TALOFA FROM THE SOUTH
Lion of the Tribe of Judah
Did you ever wonder about the symbolism of the Lion of the tribe of Judah?
The connection of Solomon, as the chief of the tribe of Judah, with the lion, which was the achievement of the tribe, has caused this expression to be referred, in the third degree, to him who brought light and immortality to light. The old Christian interpretation of the Masonic symbols here prevails; and in Ancient Craft Masonry all allusions to the lion, as the lions paw, the lions grip, etc., refer to the doctrine of the resurrection taught by him who is known as the lion of the tribe of Judah. The expression is borrowed from the Apocalypse, Behold, the lion which is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. The lion was also a medieval symbol of the resurrection, the idea being founded on a legend. The poets of that age were fond of referring to this legendary symbol in connection with scriptural idea of the tribe of Judah. Thus Adam de St. Victor says:
Thus the strong lion of Judah
The gates of cruel death being broken,
Arose on the third day
At the loud-sounding voice of the Father.
The lion was the symbol of strength and sovereignty, in the human-headed figures of the Nimrod gateway, and in other Babylonish remains. In Egypt, it was worshiped at the city of Leontoplis as typical of Dom, the Egyptian Hercules. Plutarch says that the Egyptians ornamented their temples with gaping lions mouths, because the Nile began to rise when the sun was in the constellation Leo. Among the Talmudists there was a tradition of the lion, which has been introduced into the higher degrees of Masonry.
But in the symbolism of Ancient Craft Masonry, where the lion is introduced, as in the third degree, in connection with the "lion of the tribe of Judah, he becomes simply a symbol of the resurrection; thus restoring the zymology of the medieval ages, which was founded on a legend that the lions whelp was born dead, and only brought to life by the roaring or its sire.
Philip de Thaun, in his Bestiary, written in the twelfth century, gives the legend, which has thus been translated by Mr. Wright from the original old Norman French:
Know that the lioness, if she bring forth a dead cub, she holds her cub and the lion arrives; he goes about and cries, till it revives on the third day...Know that the lioness signifies St. Mary, and the lion Christ, who gave himself to death for the people; three days he lay in the earth to gain our souls... By the cry of the lion they understand the power of God, by which Christ was restored to life and robbed hell.
The phrase, Lion of the tribe of Judah, therefore when used in Masonic ritual, referred in its original interpretation to Christ, him who brought life and immortality to light.