LION >> Good or Power of Celestial Love >> Omnipotence
/Opposite Sense >> Evil of the Love of Self in its Power

Lion792_500_294 The lion has wonderful strength. The muscles of his legs and neck are very large and almost as firm as iron. A lion can strike down an ox, and carry him away in his  mouth.  The lion is of the same family as our cat. He lives upon other creatures which he kills. His teeth and claws are formidable weapons, and while the cat's tongue is only rough, the lion's is armed with strong, sharp points. The lion's roar strikes all animals with terror. It will be well to read more about lions in the natural history, and to learn from the anecdotes something about their disposition.

Does it appear that lions are cowardly? On the contrary they are remarkable for courage. While they do not, as a rule, attack men, it is not from cowardice, as plainly appears when they are attacked or when the lioness must defend her young. They seem not to know what fear is. Do you think that lions are cruel? They do not deserve to be called so, for they kill only what they need to eat, and do it quickly. They do not kill for the sake of killing, as some creatures do; nor do they, like cats, torture their prey. There are many stories of lions' faithfulness to their masters, and their gratitude for kindness. We read of lions which have refused to kill small animals given them for food, but have treated them with kindness and made companions of them. The lion is above the mean, deceitful, cruel ways of many members of the cat tribe; there is a generosity and dignity about him which command our respect, and which no less than his strength and courage make him deserving of his title "the king of beasts."

We sometimes compare a man to a lion. "As strong as a lion," we say: or "as brave as a lion." What do we mean when we call one "lion-hearted "? And what is the noblest kind of strength and courage? That which meets physical danger? or that which can speak the truth and boldly fight with evil desires and overcome them? This spiritual strength and courage are called a lion in the Bible. Who has the most perfect strength and courage of all? The Lord. And we have this heavenly strength only as we trust in Him and use His Word as our defense. The power of the Lord's love fighting for us and in us, especially through His Word, is the lion in the best sense. (AE 278; AR 241; AC 6367)

Can any one remember a passage where the Lord is called a lion, or is compared to a lion? Here is one. "Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof." (Isa. xxxi. 4) When the Lord is called a lamb, it is to tell us of His Divine innocence. What Divine quality is emphasized when He is compared to a lion? His Divine power and courage in resisting the evil enemies of men, that they may enjoy goodness and truth in peace. (AE 2 78, 6o I; AC 636 7; AR 241) To roar as a lion, when spoken of the Lord, means to speak and act with power in defending men from hell. It expresses also the intensity of the Lord's desire to defend them, and the intensity of His sorrow if they refuse His protection and fall a prey to evil. (AR 241, 471; AE 601, 850)

When we remember what the roaring means, there is a wonderful pathos in these verses of the Revelation. "And the rest of the men . . . repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. . . . And he cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth." (Rev. ix. 20, 21, x. 1-3) It was the Lord who so appeared to John, and the roaring expresses His intense sorrow that men refused His protection from evil. (AR 464-471; AE 601) "The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" (Amos iii. 8) The Lord's great love for men should awaken their reverent love for Him, and His words should give them a perception of what is true and right. (AE 601, 624)

Once more in the Revelation: "No man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. . . . 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." (Rev. v. 3, 5) As we read on we see that the Lion of the tribe of Judah is the same with the Lamb, which we know is the Lord. The opening of the book means the bringing out of the true meaning and the Divine power in the Word, that the real state of all might be revealed by it, that evil might be resisted, and that all things might be reduced to order. The Lord only can do this. He did it at the time of the last judgment, which the Revelation especially describes, and He does it as often as we use the Word to subdue evil in our own hearts. The Lord fights for us from His Word with Divine courage and power. This is meant by His being called the Lion opening the book. (AR 256-267; AE 305-311) We shall learn by and by that the twelve tribes represent all different kinds of heavenly people, or the different elements of a heavenly character. Judah represents innocent love. (Chapter 39) Therefore when the Lord is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, it means that His power in defending us comes from His great love.

This helps us to understand the blessing of Judah spoken by Jacob: "Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? " (Gen. xlix. 9; Numb. xxiv. 9) It tells of the power of love, especially of the power against evil which belongs to a heart which innocently loves the Lord. Heaven and the Lord are with such a heart, and give it the strength of a lion. (AC 6367-6370; AE 278) Remember also David's lament for Saul and Jonathan "They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions." (2 Sam. i. 23) Saul, the first king of Israel, and Jonathan his son, represent the first principles of Divine truth which rule in a young man's life, and fight against the evil dispositions which are his deadly enemies. These truths give strength and courage because they are from the Lord, and the Lord is in them. This is meant by the words, Saul and Jonathan were stronger than lions. (AE 278, 281)

