Jesus has many names. He is called the Christ because he was the anointed one of God. He is called the Messiah because he was the lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He is called the good shepherd because he leads God’s flock like a gentle shepherd who has a great love for the sheep to the point of laying down his life for them. But one of the most amazing names of Jesus is the Lion of Judah.
Why does the Bible call Jesus the lion of Judah? The term lion of Judah stems from the prophetic word that was spoken by Jacob concerning his son Judah. Judah was promised to rule over his brothers like a lion and that his leadership would be everlasting. Jesus was the fulfilment of this prophecy and that is why he is known as the Lion of Judah.
Jesus as the Lion of Judah
The Tribe of Judah
Judah was Jaob’s fourth son and he was foretold to be a leader among his brethren. We find this in Jacob’s last words concerning Judah in the scripture below:
Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion, he crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come, and the obedience of the nations shall be his. Genesis 49:8-10
In this prophecy, Judah’s royal authority is likened to the strength and majesty of the lion who is known as the king of the jungle. Even though Judah was not the firstborn of Israel, his father prophetically pronounced him the leader of his brothers.
A study of the prophecy of Jacob reveals that the words that were spoken were not just about Judah but also about a leader who was to be a descendant of Judah. Here are some of the noteworthy prophecies
- Your brothers will praise you
This statement was a play on Judah’s name. Judah was named so because his mother said, “This time I will praise him.” This statement can be looked at as a prophetic declaration concerning the coming Lord who would be “worthy of all praise” (Psalms 145:1). There is an interesting account of the time Jesus made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His disciples spontaneously started praising him and singing as they said, “Hossana to the son of David! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!” The religious leaders were not amused and asked Jesus to silence his followers but Jesus had an interesting reply. He said, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” Luke 19:40. To put it plainly, Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy of being praised by his brothers.
- Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies
In Old Testament times, they fought physical wars that required physical weapons. In the New Testament, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God (2 Cor. 10:4). It is through Christ that we have victory over our enemies for as Apostle Paul notes, Christ continuously leads us in triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). In a way, we can conclude that His hand is always on the neck of his enemies.
- You are a lion cub. Like a lion, you crouch and lie down
Jacob referred to Judah as a lion’s whelp to insinuate that he was not just a lion but a son of one too. Jesus did not just come as God but more importantly, as the son of God. He often referred to God as his heavenly father and that was one of the reasons the Pharisees had a problem with him. It is also interesting to note that the lion was used in this symbolism and not any other animal. That is because the Lion is considered the king of the jungle and Jesus was coming as the king of kings and the Lord of Lords.
- The scepter will not depart from Judah
A scepter was a staff or rod that was carried by kings and it represented their authority. Today, different republics have adopted different instruments of power that play the same role as the scepter. The promise of the scepter not departing from Judah meant that they would always continue to lead their brothers. However, it was also a prophecy of Christ’s coming leadership and rulership which would last forever.
The Lion of Judah
In the book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as the lion of Judah which confirms the symbolism we have seen in the book of Genesis. Check it out:
Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain… (Revelation 5:5-6).
Jesus was the root of David that came from the tribe of Judah. Long before his arrival, the prophets had spoken of the coming Messiah that would hail from the tribe of Judah. By referring to him as the Lion of Judah, John the Revelator confirmed to us that Jesus was the promised Messiah who had not only come as the lamb of God and took away the sins of the world, but also as the Lion of Judah.
As we have seen, Jesus is referred to as the lion of Judah because he was the prophesied Messiah who came from the tribe of Judah (specifically the house of David). As the Lion of Judah, Jesus is revealed not only as the messiah but also as the king of kings who came to exercise dominion through the church.