Joel warns the people of God that judgment will come upon them like a locust plague. He calls them to wake up to the reality of their situation. He rebukes the people for their luxurious lifestyles and excessive indulgences, and then he gets specific on the judgment that’s about to come. In Joel 1:6-7 God lays out the devastation, “For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and beyond number; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white.”  It’s almost like Joel is describing what the land would look like after a locust plague passed through. But these locusts were more like lions! The produce of the field would be either eaten or destroyed. The bark of trees would be torn away, exposing the naked wood. The nation had just experienced a devastating locust plague, and they all remembered that experience. What was coming would be multiplied greatly as much as a predator the size of a lion would do more damage to a predator the size of a locust.

There were so many of them that they could not be counted. “The strength of the locusts is defined not only by their numbers but also by their voracious appetite and ability to devour anything in their path. And thus, the seer describes these hostile, countless intruders as possessing some formidable weapons: the teeth of a lion and the fangs of a lioness. The lion is often used to picture enemies who attack the people of God. In typical Hebrew poetical style, the locust’s ability to tear and shred is described by a parallel phrase: And it has the fangs of a lioness. The lioness is occasionally employed as a symbol of violence.”[1] Wikipedia says that the lion is an ancient Babylonian symbol and symbolically represents the King of Babylon. The lion imagery that Joel employs might very well represent the massive Babylonian army that would do the invading.

I’m moved by 1 Peter 5:8. It describes our enemy as a devouring lion. It says, “Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This is a familiar verse, but we must remember that it uses a simile. Just to refresh your high school English a simile is a figure of speech comparing one thing with another to make a description more vivid or colorful. The Babylonian Army is not made of lions. Satan is not a lion. The Army and Satan are “Like” a prowling lion. There is a fascinating video of two lions fighting to see who will be king of the pride.[2] They will also fight over the right to mate with a fertile female as well. With the lion imagery being used in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, I can’t help but think that the authors understood lions better than we do. The Messiah is also figuratively referred to as a lion in both the Old Testament and the New. The word “Satan” actually means “Adversary.” There is a battle between two forces. Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and Satan, the prowling lion wanting to devour us. I’m pleased to quote the book of Revelation here. One of the elders, in John’s vision, sees his anxiety and says, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Revelation 5:5).

[1] Busenitz, Irvin A. 2003. Commentary on Joel and Obadiah. Mentor Commentaries. Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.

[2] Wildlife: Two Lions Fight to See Who’s King! – YouTube