In the Old Testament, the phrase “lion of Judah” first appeared in Genesis 49:9 when Jacob the patriarch prophesied while giving his blessing to his fourth son Judah. He said, “Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?”
Judah had shown a noble character. Even in the dark hour when Joseph’s brothers were plotting to kill him, Judah had planned to save Joseph’s life (Genesis 37:26, 27). But his more superior traits were revealed when he offered his own life as a pledge for that of Benjamin, and also when he pleaded with Joseph on Benjamin’s behalf, to save him from slavery (Genesis 43:9, 10; 44:16–34).
So, Jacob gave Judah unqualified blessing, one which bestowed upon him supremacy and power. Jacob stated that Judah was represented as a young lion growing up into the full strength of an old lion that goes to conquer and succeeds in his mission. Based on Jacob’s prophecy, the lion is a symbol of the Kingly tribe of Judah from whose descendants came King David.
In the New Testament, we read that Jesus is the Lion of Judah: “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals. Jesus is the long-awaited Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5;5). Christ was born of the tribe of Judah (Matt. 1:2). The figure of a lion resembles strength (Rev. 9:8, 17; 10:3; 13:2, 5), and Christ has triumphed over all the power of darkness. This is what gives Him the right to open the book (Revelation 5:7).
In this sense, Christ is the second David which Paul also taught, “There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope” (Rom. 15:12). David was Israel’s greatest king and military hero. The Davidic idea of the Messiah was that of a conqueror who would restore the kingdom to Israel (Matt. 21:9 cf. Acts 1:6). In that sense, Christ’s victory in the great controversy with Satan sets Him as the One who will finally restore the kingdom eternally.
In His service,
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