Chapter 73 - There’s A Roaring Lion Waiting To Devour You
What Is The Lion That Is Seeking To Devour
Peter saw the need to instruct these believers on many things and in Chapter 5, we are given instructions for various groups of people. In these instructions, Peter sets out the required treatment of elders towards their flock and younger believers who are less experienced towards the Elders who lead and model the faith appropriately. Contained in this exhortation is a warning. The warning is commonly believed by some to be a warning against a “satanic” force that is ever on the prowl to try to do damage to the servant of God. Peter is a Hebrew teacher with similar styles of teaching as Paul and other contemporary Rabbis. Using metaphor and employing imagery to punctuate his message, Peter has done one of two things in referring to the adversary as the “roaring lion.” What he is not doing is referring to the Persian concept of a literal Satan. If this reference to the “devil” is supposed to indicate an actual being then so too should the reference to this being walking be literal. If the Lion is literal then we must expect that the reference to the lion walking around is also literal. So is Peter referring to an actual entity here? Here is the verse in question;
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
The answer to if Peter is referring to an actual being is simple. We simply need to consider the import of the imagery of a Lion walking around in order to conquer its prey. Noting how it is said to be the devil that is ambling about in a quest for souls to devour. Let’s take a look at where a serpent is spoken of in the book of Genesis.
And the serpent was more crafty than all the beasts of the field. Genesis 3:1
Scholars have long tried to apply the references to a “dragon” and “serpent” from Revelation to the mention of a Serpent in the Garden. It is suggested by most Christian theologians that they are the same and they are referring to a cosmic Satan or at least a manifestation of Satanic ability.(See the comments on Revelation 12 and 20 in Chapters 16 and 20 above) This application has brought them to predominantly interpret backwards onto the Garden serpent as being “Satan.” However, in the garden when this serpent is cursed for deceiving the woman, Yahweh assigns it the curse that it will slither on the ground for all of its days. Here however, in Peter’s letter, we are told the “devil,” which is also believed to be Satan and the serpent, is “walking.” If we plan to be consistent in our interpretation of the Scriptures and the Apostolic testimony, then we must agree that the “devil” has found a way out of the curse imposed upon him by Yahweh.
Did Satan Break The Curse God Placed On Him?
How can the serpent be Satan and have been cursed to slither on its belly forever, yet is found to be walking according to Peter? To be cursed to slither forever very clearly means one cannot walk. The curse is not apparent on this devil/serpent who is walking about in the similitude of a prowling lion. If this is the case and Satan is not obeying his assigned curse, then either the devil has repented and had the curse removed at some point, which is unannounced to anyone anywhere, or the “devil” is able to supersede Yahweh’s will, making him a God like Yahweh. We then are left with two Gods and Yahweh becomes a liar. If on the other hand Peter is not referring to a cosmic Satan, then either he is referring to a human force in the form of the Roman persecutors or he is referring to the subtle power of sin in a believer’s life. Let me explain both and perhaps we will see the possibility of a combination of these two concepts being intended by Peter.
Watch Closely And You’ll See Sin Jump
An exploration of this thought starts back in the beginning. In the Book of Genesis, Cain is given a warning by the Creator that sin is waiting at the door;
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth(rawbawts) at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
In that passage, the Hebrew word rawbawts, used in describing the behavior of sin, is a vivid term for the power of sin. To say sin is something lying at the door and having desire is a way to express the subtle and always present threat we humans face. The threat though, is not from a literal lion nor from a supernatural satan, rather it is from our evil inclination. There is always a threat we might submit to our own evil desires and choose to sin. We see the same word used in Genesis 49 where it is implicitly connected to a lion. The Hebrew definition of rawbawts is placed below.
Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched(rawbawts) as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
A primitive root; to crouch (on all four legs folded, like a recumbent animal); by implication to recline, repose, brood, lurk, imbed: - crouch (down), fall down, make a fold, lay (cause to, make to) lie (down), make to rest, sit.
We all know sin does not lay down in the fashion a person lays down and we all know sin cannot have a personality that allows it to “desire” in the same way a human is able to desire. However, this passage in Genesis personifies the sin that has the potential to overcome us. The passage shows sin as both desiring something and as lying down. An example in colloquial terminology that personifies a behavior or characteristic would be, “I have a ferocious appetite.” Another example of the personification of a behavior or human feeling is heard in the familiar adage, “Curiosity killed the cat.” No more can a feeling of hunger be literally said to be ferocious than can “curiosity” throw an adventurous cat out of a tall tree into the path of an oncoming car thus killing the cat. As ridiculous as that may sound, the point can be made, the portrayal of intense, human-like actions, attitudes, or behaviors as being autonomous personality occurs frequently in the English language. English is little different from the language of Peter in its use of metaphors and personification of human behaviors and traits. Consider the following list of behaviors and emotions. Look closely and you could ostensibly claim each emotion is a literal being. If you were to read these phrases with the same interpretive practice most read of Peter’s roaring lion devil, the reader might begin to see a literal entity in what is simply a descriptive term for each of the following.
