Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lions and Their Meaning in Holy Writ: Part 2

Lion People

Though I believe the Bible is clear and therefore I do not believe the position of the stars fatalistically dictate our lives and the stars are not to be used to guide ones life, nonetheless like the moon effecting the tides, it is interesting that people born during certain times of the year under certain zodiacal signs often do end up displaying certain identifiable traits and characteristics. With that said, people born between July 23 and August 22 under the constellation of Leo the Lion, the 5th sign in the zodiac, have been known to express positive and negative lion like traits we get from the observation of real lions in the wild.
Leo’s Positive Traits
Generally Leos tend to be warmhearted, encouraging, generous and magnanimous souls; they are the type prone to give you the shirt off of their back. They tend to be regal, charming, creative, expressive and sometimes flamboyant which tends to draw in those around them. They are usually diligent and hardworking. They tend to work and play hard and have great potential to be successful in whatever they chose or are called to do in life. They seem to be natural born leaders and conquerors. Leo’s usually are broad minded and not afraid to try new things and take risks. So there is a danger in that they can be easily board. Yet they are fiercely loyal to spouse, family and friends. On the one hand they know how to rough it when they have too as well as enjoy the pleasures and ease in life.
Leo’s Negative Traits
With their melancholy-choleric A-type personality they tend to be the center of attention they can give into the negative aspect of their personality traits and can be prideful, arrogant, opinionated, demanding and dictatorial. Thus they feel whatever emotion passionately and strongly from joy to love to anger to depression.

Lions in the Bible

The Hebrew word for Lion is Aryeh, spelled, Aleph-Resh-Yud, meaning, Strength of Head and Hand. It can also mean, by the meaning behind the letters, Strong Leader with a Strong Rule. A pretty good synopsis of a lion from characteristics to behavior.

Hebrews, like Native Americans are know for learning from and making practical application of what knowledge they gleam from nature and the animal kingdom. King Solomon and the Proverbs are full of analogies using animals.

Let us now look to the Bible and see how it uses the lion and what we can glean from it in order to apply it to our lives.

Gen. 49:9 Judah [is] a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?

Judah is considered the monarchial tribe, producing the kings and the Messiah of Israel.  In this verse Jacob (Israel) the Patriarch blesses Judah his son by saying that he is like a very unique lion surpassing all expectations by saying that even while it is still young enough to suckle that it, unlike typical lion cubs, can go out with out assistance of the lionesses and hunt on its own, returning successfully with a kill larger that itself. The implication of the Hebrew in regards to the prey is that it is spoil, not just hunted down, but taken also from an enemy. He may look young and helpless, but looks can be deceiving and Jacob is saying that no one should underestimate Judah, his lion like son. Jacob is saying though He is not the oldest, the first born, he has risen up among the ranks of Israel to prove himself worthy by his actions and prowess to lead all the other tribes. The last half of the verse is calling attention to the behavior of alpha male lions in implying that Judah is so strong and has risen to the status of king among the sons of Israel, that he is secure and confident in his authoritative, ruling position that he can relax and enjoy the spoils in a vulnerable posture, in sight of all Israel without having to worry about his authority being challenged. He stoops to feed and afterwards crouches or reclines with comfort and ease, without fear or the slightest concern. When a lion reclines it exposes his vulnerable under belly, and this shows that he is unafraid and secure in his surroundings. Jacob is also saying that even at his weakest and most vulnerable, Judah is stronger and can take on any challenger with no problem. “Old lion” in the Hebrew actually alludes to the mature roar of the lion moreso than physical age. Jacob is saying that Judah is an “old soul” if you will wise beyond his years, greatly mature for his age. “Who shall rouse him up?” Can actually be taken as if to say, “I’d hate to see what would happen to any one who dares to try and come against him!”

This passage encourages us to be strong, fearless, worry free, courageous, confident, wise and authoritative as an alpha male lion ruling the pride.

In context this next passage, it is referring to Balaam being paid by King Balak to curse Israel, but could do nothing but prophecy blessing over them instead:

Num. 23:24 Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat [of] the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.

Num. 24:9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed [is] he that blesseth thee, and cursed [is] he that curseth thee.

Balaam called Israel as a people a “great lion.” This infantile nation, a cub (Gen. 49:9) expelled from Egypt to fend for themselves, has risen up among the nations to be perceived by others as a threat. Why else would Balak hire Balaam to curse Israel if he did not fear them? The Hebrew for “great lion” is referring to the fearsome roar which instills fear in the all prey and enemies within earshot.  This self made lion like nation has worked hard to get where they are in order to be so small and young yet feared by the older nations around them. If the world and its rulers are seen as a pride of lions, this young Israel is seen as a threat to take over the pride if not dealt with soon. The term “young lion” in the Hebrew refers to its youthful strength and virility to be able to violently take over is threatened or if they simply wanted to. Balaam predicts Israel’s campaign against all the inhabitance of Canaan and says they will not rest until they have subdued all competitors in running to become king of the pride. Israel will not rest to feast upon the life blood of the spoil of the kill until all threats against him are subdued and vanquished. Balak is warned not to mess with Israel or he will be sorry. Balaam is saying better to be a servant than an enemy of Israel. He is saying that they will prosper as Israel’s servant and will be destroyed as Israel’s enemy.

