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What Is Stronger than a Lion? Leonine Image and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East


Strawn, Brent A. (2005). What Is Stronger than a Lion? Leonine Image and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Fribourg, Switzerland / Göttingen, Germany: Academic Press / Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Abstract

The present study offers a comprehensive analysis of leonine imagery in the Hebrew Bible. After an introduction that discusses God-language and the theological significance of metaphor (Chapter 1), the biblical lion imagery is typed according to naturalistic or metaphorical use, along with various subdivisions (Chapter 2). When metaphorically employed, biblical lion imagery is found with four referents: the self/righteous, the enemy/wicked, the monarch/mighty one, and the deity. An analysis of the lion in the archaeological record of ancient Israel/Palestine from 1500-332 BCE is then offered (Chapter 3). In addition to finds from excavated sites, unprovenanced seals and related onomastica are discussed. The finds show: a) a common association of the lion with the monarch/mighty one and various deities; b) the presence of lion artifacts in cultic and official contexts; and c) evidence of artistic connections to other regions. Given the latter point, the study proceeds to investigate the use of the lion in the art and literature of the ancient Near East (Chapter 4). This vast corpus is organized according to rubric and function, categorizing the attested imagery as to whether it utilizes the lion as a negative image for the enemy or wicked; as a positive image for the monarch/mighty one or victor; or as an image for the gods and/or goddesses. The widespread use of the lion as a guardian of portals and gateways is also considered. In all three contexts (Hebrew Bible, archaeology of ancient Israel/Palestine, and ancient Near East), it is argued that the function of lion imagery as well as its main tenor in metaphorical presentations seem primarily dependent on the power and threat that this predatory animal represents.
Chapter 5 brings the comparative data of Chapter 4 into dialogue with the materials presented in Chapters 2-3 in order to cast further light on the different uses of the lion in the Hebrew Bible. Similarities and differences are noted and assessed. It is argued that: 1) the lion as trope of threat and power is relatively stable across the different data sets; 2) the use of the lion with monarch/mighty one is quite different (and muted) in the biblical text when compared to the comparative and archaeological materials; 3) the use of the lion with Yahweh is similar in many ways to the comparative and archaeological contexts; and 4) the use of the lion as an image for the enemy is also similar but somewhat more pronounced in the Hebrew Bible (esp. in the Psalms). Possible explanations for #2 are offered, as is an investigation of Yahweh’s leonine profile. That profile could stem from the storm-god composite Baal-Seth or, more probably, from the tradition of violent leonine goddesses (esp. Sekhmet and/or Ishtar). A third possible source for the imagery is the use of militant lion metaphors in ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions if, in fact, Israel’s use is not sui generis.
Chapter 6 concludes the study by returning to the theological and metaphorical significance of zoomorphic imagery. Three appendices (lion terminology, semantic domain of lion imagery, biblical lion passages) and 483 images round out the volume.

Abstract

The present study offers a comprehensive analysis of leonine imagery in the Hebrew Bible. After an introduction that discusses God-language and the theological significance of metaphor (Chapter 1), the biblical lion imagery is typed according to naturalistic or metaphorical use, along with various subdivisions (Chapter 2). When metaphorically employed, biblical lion imagery is found with four referents: the self/righteous, the enemy/wicked, the monarch/mighty one, and the deity. An analysis of the lion in the archaeological record of ancient Israel/Palestine from 1500-332 BCE is then offered (Chapter 3). In addition to finds from excavated sites, unprovenanced seals and related onomastica are discussed. The finds show: a) a common association of the lion with the monarch/mighty one and various deities; b) the presence of lion artifacts in cultic and official contexts; and c) evidence of artistic connections to other regions. Given the latter point, the study proceeds to investigate the use of the lion in the art and literature of the ancient Near East (Chapter 4). This vast corpus is organized according to rubric and function, categorizing the attested imagery as to whether it utilizes the lion as a negative image for the enemy or wicked; as a positive image for the monarch/mighty one or victor; or as an image for the gods and/or goddesses. The widespread use of the lion as a guardian of portals and gateways is also considered. In all three contexts (Hebrew Bible, archaeology of ancient Israel/Palestine, and ancient Near East), it is argued that the function of lion imagery as well as its main tenor in metaphorical presentations seem primarily dependent on the power and threat that this predatory animal represents.
Chapter 5 brings the comparative data of Chapter 4 into dialogue with the materials presented in Chapters 2-3 in order to cast further light on the different uses of the lion in the Hebrew Bible. Similarities and differences are noted and assessed. It is argued that: 1) the lion as trope of threat and power is relatively stable across the different data sets; 2) the use of the lion with monarch/mighty one is quite different (and muted) in the biblical text when compared to the comparative and archaeological materials; 3) the use of the lion with Yahweh is similar in many ways to the comparative and archaeological contexts; and 4) the use of the lion as an image for the enemy is also similar but somewhat more pronounced in the Hebrew Bible (esp. in the Psalms). Possible explanations for #2 are offered, as is an investigation of Yahweh’s leonine profile. That profile could stem from the storm-god composite Baal-Seth or, more probably, from the tradition of violent leonine goddesses (esp. Sekhmet and/or Ishtar). A third possible source for the imagery is the use of militant lion metaphors in ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions if, in fact, Israel’s use is not sui generis.
Chapter 6 concludes the study by returning to the theological and metaphorical significance of zoomorphic imagery. Three appendices (lion terminology, semantic domain of lion imagery, biblical lion passages) and 483 images round out the volume.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Monograph
Communities & Collections:Special Collections > Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis
Dewey Decimal Classification:200 Religion
290 Other religions
930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
Language:English
Date:2005
Deposited On:20 Mar 2018 10:40
Last Modified:31 Jul 2018 05:54
Publisher:Academic Press / Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Series Name:Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis
Volume:212
Number of Pages:587
ISBN:3-7278-1515-9
OA Status:Green
Related URLs:http://www.zora.uzh.ch/id/eprint/54117/

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