Read of the throne of ivory and gold built by king Solomon. "The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps." (I Kings x. 19, 20) The throne was so built as to represent truly the king's rule and the rule of every one who is with the Lord's help king over his own heart. It also represents the Lord's own rule, who is the King of kings. And what element of rule do the lions represent? The power of the Lord, and received from the Lord, to conquer and overcome evil. (AC 5313, 6367; AE 253, 430) Does this thought about the throne of Solomon help us to understand what is said in the Revelation about the throne seen in heaven? "Behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. . . . And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts. . . . And the first beast was like a lion." (Rev. iv. 1-7; Ezek. i. 10) What element in the Lord's rule and in heavenly character must this lion represent? The power of the Lord, and the power which those angels who love Him most truly have from Him. (AR 241; AE 278; AC 6367)

But you have found other passages where lions are spoken of as evil beasts; there they plainly represent not the power and courage of those who love the Lord, but the strength and desperate boldness which spring from intense self-love. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." (Ps. xci. 13) It is a promise of complete control over the fierce power of self-love and its misleading reasonings, so that we shall not be hurt by them. (AE 632, 714; PP) And another promise of deliverance: "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there. (Isa. xxxv. 9; AC 6367; AE 328, 388) "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." (Isa. xi. 6-9; lxv. 25) It is a beautiful promise of the safety from all harm with which the Lord surrounds a life of innocence on earth and in heaven. We recognize the lamb, the kid, and the calf as symbols of innocent affections more interior and more external; the wolf, the leopard, and the lion represent evil desires opposed to these heavenly affections. No lion of selfish passion shall destroy the enjoyment in kindly works of usefulness. (AE 314, 781; AC 430, 10132)

What lesson do we learn from the story of Daniel in the lions' den? Daniel for his faithfulness to the Lord was cast by king Darius into the den of lions. "Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me." (Dan. vi) The lions here are an expression of the fierce rage of the men of Babylon against Daniel, or rather, against faithful service of the Lord which re fused to bow down to them. Many times in the history of the church, and many times in our own hearts, the spirit of Babylon, which is self-love, has raged with the fury of a lion against the spirit of faithful service of the Lord; but the Lord will always shut the lions' mouths that they shall not harm those that keep themselves innocent and trust in Him. (PP; AC 10412)

Recall also the story of Samson, and how when he once went down to Timnath "a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid. . . . And after a time he returned and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and behold there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion." (Judges xiv. 5-9) We see at once that the lion represents some fierce evil of self-love, which still we may completely overcome in strength given us from the Lord. And the honey in the carcase suggests heavenly sweetness enjoyed when an evil thing has been subdued. Here the lion in the borders of the Philistine country represents especially the prevailing evil of the Philistines, the fatal persuasion of which self-love is so fond, that it is enough to know truth, without any effort to lead a good life. (Chapter 39) When this persuasion is overcome by the Lord's help, the sweet uses of charity are enjoyed. (AE 619) Read also how David slew a lion and a bear which attacked his father's flock. (1 Sam. xvii. 3437; AE 781; AR 573)

"The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." (Ps. xxxiv. 10) The natural lions may go hungry, and so will self-confident courage which relies on its own strength; but love for the Lord and the strength it brings shall never fail. (AC 6367; AE 386) "Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening." (Ps. civ. 20-23) As we read these words we think first of the fierce and evil affections which creep forth in times of spiritual darkness. But the young lions have a better meaning. The roaring of the lions represents the intense desire of angels and of all good hearts, when in their darker, less active states, for a return of the fuller life and strength from the Lord, when the truly human faculties will be called into joyful exercise. (AC 9335, 6367; AE 278)


Judah is a lion's whelp. That this signifies innocence with innate forces, is evident from the signification of a "lion," as being the good of love and the truth thence derived in their power (of which in what follows); thus a "lion's whelp" denotes innocence with forces. The reason why it is said "with innate forces" is that "Judah" here is the celestial of love, and the celestial of love is in the will part (see n. 895, 927, 4493, 5113), thus it has innate forces; for man is born into the things of the will part; hence they of the Most Ancient Church, which was celestial, were born into the good of love insofar as they had good in their will. From this then it is that the forces are said to be "innate." The reason why a "lion's whelp" denotes innocence, is that a "lion" denotes the good of celestial love, and a "whelp" is as it were its infant, thus is innocence.

[2] That a "lion" denotes the good of celestial love and the derivative truth, in its power, and also that in the opposite sense it denotes the evil of the love of self in its power, is evident from passages in the Word where a "lion" is mentioned. That it denotes the good of celestial love is evident in John:

Behold the lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath conquered to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof (Rev. 5:5);
here the Lord is called a "lion" from the omnipotence belonging to His Divine love and the Divine truth thence derived. In other passages in the Word, Jehovah or the Lord is compared to a "lion," as in Hosea:

They shall go after Jehovah; He shall roar like a lion; for He shall roar, and the sons shall come with honor from the sea (Hos. 11:10).

