Lion of Judah

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For the animated film, see The Lion of Judah.
Lion of Judah on Bezalel tile.

The Lion of Judah is the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah. Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, is said to be the tribe's founder. The association between Judah and the lion can first be found in the blessing given by Jacob to Judah in the Book of Genesis. Both King David and Jesus hail from the tribe of Judah. The Lion of Judah is also a phrase used in the Book of Revelation to represent Jesus, and as one of the titles of Emperor Haile Selassie it is associated with the Rastafari movement.

History and usage[edit]

The lion of Judah on the coat of arms of Jerusalem

The Biblical Judah (in Hebrew: Yehuda) is the original name of the Tribe of Judah, which is traditionally symbolized by a lion. In Genesis, the patriarch Jacob ("Israel") gave that symbol to his tribe when he refers to his son Judah as a Gur Aryeh גּוּר אַרְיֵה יְהוּדָה, "Young Lion" (Genesis 49:9) when blessing him.[1] In Jewish naming tradition the Hebrew name and the substitute name are often combined as a pair, as in this case. The Lion of Judah was used as a Jewish symbol for many years, and as Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, in 1950 it was included in the Emblem of Jerusalem.

In Christian tradition, the Lion of Judah represents the triumphant Jesus. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and he is mentioned as the Lion of Judah in Revelation. The phrase appears in the New Testament Book of Revelation 5:5; "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." Many Christian organizations and ministries use the lion of Judah as their emblem or even their name.

The use in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia of a lion named Aslan is known to represent Jesus Christ.[2][3][4][5][6]

Ethiopian history[edit]

Ethiopian Lion of Judah flag

Ethiopia's history as recorded and elaborated in a 13th-century treatise, the "Kebre Negest", asserts descent from a retinue of Israelites who returned with Makeda, the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem, by whom she had conceived the Solomonic dynasty's founder Menelik I. As Solomon was of the tribe of Judah, his son Menelik I would continue the line, which according to Ethiopian history was passed directly down from King to King until Emperor Haile Selassie I (ostensibly the 225th king from King David) was deposed in 1974. Both Christian and Jewish Ethiopian history have it that there were also immigrants of the Tribes of Dan and Judah that accompanied Makeda back from her visit to Solomon; hence the Ge'ez motto Mo`a 'Anbessa Ze'imnegede Yihuda ("The Lion of Judah has conquered"), included among the titles of the Emperor throughout the Solomonic Dynasty. It is unknown whether John of Patmos was directly aware of this hereditary title when he penned it into the text of the prophecy.

1894 Ethiopian stamp "Lion of Judah"

The Lion of Judah motif figured prominently on the old imperial flag, currency, stamps, etc. and may still be seen gracing the terrace of the capital as a national symbol. After the collapse of the Communist Derg in 1990 and the increase of Western-style political freedoms, a minor political party bearing the name Mo'a Anbessa made its appearance.

In the Rastafari movement "The Lion of Judah" is Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, crowned November 2, 1930 with the titles "KING of Kings, LORD of lords, Conquering Lion of Judah, Elect of God, the Light of the World." Rastas hold that H.I.M. Haile Selassie I is a direct descendant of the Israelite Tribe of Judah through the lineage of King David and Solomon, and that he is also the Lion of Judah mentioned in the Book of Genesis chap. 49 and Revelation 5.5; there is no proof that Haile Selassie I ever denied these claims.

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