Give thANKHs Khulani for the wordsound!
Indeed, "The Lion of Judah" was known LONG LONG before any biblical interpretations!
The Lion of the South:
Apedemek the Lion was one of the most important gods of ancient Kush. A warrior god, he symbolized the regality, strength and the courage of the African Lion. The lion was also viewed as the emissary of the sun; a totem symbolizing light, truth, regeneration, and fertility.
Apedemek might have been a special kushitic aspect of the ancient kushitic progenitor God Amun, the hidden one, the eternal God, the father of all the Gods and men. The Kushites sometimes called Amun the Lion of the South. Similarly, Apedemek the lion godman, was also known as the Lion of the South, Strong of Arm.
In times of war, trouble, or threats from the foreign powers, Apedemek was especially important to the Kushites. In a sense he was a god of political redemption, ever with his devotees, steadfast and strong. The Kushites swore by his potency, he was much venerated, his cult was widespread, and his symbols dominated national consciousness.
Apedemek was usually depicted as a man with a lion's head wearing a crown, sometimes he was depicted with a scepter and at other times with some instrument of war. He was alternatively depicted in classical Kushite bas-reliefs as a man with a woman, or as a lion devouring the enemies of the nation. A depiction of the god , at the Apedemek temple in Naqa near Meroe shows the lion of the south in a three headed form striking a poise strikingly similar to yoga positions.
The Lord of the Royal Power:
Apedemek was the guardian of the Kushitic royal family as such he was also known as â€œthe lord of royal power. The lion was the totemic symbol of the Kushite royal family. Thus Apedemek the conquering lion of the south was fervently venerated by the royal family. Even today the image of the lion Apedemek remains pervasive among the ruins of Napata and Meroe.
The symbol of the lion was depicted along high streets, at intersections, carved on temples and palaces. It was also the royal insignia.
The royal house of Kush established and patronized lion sanctuaries (living symbols of Apedemek), and temples associated with Apedemek such as the Apedemek Temple at Naqa south of Meroe. Lions were also favored as royal pets. Lion thrones were much favoured by the kings of Kush.
Thus one could rightly describe the kings of Kush as the original lion kings. The clients of a lion god that protected them by devouring their enemies just like the lions depicted on pictograms on the walls of numerous kushite temples. Those kings were the original royal priesthood of the lion god of the south.
It is trite knowledge now that the Egyptians described themselves as the descendants of the Kushites. Egypt is the gift of the river Nile following richness of soil and human inspiration from the inner depths of Africa to the costal waters of Egypt.
The Egyptians learned many things from the early Kushites including the knowledge of the science and the gods. According to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus who had traveled in Egypt around 60 BC it was widely claimed that:
“the Egyptians are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians, Osiris [“King of Kings and God of Gods] having been the leader of the colony . . . they add that the Egyptians have received from them, as from authors and their ancestors, the greater part of their laws.”
It is then not surprising that Apedemek just like all the other gods of Kush turned up in ancient Egypt. But in Egypt, the adoration of Apedemek was subliminated and took on dramatic forms.
In Egypt, Apedemek was venerated in the district of Kom Ombo in Philae Island, and at Kalabsha near its borders with Kush, and at Bubastis and Leontopolis (two cities situated in the Nile delta).
The lion was a powerful symbol in ancient Egypt as it represented strength and courage. The great cat was also considered the supreme guardian. Tamed lions sometimes accompanied kings into battle to confer their beneficence and protection to the entire army as the physical presence of the great lion god Apedemek. Also, the lion was connected with the rising and setting of the sun and was thought to be ancient guardian of the horizon.
The primordial cult of the lion later developed other aspects manifested in the forms of the more popular leonine gods like the Sphinx, Sekmet, Aker (double sphinx), and Tefnut.
The god Aker was the double form sphinx who was thought to guard the sun as it entered and exited this worldly horizon. Shu, god of the dry air was a lion-headed god, while Tefnut goddess of moist air was represented as a lioness-headed deity.
Sekhmet a lioness headed deity represented the destructive aspect of the power of the lion cult. Sekhmet appears to be the ancient feminine form of the lion Apedemek. She was said to have relentlessly pursued and destroyed the enemies of Ra, in the day that humans rebelled against him.
Current archaeological research has connected ancient links between, Sekhmet, the Egyptian lion goddess and the Kushite cult of the lion. This connection may belong to the pre-dynastic Egypt and as such indicates positively that the lion goddess could have been originally introduced into Egypt from Kush.
Nefertem and Bes, two male deities were also linked with the symbol of the lion from Kush. Nefertem was a lion-headed sun god of the lotus, healing and perfume. Bes dwarf god of sexuality and childbirth, was depicted with either the ears and mane of a lion or as wearing a lion-skin cape.
