The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

lion tribe judah
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

The “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” reference from Revelation is sometimes used to promote the idea that Jesus, when He returns at the Second Coming, will come in the character of a lion (with vengeance) in contrast to His First Coming (with the character of a gentle lamb). The verse used is:

“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” (Rev 5:5)

This page focuses on the meaning of “lion” specifically in the context of the verse above.

Traditional Legal Model – The lion of the tribe of Judah is Jesus coming the second time not as a harmless lamb but as a vengeful lion to consume His enemies.

Biblical Healing Model – The lion of the tribe of Judah is actually a lion cub representing Jesus Who, at the Second Coming, will, as ever, be holy, harmless and undefiled.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah – A Popular Concept

When sharing about the character of Jesus, how gentle and kind He was etc., you might hear something in reply like: “He was like a Lamb at His first coming but (emphasizing the contrast) at His Second Coming it will be different.”

Here is an example of this thinking:

“At His first coming Jesus came as a Lamb.  … At His second coming Jesus will come as a Lion. He will appear in the heavens as the almighty King dressed in a blood-dipped robe, sitting upon a white horse, His eyes like a flame of fire. In righteousness He will judge and make war. He will strike down the ungodly nations and rule them with a rod of iron. He will execute the full measure of the fury of God’s wrath.” (

Is He really a like a lion or is that just psychological projection? Let’s take a closer look.

How Does the Lion of the Tribe of Judah Prevail?

The opening verse again:

“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” (Rev 5:5)

How did He prevail? Many versions make it sound more like there might have been some use of force involved:

“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.” (Rev 5:5, English Standard Version)

Does He prevail or conquer by destroying His enemies? The original word translated as “prevailed” or “conquered” is “nikao” (Strong’s G3528)

G3528 νικάω nikao nik-ah’-o
from 3529; v;
AV-overcome 24, conquer 2, prevail 1, get the victory 1; 28
1) to conquer
1a) to carry off the victory, come off victorious
1a1) of Christ, victorious over all His foes
1a2) of Christians, that hold fast their faith even unto death against the power of their foes, and temptations and persecutions
1a3) when one is arraigned or goes to law, to win the case, maintain one’s cause

lion tribe judah

That word, the verb, comes from the noun meaning “victory:”

G3529 νίκη nike nee’-kay
apparently a primary word; n f;
AV-victory 1; 1
1) victory

You have probably heard that Greek word used before – how about “Nike shoes”?

But notice that the word is most often translated as “overcome.” It is often used like this:

“I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome [“nikao”] the wicked one.” (1 John 2:14)

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh [“nikao”] the world: and this is the victory that overcometh [“nikao”] the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

People overcome the wicked one, obviously not in a physical sense, but by resisting temptation, by prayer, and by claiming the promises of God in His Word. And that is the same way that Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations:

“To him that overcometh [“nikao”] will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame [“nikao”], and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev 3:21)

A Bow in Scripture

“Even as” indicates that Jesus overcame [“nikao”] in the same way. “Nikao” [G3528] is translated as “conquer/ing” only in this one verse:

“And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” (Rev 6:2)

The mention of a bow (a weapon of war) seems to support the idea of conquering which may be why the translators used “conquering” rather than “overcoming.” But is this a bow as in a weapon of war? Would Jesus use a bow if He wanted to physically overcome His enemies? Would He be shooting arrows one at a time at them? That doesn’t make sense.

In the highly-figurative book of Revelation, a “bow” has a symbolic meaning as it does in other places in the Bible. It is a symbolic bow shooting symbolic arrows. See the glossary study on the meaning of arrows where they are described as arrows of conviction as in:

“O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. 2 For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. 3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.” (Psa 38:1-3)

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)

If God is not willing that any should perish, would He be more likely to kill His enemies or to send arrows of conviction into their consciences in an effort to get them to repent and turn to Him, and not perish eternally? How could destroying your enemies when you are not willing that any should perish be considered a victory? That could only be a loss.

What Type of Lion is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah?

Now, let’s take a closer look at the nature of the lion, again from this verse:

“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” (Rev 5:5)

If He is “the lion of the tribe of Juda,” then He must correspond to the lion identified with the tribe of Judah:

“Judah is a lion’s whelp [“gur” H1482]: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped [bowed] down, he couched [lay down] as a lion (H738), and as an old lion [H8333]; who shall rouse him up?” (Gen 49:9)

There are several different Hebrew words used for lion. In that verse, Judah is identified with “a lion’s whelp” which is a young, even still-nursing, lion cub:

“And say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps [H1482]: among young lions.” (Eze 19:2)


  1. The young of the canine species, and of several other beasts of prey; a puppy; a cub; as a bear robbed of her whelps; lions whelps. (

That the lioness lays down to nourish her whelps indicates that she is nursing them showing that they are very young lion cubs, hardly an animal that is going to physically overcome enemies. Take note that Judah is not called a lion as in a mature lion but more like a lion cub. The mention of Jesus as the lion of Judah in Revelation 5:5 cannot be used to support that His Second Coming is a mission of vengeance and destruction.

