Once upon a time, I was in Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco and bought a huge fabric mural wall hanging of Bob Marley with a smile, which adorns an entrance wall in my home. It completely covers the wall with Rasta colors, and has a Lion of Judah in each corner. The BobMarley.com brand and the Lion are inseparable and the history of King Solomon lives on through Rastafarian legend, as well as Ethiopian history.
The Lion of Judah (Hebrew: אריה יהודה Aryeh Yehudah) is a Jewish national and cultural symbol, traditionally regarded as the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah. According to the Torah, the tribe consists of the descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. The association between Judah and the lion can first be found in the blessing given by Jacob to his son Judah in the Book of Genesis.
The Lion of Judah is also mentioned in the Book of Revelation, as a term representing Jesus, according to Christian theology. The lion of Judah was also one of the titles of the Solomonic Emperors of Ethiopia. It was depicted on a map of the Upper Nile published in 1683 by the Italian Jobi Ludolfi describing the Lion of Judah symbol as the Royal Insignia of the Ethiopian empire. The Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia lasted three thousand years according and has its patrilineal origin in the Israelite Royal House of Judah.
The Lion of Judah served as the hereditary title of the Solomonic Ethiopian emperors including Menelik and Haile Selassie and was depicted on the flag of Ethiopia from 1897 to 1974. Due to its association with Haile Selassie, it continues to be an important symbol among members of the Rastafari movement.
There’s plenty of incredible art and artifacts related to this big biblical cat, so I assembled a gallery of some of my favourites, here:
Lion of Zion make reference to a very specific place
Zion (Hebrew: צִיּוֹן Ṣîyōn, modern Tsiyyon; also transliterated Sion, Sayon, Syon, Tzion, Tsion) is a placename often used as a synonym for Jerusalem as well as for the biblical Land of Israel as a whole. The word is first found in 2 Samuel 5:7 which dates from c. 630–540 BCE according to modern scholarship. It originally referred to a specific hill in Jerusalem (Mount Zion), located to the south of Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount).
Mount Zion held a Jebusite fortress of the same name that was conquered by David and was re-named the City of David; see Names of Jerusalem. That specific hill (“mount”) is one of the many squat hills that form Jerusalem, which also includes Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount), the Mount of Olives, etc. Over many centuries, until as recently as the Ottoman era, the city walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt many times in new locations, so that the particular hill known as Mount Zion is no longer inside the city wall, but its location is now just outside the portion of the Old City wall forming the southern boundary of the Jewish Quarter of the current Old City. Most of the original City of David itself is thus also outside the current city wall.
The term Tzion came to designate the area of Davidic Jerusalem where the fortress stood, and was used as well as synecdoche for the entire city of Jerusalem; and later, when Solomon’s Temple was built on the adjacent Mount Moriah (which, as a result, came to be known as the Temple Mount) the meanings of the term Tzion were further extended by synecdoche to the additional meanings of the Temple itself, the hill upon which the Temple stood, the entire city of Jerusalem, the entire biblical Land of Israel, and “the World to Come“, the Jewish understanding of the afterlife.