This also is a future prophetic allusion to Israel, through Messiah will one day rule the world pride if you will.

Deut. 33:20-21 And of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.

The blessing of Moses upon Gad implies that Gad is a ruling military force that destroys the military arm and rule of the head of any opposing nation. It is interesting to note that like Judah, Gad is likened unto an intimidating, fierce and roaring, ruling Lion. The phrase, “dwelleth as a lion” means that Gads character and nature as a people and a tribe are like fierce roaring lions that will vehemently defend territory and pride. “teareth” refers to the lions mighty clawed paws and its way of hunting by chase and tackle, by hooking the legs with its claws and ends in a bite upon the neck below the head, breaking it causing swift instantaneous death, or by a throat bite which ends in a slow death suffocation. Where as Judah is the alpha male lion king of Israel, Gad is like the lioness hunters and young male enforcers and warriors. When lionesses hunt, they will drag the prey away and eat just enough to give it strength to drag it back to the pride where the lion king and males eat, then the females and finally the cubs. Gad as a tribe knows their rank, place and purpose in the nation of Israel.

The Psudopigraphal book, “The Testament of Gad,” has a theme of guarding ones heart against hate and murder, which would what a warrior tribe would need to balance and keep in check their war-like tendencies prophesied in the Torah.

In the book of Revelation 7:5, it says 1,200 of Gad were sealed, meaning that the tribe of Gad, lost to the Assyrian captivity and Diaspora will one again be found, and indeed a portion of them has been found in the Nigeria people of the Ibu’s. I have meet the Ibu King and he wears a necklace that has a star of David with a lion in the middle of it.

Deut. 33:22 And of Dan he said, Dan [is] a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan.

Dan, which means Judge, is also like Judah and Gad called a young lion strong and wise beyond its years. “He shall leap” refers to a lion’s patient stealth as a hunter as he tracks its prey and crouches ready to leap in ambush or chase at just the right time from light soil (the meaning of the word Bashan), implying Dan will be made to be hunters and not farmers due to the conditions and environment of the land in which they settle. They too are a type of ruler-warrior tribe in Israel. Like Judah and Gad, Dan is not to be underestimated.

As we mentioned earlier it is how that a pride will survive longer the more males it has within the pride to defend it.

Now in the book of Judges we see Samson killed a lion with his bare hands, and by that account, knowing that a colony of bees took up residence within the lions belly may indicate how Samson killed the lion. You see the belly is the most vulnerable part of the lion. It is soft and not protected by muscle, teeth or bone. So quite possibly the lion lunged to attack Samson and Samson killed the lion by ripping open its stomach. The belly contains all of its vital organs and this is why it has to be protected. This is why lions rarely show its belly except on rare occasions when it leaps or rears up for an attack. More often than not you see a lion protect its belly by crouching.

This teaches us to always guard our vital organs:

Isa. 59:17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Eph. 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

When some Orthodox Jews pray they will wear a black cord like belt called a gartel and it symbolizes cutting off the lower baser nature of man to remind the one praying that he is to keep his mind on things above and not animalistic matters (Col. 3:2). Loins symbolize propagation and through our walk of faith in Torah and in Messiah Yeshua we want to propagate, plant and have Truth birthed in others. Donning the gartel during prayer symbolizes this piece of armor and how it protects the most vulnerable part of the male anatomy. If one has ever seen a US Marine (HuRah!) combat book, a vast majority of the incapacitating moves deal with striking the groin. If the groin is injured one cannot propagate Truth and is disqualified to serve as priest (Deut. 23:1, Lev. 21:20, I Pet. 2:9).

A Breastplate protects the most vital organs of the body, mainly the heart. When a Jew awakes, blesses YHWH for a good nights rest and a new day he gets dressed and puts on his tallit katan, a poncho like garment that can be worn under or over the clothes which has the tzitzit (fringes) attached. It symbolizes the Breastplate, it symbolizes one covering their vital organs with Adonai’s Name and Torah, which the tzitzit represent. There are prayers of forgiveness in the Amidah where we strike our chest and it is as if we are checking the integrity of the armor prior to going into battle.

Let us take a look at other passages in the Tanak that deals with lions.

I Sam. 17:36-37 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.

“Paw of the lion” in these verses is made up of two Hebrew words meaning a powerfully raised hand. Recall that a lion can swipe with his five razor sharp claws quicker than a wink with 4-500 psi. A lion will swipe by raising its paw above its head and thing strike down or sideways when it attacks. Five (the number if its claws) is a symbolic number referring to the rule of Torah, the rule of law. The lion with such a powerful swipe with its paw can either kill by blow or dismemberment of head or limb. The lion and bear were seen as the most powerful and dangerous animal that was often deified and worshiped by pagan peoples such as the Philistines. David (from Judah the lion-like tribe) was saying that because he had defeated such animals in the past that he was a better combatant than them and this fact coupled with his trust and faith in YHWH, he could defeat an enemy twice his size. Lions usually kill prey twice as large as itself. David was also saying that YHWH was more powerful than the animalistic gods of the pagans who they fought against. 

To be Continued in Part 3