Page images
[ocr errors]

bable, that he alluded to some more remarkable adversary, as Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, or Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon; both of whom, were not less ferocious and destructive, than the savage by which they were symbolized.

The enemies of the church are intended in another periphrasis, by the same writer : “ Rebuke the company of the spearmen, (or more literally, the wild beast of the reed), the multitude of the bulls with the calves of the people.” The wild beast of the reed probably means the boar out of the forest, that fixes his usual residence among the reeds of the marsh, from whence he issues to devastate the neighbouring fields and vineyards :

66 tenet ima lacuna
Lenta salix, ulvæque, leves, juncique palustres,
Viminaque, et longa parva sub arundini cannæ;
Hinc aper excitus, medios violentus in hostes
Fertur, ut excussis elisus nubibus ignis."

Ovid. Met.

Some writers, however, understand it of the hippopotamus, that, like the boar, loves to repose “ under the shady trees, in the covert of the reeds and fens.” It is not easy to determine to which of these stupendous tenants of the marsh, the sacred writer alludes : nor is the question of much importance; for the meaning is the same, and the figure equally beautiful and striking.

u Ps. lxxviii, 30.



The Lion. The Leopard. The Bear.-The Wolf. The Hyæna..

The Fox.

The Lion. Among the beasts of prey to which the Scriptures allude, the first place is due to the lion. That noble animal is strongly made, and of an elegant and majestic form. A stranger to fear, and conscious as it were of his pre-eminent strength, he looks around him with an air of superiority; and when he walks, it is with peculiar gracefulness and ease. Isidore and other writers call him the king of beasts.b The companions of Samson admitted his strength to be equal, at least, to that of the most powerful animal that ranges the forest : “ What,” said they, “is stronger than a lion ?" Solomon, directed by the Spirit of inspiration, proceeds a step farther, and pronounces him the strongest among

beasts. These statements are confirmed by the testimony of many common writers of undoubted veracity.

Homer declares, that with one shake he breaks the neck of an ox:

Της δ' εξ αυχεν εαξε, λαβων κραθεροισιν οδεσι. Il. lib. xi, 1. 175.

a Bochart. Hierož. lib. iii, p. 713. Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. viii, cap. 17. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. iv, cap. 34, and lib. v, cap. 39. Buffon's Nat. Hist. vol. v, p. 68, 70.

Lib. xii, cap. 2. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. xv, cap. 17.
Judges xiv, 18.

a Prov. xxx, 30.

[ocr errors]

And assures us, that he sometimes carries off the largest and fattest ox in the herd, and breaks his neck, having first seized him with his strong teeth :

“Ως δ' οτε τις σε λεων ορεσιτροφος αλκι πεποιθως

Βοσκομενης αγελης βουν αρπαση, ητις αριστη. ΙΙ. lib. xvii, 1. 61, 62. Mr. Forbes had the singular felicity, when in the East Indies, to see the lion rush furiously on a goat which had been tied to a tree by way of lure, and seizing it by the neck, with one shake break the bone, and instantly deprive the animal of life. According to some natural historians, the strength of the lion is so prodigious, that a single stroke of his paw is sufficient to break the back of a horse, and one sweep with his tail will throw a strong man to the ground. It is, therefore, with great force and propriety the royal Psalmist, in his pathetic lamentation for Saul and Jonathan, says, “ They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions." h

The courage of the lion is equal to his prodigious strength. Conscious that no beast of the forest dares to disturb his repose, he sleeps in the open air. According to Homer, a lion reared in the mountains, that has been long without food, is impelled by his fearless intrepidity, to attack the crowded fold; and although he find it guarded by dogs and armed men, he does not abandon his enterprize, but boldly leaps into the midst of the flock and seizes his prey, or is himself wounded by a dart thrown from a skilful hand.i In another passage, Menelaus yields to Hector, like a full grown lion, which dogs and men have driven with spears and much clamour from the sheep cote; his resolute heart is deeply affected with grief, and he reluctantly leaves the fold. This beautiful and striking figure, Virgil has imitated in these words:

e See also lib. v, 1. 160.

f Oriental Memoirs, vol. iii, p. 92. & Aristotel. Hist, lib. i, cap. 1. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. xii, cap. 39. h 2 Sam. i, 23.

i Iliad, lib. xii, 1. 299 ; lib. xviii, l. 461; and lib. xvii, 1. 109-112. Aristot. Hist, lib. ix, cap. 44.

" ceu sævum turba leonem
Cum telis premit infensis, at territus ille,
Asper, acerba tuens, retro redit. Et neque terga
Ira dare aut virtus patitur, nec tendere contra
Ille, quidem hoc cupiens, potis est per tela virosque.”

Æn. lib. ix, 1. 791. “ As with annoying darts, a troop of hunters persecute a fierce lion; while the appalled savage, surly, louring stern, flinches back, nor rage, nor courage, suffer him to fly; nor can he, for darts and men (though fain indeed he would), make head against them.”j

Still more sublime and beautiful are the figures of the sacred writers; while their striking similarity proves

that they drew them from the same scource, they copied from the same works: “ For thus hath the Lord spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase him, self for the noise of them: so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof." The fearless courage of this destroyer was never described with greater energy and elegance, than by the prophet Nahum : “ Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion walked, and the lions' whelp, and none made him afraid? The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.”l i Davidson k Isa. xxxi, 4.

Nah. ii, 11, 12



This noble animal has been considered as the most perfect model of boldness and courage in every age, and among every people acquainted with his history; and to say that a man is bold as a lion, is to reward his intrepidity with the highest degree of praise : “ He that is valiant,” said Hushai to Absalom, “ whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt." m He never flies from the hunters, nor is frightened by their onset. But if their number forces him to yield, he retires slowly, step by step, frequently turning upon his pursuers. Such is the fearless intrepidity which the unequivocal tokens of divine favour, and the approbation of a good conscience, impart to the mind of a righteous person : “ The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” The Greek and Roman authors abound in the same figures ; Homer says that Hercules had the heart of a lion, (suponeoyta), and he distinguishes Achilles by the same epithet. The courage of the lion prompts him to go

in his prey, and to meet it in the open field; he has been known to attack a whole caravan, and when obliged to retire, he always retires fighting, and with his face to his enemy.”p To this trait in his character, Job seems to allude in his complaint to God: “ Thou huntest me as a fierce lion." There are times, however, when he does not disdain to lie in wait for his prey, and spring suddenly upon it from his lurking place. To this less honourable habit, the Psalmist alludes in his description of a wicked man: “ He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den; he lieth in wait to catch the poor."q

quest of


Sam. xvii, 10. n Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. ix, c. 44. P Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. iv, cap. 34.

Prov. xxviii, 1. 1 Ps. x, 3.

« PreviousContinue »