Another verse to consider:

“For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.” (Hos 5:14)

“To tear” (“taraph” H2963) can mean to supply with food as in a lioness tearing into its prey to provide smaller pieces for her cubs. “Go away” (“yalak” H3212) is a somewhat uncertain translation as there are so many possible meanings. “I will take away” (“nasa” H5375) can mean:

to lift, lift up
to bear, carry, support, sustain, endure
to take, take away, carry off, forgive

None shall rescue,” in the Hiphil verb form used, can mean “none shall snatch away” as in “I will protect.”

Hosea 5:14 could then be translated as:

“For I will be unto Ephraim as a protecting lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will supply his food; I will support and sustain him, and none shall take him away.” (Hos 5:14, paraphrased)

I mentioned to one contact that I was doing this study and he responded by pointing out that there could be two “lions” in scripture similar to how many items are contrasted:

Lion of the tribe of Judah

The question is whether the Lion of the tribe of Judah is a protecting lion or more like a devouring lion. The Bible clearly states who the roaring, devouring lion is:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8)

Jesus and Satan have nothing in common. See the contrast:

  • Jesus = the lion of Judah = a lion cub, being fed
  • Satan = a roaring lion = looking for someone to eat
  • Jesus “… thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” (Phil 2:6)
  • Satan “… I will be like the most high …” (Isa 14:14)
  • Jesus: “… he humbled himself … obedient unto death …” (Phil 2:8)
  • Satan: “… thine heart was lifted up …” (Eze 28:17)

This lion of the tribe of Judah is not coming with “lightning in his fists” as one popular song goes. Rather, our Awesome God is so awesome because He can overcome while being humble, without using force and while by putting others first because He does respect the free will of others.

An Angry Lamb?

Let’s consider the lamb:

“And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:” (Rev 6:16)

Why don’t they say “hide us from the face of the lion”? They don’t necessarily literally say the words of that verse but that would reflect their thinking at that time. It points out the contradiction between what they believe Jesus to be like and His real character. We need to understand the meaning of wrath/anger when the Bible uses it in relation to God.

It pains their consciences to see that, in fact, He is lamb-like and they have rejected that character. The separation between themselves and Him (Whom they have rejected) will lead to despair and a wish to die.

This verse shows what the attitude of so many has been toward Him:

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Rev 17:14)

“War” is the Greek word “polemeo” (G4170) from which we get “polemics” – a “war” of ideas or philosophies or debate rather than of a physical struggle. Really, it will be a war in their minds, fighting against conviction of sin and pleadings to turn to God. That is consistent with God sending arrows of conviction or asking this pleading question:

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Eze 33:11)

If it is that kind of war, how would He get victory over them?

“I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” (Isa 45:23)

“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Rom 3:4)

God is trying to get everyone to acknowledge, in their judgement of Him, that He has been righteous (as the angels recognize – Rev 16:5) in His dealings with them. That is for a purpose greater even than any individual’s salvation; it is to end the great controversy over Satan’s charges against the justice and the character of God.

Lion or Lamb? It Depends on Your Focus

“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:” (Jam 1:23)

If we are looking at ourselves and interpreting God’s actions according to our own thinking, we will misinterpret. This statement: “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” reflects the psychological phenomenon of projection where people tend to project onto others their own character. That attitude will only reinforce that kind of thinking.

However, if our focus is on the Savior there is a different effect:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18)

We with an “open face,” refers to having no vail or covering obstructing our perception of the glory or character of God. Then our minds are enlightened as to His true character and we begin to take on the characteristics of what we admire in Him. Thus, we are gradually changed to become more like Him.

Key to that change is this process:

“But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart [mind or understanding]. Nevertheless when it (“their heart”) shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.” (2 Cor 3:15-16)

When anyone shall turn with their whole heart/mind to the Lord, realizing that Jesus did portray a God of love, they will be able to read the Old Testament in a new light:

“But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.” (2 Cor 3:14)

That verse clearly speaks of miscomprehension (minds blinded with misunderstanding) in reading the Old Testament. Misunderstanding that is removed with a correct understanding of the mission of Christ which was to reveal His Father’s character. If it is not removed for a particular person, it is most often because they prefer to see God in a character like themselves.

That is referred to as psychological projection. Please see that page which is a continuation of this study.

See a video of a group study on the meaning of the lion of the tribe of Judah.

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