- “Emotions got the best of me.”
- “Surrounded by Love.”
- “Overcome with Anger.”
- “Blinded by Passion.”
- “Killing with Kindness.”
- “Deceived by Greed.”
- “Paralyzed by Fear.”
- “Stricken with Guilt.”
- “Burning with Passion.”
Language from any period of history must be examined under the microscope of the period of origin for it to be understood. This manner of personification of human traits and behaviors was even more frequent in the ancient Eastern language and the Hebraic/Aramaic culture. To put it simply, personification is representation of an object or concept as if it were a person. An example, as we discussed previously, is seen in Proverbs when we are told how “wisdom” behaves. Although no one would ever believe wisdom to be a literal and tangible being with the ability to make decisions and choices, Proverbs speaks of wisdom as if it were human;
20 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:
21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,
Sin is personified in Genesis. The word used to tell how sin “lies at the door” should be translated “couches.” To hear “sin couches at the door”, gives sin the characteristic of a couching lion waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting victim.
…sin lieth (rawbawts) at the door.
Sin is personified in Genesis in the same way the devil is personified in 1st Peter. To Peter, diabolos is sin and sin is always ready to pounce.
Peter then, may be saying the adversary who walks about as a “roaring lion” is in fact sin. Peter is not afraid to personify sin. And calling it the “devil” has in no way made this adversary to be a real entity in the minds of Peter or his hearers. Personification of sin is meant to refer to that which is a lie and is opposed to the man who wants to do the will of God. Understanding the allusion to a couching lion in Genesis helps us understand what the roaring lion is in the New Testament. Sin is definitely in opposition to us often as the word diabolos intones. And indeed it will pounce on any of us if we are not careful to watch for how and where it will sneak into our lives.
Do We See A Roaring Lion Elsewhere?
To the hearers of Peter’s letter, the diaboloswas not an entity but a force originating from a human source such as the choice to sin. Another option to explain what Peter was saying when he said the adversary is like a roaring lion, is to understand what the “the devil” was according to Peter. And to Peter and his persecuted audience, the roaring lion was referring to the Roman persecutors. These persecutors did not persecute only believers but brought affliction on many who would not submit and declare complete allegiance to Rome. Those who would not declare Kurios Caesar, Caesar is Lord, would suffer severe Roman penalty. Many who suffered punishment, trials, and distress at her hands, saw Rome as “satan” and the “devil”. Peter and the recipients of his letter thought the same. Which is only to say, Rome was the “adversary” and the “opposer” of the believing community and in so being, Rome may well have been seen as the Roaring Lion.
This possibility is sensible when one recognizes that affliction is brought on by others humans who are “in the world.” The probability of Peter referring to Rome as a “roaring lion” and the “devil” is notable when we consider what Proverbs and Zephaniah say. Proverbs calls a wicked ruler a roaring liar and Zephaniah identifies this term as a metaphor for leaders.
As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.
Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
Peter told the believers they are to resist Rome’s persecution by being exemplary citizens and models of strong faith. The persecutions that were to be foisted upon these believers have been foisted upon others who live in other cities. Even upon others who are of the same faith as those Peter was writing to.
What Was Peter Thinking When He Mentioned A Roaring Lion?
In Ezekiel, we are given an example of men who have persecuted others to the death. This reference calls these men “roaring lions who devour”. Peter was well versed in the writings of the prophets and would not have made a similar statement using lion imagery without having this statement in Ezekiel in mind;
There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.
The believers Peter was writing to were called to withstand the Roman influence and persecution. The exhortation was a call to be “firm against onset”, as is meant by the word “steadfast”. It was likely this adversarial human force represented by the Roman persecutors was what Peter was calling a roaring lion and a devil. Others had suffered under the mighty hand of the Romans as Peter identifies by informing his audience that other brethren in the world have endured oppression from governments. And Peter wanted to encourage the believers it will not be easy living for Yahweh in the Roman world. But, if they were resolute in their faith,
they would receive the grace necessary to remain strong and ultimately benefit in spirit if not physically. They would grow in ways that would glorify Yahweh and although they are likely going to suffer, ultimately, God’s team will prevail. With the foregoing in mind, try now to read the roaring lion passage with the view that the devil is either the inclination in man that desires to sin or it is the Roman persecutors who desire to squash those who reject Caesar as Lord.
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
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