Lion and Lamb

A literal interpretation of the image of the lamb that was slain and the seven seals – from St Antony Babelsberg

40 Names of Jesus in 40 days of Lent — Day 17

 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Revelation 5:5 ESVUK

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

C S Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

On giving a blessing to his son Judah, Jacobcalled him a young lion. This image is continued in Revelation, which is full of Old Testament imagery, which C S Lewis then used for Aslan the lion who is the Christ/God character in the Narnia series of children’s novels. He isn’t safe but he is good is as good a description of Jesus as I can think of in a children’s book.

I was taught in school not to mix metaphors. Here the visual metaphors are terribly mixed. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah becomes the Root of David becomes the Lamb that was slain. If you try to visualise this passage, which is how I approach this style of writing, you will find these shapeshifting images difficult. The image comes in three parts:

The Lion of Judah

Judah. despite being the fourth eldest, became the inheritor of Jacob after Reuben was disinherited for sexual conduct, and Simeon and Levi were cursed for their fierce anger; a strange decision as Judah also had sexual misconduct in his past. Yet Judah is given the first blessing.

The Root of David

The prophecy says that a shoot will come from the root of Jesse, King David’s father, and will become a branch that will bear fruit (Isaiah1:11). The Messiah shall be a descendent of David’s family. Later on, Isaiah (v 10) says the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner of the people. Between these two references to the root is the passage that the lion will lie down with the lamb. This is where I believe the symbolism of this part of Revelation comes from.

The lamb that was slain

For those wanting Jesus to come back as a smiting warlord, I have a disappointment for you. The victory is not won through strength but through sacrifice. Jesus has authority because of his sacrificial death. Jesus said that if we want to be great in the kingdom of God we have to serve others, victory through service is the way of Jesus, it should be our way too. The prophecy of Isaiah was given in poetry and referenced in a very figurative part of the Bible. We must be careful not to push the metaphor too far.

2 thoughts on “Lion and Lamb

  1. Thank you for opening a challenging image for me. It is tough. It challenges so many of our expectations. The servant king who showed us that the way to victory is service is a tough act to follow

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