This point is made in the story of Job. Job is protesting his suffering, wondering why it befell him. HaShem's response is to make Job realize his limitations as a human being, such that he will not expect to understand the ways of his creator. In addition, HaShem stresses that his providence does indeed extend over all the world. Both these points are conveyed by an account of how HaShem is able to provide for the needs of lions:

Will you trap prey for the lion? Or satisfy the appetite of the young Lions, when they crouch in their lairs, and the lions ambush in the undergrowth? Job 38:39-40

The hunger of the lions can only be provided for by HaShem's providential arrangement of the world.

chanoch's Commentary

Kabbalah actually expands on this idea of HaShem providing for all of the world with the commentaries that a human being can never understand its Creator. Only when the human being rises above its nature to become a co-creator can it begin to understand the ways and thoughts of HaShem. This is what Kabbalah teaches that ultimately the human being will rise above the Angels and become divine.

The lurking lion

Zoologists have observed that while the lion's method of obtaining prey takes many forms, there is one method that is most common. This involves cooperative hunting in which several lions stalk Their prey, fan out, and some will then rush the prey and chase it toward the others. Zoological studies also describe lionesses doing most of the killing of prey, with males enjoying the results of the lionesses' kills. One oft cited study of behavior, performed in the Serengeti, describes how out of a total of 1210 lions observed stalking and chasing after their prey, only 3% were males.

Such cooperatives stalking and chasing by lionesses is, however, never described in Scripture. Instead, all accounts are in line of individual lions lying in wait and ambushing their prey. While most of Scriptural descriptions are meant to be metaphorical, but which should still be using an image drawn from reality - are of male lions that are lying in ambush:

He lies in wait secretly, like a lion's den; he lies in wait to catch the poor; he catches the poor, when he draws him into his net. Psalm 10:9

He is like a lion that is greedy for its prey, and like a young lion working in the secret places. Psalm 17:12

HaShem is to me like a bear lying in ambush, and like a lion in secret places. Lamentations 3:10

The Talmud even describes the motif of a lion in ambush as a figure of speech that has entered popular discourse, in order to refer to someone who was suspected of being able to cause harm:

If the assailant says he can personally act as your healer, you are able to retort "you are in my eyes like a lurking lion” Bava Kama 85

Why does Scripture describe male lions hunting via ambush, if the zoological accounts of hunting involve lionesess hunting via stalking and chasing? The reason is that the zoological accounts of hunting were, until very recently, necessarily selective. Most zoological studies of lions hunting have taken place in open Savannah such as the Serengeti, where it is easy to observe such behavior. But new studies using GPS devices fitted to lions and laser based terrain mapping technology have shown a different side to how lions track their prey. While in the open Savannah, the hunting is mostly done via lionesses stalking and chasing, while in forested regions it is different: male lions from the thicket, ambushing their prey is more likely.

The reason for this has to do with the physical differences between male and female lions. Males are much more powerfully built, with a heavy mane. This makes them well suited for fighting other males for control of the pride, but it makes them slower and less agile than females, and the mane harms their ability to camouflage themselves in grass. Where as lionesses can engage in group hunting involving stalking and speed, male lions must use a technique of ambushing. Such a technique is most effective in dense forest. This terrain is not very common in the African savanna, but there would have been much of it in biblical Israel, which was much more densely forested than in the Israel of today.

The lion has come up from his thicket.... A lion from the forest shall slay them. Jeremiah 4:7, 5:6

The typical lion attack in biblical Israel would not have been the stalking and chasing done by groups of lionesses in the Serengeti, but instead an ambush from a solitary male lion in the thicket, just as described in Scripture.

How lions kill