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Lion of Wrath

LION OF WRATH (Heb. כְּפִיר הֶחָרוֹן, kefir he-Haron), character mentioned in the Nahum and Hosea commentaries from Qumran Cave 4 (4QpNahum). In the comment on Nahum 2:12ff., where Nineveh is described as "the den of the lions… the feeding-place of the young lions (kefirim)," to which the lion brought home his prey – "he filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh." These last words, says the Qumran commentator, refer to "the lion (kefir) of wrath, who smote with his mighty ones and the men of his counsel" and "took vengeance on the *Seekers after Smooth Things, in that he proceeded to hang them up alive [which was never done] in Israel before, for concerning one hung up alive on wood the Scripture says…" What the Scripture says is that he is an "affront to God" (Deut. 21:23). But the Scripture envisages the hanging of the body of an executed criminal on a tree until sunset; the commentator on Nahum has in mind something much more atrocious – hanging men up alive, or crucifying them. That such a thing "was never done in Israel before" implies that the perpetrator was an Israelite – not that he was a gentile ruler mistreating Israelites thus, like Nebuchadnezzar (Lam. 5:12) or Antiochus IV (Jos., Ant. 12:256). If he was an Israelite, the first Israelite ruler recorded to have crucified his enemies is Alexander Yannai, who in 88 B.C.E., having defeated his rebellious subjects who enlisted the aid of Demetrius III (Eukairos) against him, made an example of 800 of their leaders by crucifying them in Jerusalem (Jos., Wars 1:97; Ant. 13:380). This identification is supported by the commentator's reference in the same context to "[Deme-]trius, king of Javan, who sought to enter Jerusalem by the counsel of the Seekers after Smooth Things" – especially if the latter group should be identified with the Pharisees, whose sufferings at the hands of Yannai were long remembered in rabbinic tradition. Other identifications, however, have been suggested for the Lion of Wrath, ranging from Antiochus IV (preferred by H.H. Rowley) to John of Gischala (so C. Roth) and Simeon Bar Giora (so G.R. Driver).


Allegro, in: JBL, 75 (1965), 89ff. (containing the editio princeps of 4Qp–Nahum); Rowley, in: PEFQS, 88 (1956), 107ff.; C. Roth, Historical Background of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1958), 40ff., 84; G.R. Driver, Judaean Scrolls (1965), 288ff.

[Frederick Fyvie Bruce]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.