Moreover, the ancient Egyptians conceived Hathor, goddess of love, as the Eye of Ra and so she was also linked to lionesses. The cobra goddess, Wadjet, in a similar fashion had a lioness form when she was identified as the Eye of Ra.
The Lion in Diaspora:
Imperial Egypt of Thutmosis III (1500BC) spread the civilization of Egypt and Kush all over the world. Egyptian and Kushitic religious thoughts, symbols, traditions and rituals became pre-dominant in the ancient world right till the 4th century AD with the destruction of the temple of Isis at Philae by Emperor Justinian of Rome. Until this barbaric act of ethno-chauvinism, the Kushite goddess Isis was the primary deity of the ancient world. She was worshipped throughout the Palestine and Arabia, Asia Minor, Greece as far as Babylon and Persia.
It was Homer and Herodotus who suggested that almost all the ancient gods and goddesses of ancient Greece were Egyptian in origin. A critical examination would make the same suggestion in respect of Persia, Sumer, Babylon, classical Arabia, and Canaan.
The lion god along with its cult of royal priesthood was equally widespread in the ancient Diaspora. Virtually all the lions symbols and cults of that one encounters in ancient cultures can be traced to the ancient Apedemek of Kush, great of strength renowned in wonders, the great lion god of the south.
One of the most famous derivatives of Apedemek the lion of Kush was the leonine tribal god and its kingly priest cult of Judah, otherwise known as the lion of Judah, strong of the arm (read: the conquering lion of Judah) and the royal line of David.
The Judahite Lion:
We know that the ancient Hebrews were deeply influenced by Egyptian culture and symbols in their religious practices. For instance, a Hebrew tradition held that Moses was a master in all aspects of Egyptian sciences and philosophy.
It is also trite that after years of having colonized and civilized Palestine, Egypt left indelible cultural and religious signature in Palestine. The Canaanites had their patheon of Egyptian derived gods and goddesses like Bel, Ashtoreth, Herackles, Imohtep etc.
The Hebrews were not any different than the other equally less prominent tribes and nations of those times. The model of the Hebrew god has been said to be based on Amun, while others have made a case for Aton, the one indivisible god introduced by Akhenaten.
Several ancient Hebrew tribes had animal symbols or totem similar to what one would observe in ancient Egypt. Genesis 49 listed their associated symbols. Issachar was a strong ass, Dan was a serpent, Naphtali was a hind, and Gad translated to goat. Finally, Benjamin a wolf, and Judah symbol was a lion, the primordial lion, on its journey from Kush to Egypt on to Palestine.
The Lion Of Judah:
The cultural connections between the lion of Judah and the lion of the South cannot be ignored. Just like in Kush, the lion of Judah was the symbol of strength in a troubled world. Just as in Kush, the lion of Judah was also a symbol of the royal mandate and heritage of the ruling house of Judah. The lion protected and provided redemption to the royal house of Judah in its time of trouble.
Israelites of Judah extraction were very pre-occupied with the imagery of the lion just like in Kush. The lion was the protector of Judah, the defender of the royal crown and the nation. Due to the virility, the lion is ascribed with regenerative powers. The royal house of Judah had a tradition of a lion as a messiah. A man like David, a true lion hearted hero who would bring judgments to the heathen nations.
King Solomon was often symbolized as a lion. He was supposed to have been brave and wise like a lion. Tradition has it that Solomon had lion sanctuaries in his palace at Jerusalem. He had lion pets. Even his throne was a copy of the lion throne that was more likely to be found in Kush where Apedemek has been long venerated than in Judah which had been associated with a complex of faceless gods, mountain gods, volcanic gods, baals, bulls, and astoreths.
According to the old testament: Solomon’s throne, had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays [handrests] on either side on the place of the seat and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps there was not the like made in any kingdom.”– First Book of Kings (10: 19-20).
The Axumite Connection:
The Axumite Ethiopian Imperial House (The Lion Of Judah):
The Axumite Kingdom of Kush came to replace the Meroite kingdom of Kush after the latter faded in prominence. King Ezana of Axum was known to have sacked the ancient city of Meroe about 350 AD. At that time, it was said that the Mereoites had departed Meroe and another people called the Nobas lived there.
King Ezana of Ethiopia was the first Axumite king to have adopted Christianity. This was after more than two thousand years a mix of kushitic/proto-semitic religious philosophy.
Yet, since it has been argued that Axum was always under the influence of Kush in the ancient times as to be considered one of its districts, it is reasonable to assume that the knowledge and veneration of the great gods of Kush was wide spread in Axum including Apedemek the lion of the south. It appears thus, that even as time has moved on, the veneration of Apedemek of the south continues on today in his original territory of Kush, by one of the original peoples of Kush, in the form more universally known today as the Ethiopian lion of Judah.
ORIGINAL LION OF JUDAH