Isaiah 5:28 Lion, King of the Beasts

Its roaring is like a lioness, and it roars like young lions; it growls as it seizes the prey and carries it off with no one to deliver it. And it will growl over it in that day like the roaring of the sea. If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress; even the light is darkened by its clouds. 

This is the description of the army invading Israel. Culturally in Israel, lions were known as the king of the beasts with their size and strength. Lions generally are not man eaters. If a lion eats a man, it is a threat to eat a man again. Lions once were in the land of Israel. This is not the case at this point in time.

Look at the different ways Scripture describes a lion. Proverbs 19:12a The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion… A roaring lion is like a king’s rage and fury. Proverbs 20:2 The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; He who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life. A growling lion is dreadful and fearsome. When angered, it will cost you your life. Proverbs 28:1b …But the righteous are bold as a lion. Confidence is exuded by the lion. Proverbs 30:30 The lion which is mighty among beasts and does not retreat before any…There is no fear in the lion. The lion bows to nobody and keeps coming. Jeremiah 2:30b …Your sword has devoured your prophets like a destroying lion. The lion is compared to an eating and consuming lion.

When one looks at the idiomatic description of the invading army to a lion, you get rage, fury, wrath, terror, dread, fear, and death. The army is confident, bold, pressing, consuming, and devouring.

Finally, darkness has fallen upon the land. Scholars debate whether this darkness is literal or idiomatic. With all the death and destruction caused by this destructive army, it is easy to understand how this could be idiomatic. It would be figuratively dark with the level of death described in these verses.

It could also be a physical reality. The book of Joel describes a time in the future during “The Day of the Lord” when Israel is visited by an invading army and the physical world is literally darkened.  Joel 2:2a A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness. Joel 2:10 Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. Joel 3:15 The sun and moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. Remember these same references to the progression of physical darkness in Revelation. The culmination of darkness occurs in Revelation 9:2 He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. Jesus Himself references the physical darkness on the earth prior to His coming in Mark 13:24. Jesus is quoting Joel 2:10, 3:15.

It does not have to be one or the other, the darkness can be both figurative and literal.

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