The lion shall lay down with the lamb

This is a popularly misquoted passage from Scripture. From filtering into pop culture to influencing Christian kitsch, the image of a lamb sweetly nestled into the side of a powerful lion is one that resonates. We are often asked from where comes this image.

The image has developed from a different juxtaposition of animals in a couple verses from the writings of Isaiah. In these verses, both lions and lambs appear but are paired with other animals.

Isaiah 11:6
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 65:25
“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

As you can see, the lamb is both times paired with the wolf and the lion is paired with a beast of burden (once with calves and another with the ox). Still, the meaning behind the imagery is not really done damage by switching the juxtaposition to include lions and lambs. One can see with little trouble how the image became as widely popular as it has. Not only is the image made more dramatic by replacing the wolf with the lion, but there is already some precedent for the comparison if one considers the lion/lamb imagery keyed in Revelation 5.