The symbolic uses of lions in both the Old Testament and New Testament books frequently focus on the animal’s strength and nobility in connection with either the Israelites or God in the Old Testament or Christ in the New Testament. With more than 150 mentions of lions across the 66 books of the Bible, the animal’s fierceness was also associated with negative attributes, danger or vengeance.
The author of Peter’s first epistle uses the lion as a symbol for the threat to Christians posed by the devil through a comparison made to a roaring and devouring beast. In a similar manner, the apostle Paul speaks of his ordeals metaphorically by saying he was rescued from the mouth of a lion. In contrast to the negative symbolism, a winged lion represents the apostle Mark. In the Old Testament, the lion metaphorically represents the pagan nations that threatened the tribes of Israel.
The Bible writers would have been familiar with both the Asiatic and African lion. Asiatic lions inhabited Arabia, Palestine, Babylon, Persia and Assyria while the African lion was found in the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt. Lions have been mentioned in the Bible more times than any of the other wild animals known to the biblical writers.