(Investigator 87, 2002
The Bible refers to lions about 150 times. Lions existed in Europe until about 100 CE and in Palestine until about 1400 CE.
Until the 1970s naturalists believed that lions killed their prey by biting through the neck or by breaking the neck with a swat of a paw. C B Rutley, an authority on lions, wrote: "…it kills it by biting at its throat or at the back of its neck." (1967)
George B Schaller (1972) summarized the pervading 20th-century view:
The 20th-century observers probably had modern equipment such as binoculars, vehicles and cameras. If an ancient writer contradicted them we'd, therefore, expect him to be the one who's wrong. Observation is hindered by undergrowth, the presence of other lions, the speed of the chase and, often, by dust. (Carr 1965 pp. 61-62)
Schaller observed lions
for 2,900 hours spread
over three years. (Rensberger 1977) He also examined corpses of
prey to determine how they died.
THE LION STRANGLED
The Bible says:
The lion strangled? Most Bible translations that I checked, especially the literal translations, had "strangled". Some had "tore up" or "killed". The Hebrew for "tore up" is "taraph" and for "strangle", "choke" or "suffocate" it is "chanaq". (Young 1939)
The quote from Nahum 2:12
has "chanaq" in
the Hebrew. This word also occurs in 2 Samuel 17:23 to describe a man's
It seems, then, that some Bible translators found Nahum 2:12 so implausible that they decided to mistranslate it!
Schaller found no evidence of broken necks in the prey. Small prey is often eaten alive. Large prey such as pig, zebra and warthog are strangled by the lion clenching his teeth over the throat or nose. Death takes five or ten minutes.
Rudnai (1973) similarly
Norman Carr (1965), warden of the largest national park in Africa, recognized the truth even before Schaller, "Finally, death comes from strangulation rather than any deft fatal blow to a vital part of the body…" (p. 127)
Schaller found that
lionesses do 90% of the
hunting and lions (males) only 10%. Furthermore the female leads the
to the freshly killed animal. (Rudnai 1973) This seems inconsistent
It's possible that Palestinian lions exhibited more varied behavior than African lions which Schaller and Rudnai studied. Alternatively Nahum 2:12 may refer to the 10% of hunting. After the male kills and has eaten, the female and cubs eat what's left.
Popular jungle movies
often show lions on
the prowl in daylight. The Bible contradicts this image and says that
hunt at night and lie in their dens by day. (Psalm 104:20-22) Carr
"The great majority of kills occur at night." (p. 77) Schaller confirms
that lions lie down 20 hours each day and prowl mainly at night.
LIONS AT PEACE
In picturing future world
peace the prophet
Lions raised among humans often remain tame enough as adults to stay among humans. Author Tippi Hendron lived with "20 big cats" in a canyon north of Los Angeles. (Hendren 1986) Norman Carr raised two lions which, "came bounding up to their master’s whistle and rubbed their mighty heads against him, at the same time thundering out their happy but terrifying greeting." (Carr 1965 p. 6)
Would a lion necessarily
kill a lamb in its
company? Note that lions
learn to catch and kill:
Schaller (p. 263) writes:
If the catching and killing of prey is "learned" could lions learn the alternative behavior of living peacefully with their former prey? The magazine Star Enquirer (1984) described a 1,000-hectare estate in central France where, "Lions, pumas and tigers live peacefully with gazelles, zebras, and antelopes."
Similar events are staged
at the Biblical
Zoo in Jerusalem. The book
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (c. 1980)
– although not
lions – says:
These animals are under
they are placed on display, they are kept separately and well fed so
when they do meet, they are not hungry. Zoological experience has shown
that young carnivores which have not yet killed or hunted do not attack
their cage companions unless they are ravenously hungry. As they get
they are replaced in the same way that the lambs and goats are removed
as they mature since they are also quite capable of attacking the other
animals. (p. 70)
Lions sometimes eat grass. Carr says:
For lions to subsist entirely on vegetation would require different digestive apparatus. This might one day become feasible by genetic engineering. However, it's probable that Isaiah merely mentioned the less common part of the lion’s diet – the "straw" or grass – because of its association with tameness and peace. In other words Isaiah's prophecy would be fulfilled if future lions were tame, ate animal meat supplied by humans, and supplemented their diet with straw/grass/vegetation.
Nowadays wildlife documentaries often show lions closing their jaws over the prey’s windpipe or nose and killing by throttling/strangling. Until the 1970s naturalists did not know this – they got it wrong. The Bible, however, got it right even though its writers lacked modern research methods.
For years I've
demonstrated in Investigator
that the Bible got numerous scientific points correct thousands of
before science did. What does this prove? Perhaps the following:
Carr, N. 1965. Return to
the Wild. Fontana
Hedren, T. & Taylor, T. Life with the Big Cats. New Idea, 18 October, 1986, pp. 38-43.
Reader's Digest, June, 1978, pp 54-57.
Rensberger, B. 1977. The Cult of the Wild. Anchor Press. USA.
Rudnai, J.A. 1973. The Social Life of the Lion. Washington Square East Publishers. USA.
Rutley, C.B. 1967. In, "Childrens' Encyclopedia of Knowledge Book of Wildlife". Collins. Britain. p. 43.
Schaller, G.B. 1972. The Serengeti Lion. University of Chicago Press. USA.
Star Enquirer, February 29, 1984. pp. 32-34.
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. c.1980. Published by Friends of the Swiss Youth Village of Kiryat Yearim. Israel.
Young, R. 1939. Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible. Eighth Edition, Revised. Lutterworth Press. London.