[3] In Isaiah:

Thus said Jehovah unto me, Like as when the lion roareth, and the young lion over his prey, if a fullness of shepherds come running upon him, he is not dismayed at their voice, and is not afflicted by their tumult; so shall Jehovah Zebaoth come down to fight upon Mount Zion and upon the hill thereof (Isa. 31:4);

here the omnipotence of Divine good is compared to a "lion," and the omnipotence of the Divine truth thence derived is compared to a "young lion," for it is said that "Jehovah Zebaoth shall come down to fight upon Mount Zion and upon the hill thereof;" for "Mount Zion" signifies the good of Divine love, and the "hill thereof," the Divine truth thence derived (see n. 795, 796, 1430, 4210).

[4] For the same reason the four aimals in Ezekiel and in John, by which are meant cherubs, had the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. In Ezekiel:

The likeness of the faces of the four animals: the face of a man and the face of a lion on the right side had they four; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; and they four had the face of an eagle (Ezek. 1:10; 10:14).

And in Revelation:

Before the throne were four animals full of eyes before and behind. And the first animal was like a lion, and the second animal like a calf, the third animal had a face as a man, the fourth animal was like a flying eagle (Rev. 4:6, 7).

That these animals were cherubs is said in Ezekiel 10, and is also plain from the description of them in John, namely, that they had eyes before and behind; for by "cherubs" are signified the Lord's foresight and providence (n. 308); that they had the face of a lion was from the omnipotence of Divine truth from Divine good, which is of providence. It was similar with the cherubs about the new temple, in Ezekiel 41:19.

[5] That the celestial, who are in power from good and the derivative truth, which are from the Lord, are meant by "lions," is evident in David:

There is no want to them that fear Jehovah. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek Jehovah shall not want any good (Ps. 34:9, 10).


The lions roar after their prey, and to seek their food from God. The sun ariseth, they are gathered together, and lay them down in their habitations (Ps. 104:21, 22).

And in the prophecy of Balaam:

At that time it shall be said to Jacob and Israel, What hath God wrought! Behold the people shall rise up as an old lion, and as a young lion shall he lift himself up; he shall not rest until he eat the prey (Num. 23:23, 24).

[6] And again:

When Balaam saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes, he said, He boweth down, he coucheth as a lion, and as an old lion, who shall rouse him up? (Num. 24:2, 9).
It is the celestial that is here described, because it was the celestial order that the tribes represented by their encampment which Balaam saw in spirit when he saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes (see n. 6335). This order is from the Divine good through the Divine truth from the Lord, and in this order is all power, here denoted by the "lion which boweth down and coucheth."

[7] In Micah:

The remains of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep; who if he go through, treadeth down and scattereth, and there is none rescuing. Let thy hand be exalted over thine enemies, and let all thy foes be cut off (Mic. 5:8, 9);

where the "lion" and "young lion" denote celestial good and celestial truth, which are the "remains of Jacob." The meaning is similar in Isa. 21:8; Jer. 25:38; Ezek. 32:2; Zech. 11:3. The like was represented by the lions at the ivory throne of Solomon, two at the sides of the throne, and twelve upon the six steps (1 Kings 10:18-20); also by the lions upon the borders of the ten bases of brass (1 Kings 7:29, 36).

[8] That in the opposite sense a "lion" signifies the evil of the love of self in its power, is plain from the following passages:

No lion shall be there, and no ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but they shall go free; thus the redeemed of Jehovah shall return and shall come to Zion with singing (Isa. 35:9, 10).

In Jeremiah:

Why is Israel become a prey? The young lions roar against him, they utter their voice, they reduce his land to a waste (Jer. 2:14, 15).


The lion cometh up from his bramble, and the destroyer of the nations hath journeyed, he went forth from his place to reduce the land into a waste (Jer. 4:7).


They have not known the way of Jehovah, the judgment of their God. Wherefore a lion out of the forest hath smitten them, and a wolf of the plains will lay them waste (Jer. 5:4, 6).

And in Nahum:

Where is the habitation of the lions, and the pasture of the young lions; where the lion stalked, the old lion, the lion's whelp, and none made afraid? The lion seizeth enough for his whelps, and strangleth for His old lionesses, and filleth his caves with prey, and his habitations with ravin. Behold I am against thee, saith Jehovah Zebaoth, and I will burn her chariot in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions; and I will cut off thy prey from the earth (Nah. 2:11-13);

speaking of Nineveh. In the above passages a "lion" denotes the power possessed by the evil of the love of self when it destroys and lays waste; and so in Jer. 12:8; 49:19; 50:17, 44; 51:38; Ezek. 19:2-11; 33:2; Joel 1:6; Zeph. 3:3; Ps. 57:5; 58:6; 91:13; Rev. 13:2. [AC6367]

And cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth, signifies grievous lamentation that the church has been taken away from Him. That by "crying as a lion roareth" is signified grievous lamentation respecting the church, and that it has been taken away from Him is evident from what is explained in the foregoing chapter, where the states of life of those who are of the church were explored and made manifest, which were lamentable; also from its being said in this chapter, that "the angel swore by him that liveth for ages of ages, that there should be time no longer," by which is signified that there would be no church; and, in the following chapter, that "the beast, which came up out of the abyss, killed his two witnesses"; and especially from his not being acknowledged and approached, although He is the God of heaven and earth. Lamentation concerning these things is signified by "His roaring as a lion," for a lion roars when he sees his enemies and is assaulted by them, and when he sees his whelps and prey taken away; so does the Lord, comparatively, when He sees His church taken away from Him by devils.

[2] That this is what is signified by "roaring as a lion" may appear from these passages:

As the lion roareth, and the young lion, over its prey, when plenty of shepherds go forth against him, so Jehovah Zebaoth cometh down to fight for Mount Zion (Isa. 31:4).
The anger of Jehovah was kindled against His people, His roaring is like a lion's, He roareth like the young lions, and He growleth and seizeth the prey; for, behold, darkness, anxiety, and the light is darkened in the ruins thereof (Isa. 5:25-30).
Jehovah shall roar from on high, and shall utter His voice from the habitation of His holiness; roaring He shall roar against His habitations (Jer. 25:30).
Jehovah shall roar out of Zion, and shall utter His voice out of Jerusalem (Joel 3:16).
I will not destroy Ephraim; they shall go after Jehovah; as a lion shall He roar, because He shall roar (Hos. 11:9-10).
The lion roareth, who shall not fear? the Lord Jehovah hath spoken, who shall not prophesy (Amos 3:8)?
God roareth with His voice, He thundereth with the voice of His majesty (Job 37:4-5).
That "roaring" signifies grievous lamentation is evident from these:
My bones have become old through my roaring all the day (Ps. 32:3).
I am feeble and broken; I have roared because of the roaring of my heart (Ps. 38:8).
My sighing is before my bread, and my roarings are poured out like water (Job 3:24). [AR471]

He shall seize in the morning, he shall devour the spoil. That this signifies that when the Lord is present it shall be done, is evident from the signification of "morning," as being in the supreme sense the Lord (see n. 2405, 2780), hence that "he shall seize in the morning" denotes that when the Lord is present, then shall be rescuing and deliverance of the good; and from the signification of "devouring the spoil," as being to appropriate to Himself those whom He has rescued and delivered. (That "devouring" denotes to appropriate and conjoin with oneself, see n. 3168, 3513, 3596, 5643; that the "spoil" denotes those who have been rescued and delivered, is manifest.) That "seizing," "rapine," "spoil," and "prey" are also spoken of the Lord in the Word because of His rescuing and delivering the good, is evident from what was said above (verse 9) about Judah: "Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up," by which is signified that from the Lord through what is celestial is deliverance from hell (n. 6368). Also from other passages in the Word, as in Isaiah:

The roaring of Jehovah is like that of a lion, He roareth like young lions, and growleth, and layeth hold of the prey, so that there is none rescuing (Isa. 5:29).


As a lion roareth, and the young lion over his rapine, so shall Jehovah come down to fight upon the mountain of Zion (Isa. 31:4).

In Jeremiah:

I will rescue thee in that day, rescuing I will rescue thee; but thy soul is to thee for a spoil, because thou hast trusted in Me (Jer. 39:17, 18).

In Zephaniah:

Wait ye for Me, saith Jehovah, even unto the day that I rise up unto the prey (Zeph. 3:8).

And in Isaiah:

I will divide to Him among many, that He may divide the spoil with the strong ones (Isa. 53:12);

where the Lord is spoken of in the whole chapter.

[2] That "to devour the rapine or spoil" is to appropriate goods which have been seized by evils, is evident from the prophetic utterance of Balaam, in Moses:

Behold, the people shall rise up as an old lion, and as a young lion shall he lift himself up; he shall not rest until he eat of the spoil (Num. 23:24).

From all this it is evident that "rapine," "spoil," and "prey," denote the rescuing and deliverance of the good by the Lord. This is predicated of the truth represented by Benjamin, because to truth is attributed power (n. 3091, 4931), but that which it has from good (n. 6344, 6423). [AC6442]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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