Of Myth and the Bible: Part 10 The Lion Men of Moab

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Another strange legendary creature shows up in the Bible that made it into my novel David Ascendant: Lion Men of Moab. In Hebrew, they are called Ariels. They are kind of like werewolves – but more like werelions.

 In 2 Sam. 23:20 Benaiah, a valiant warrior, strikes down “two ariels of Moab.” The word “ariel” is a transliteration because scholars are not sure what it means. The King James and Young’s Bibles translate these opponents of Benaiah as “lion-like men of Moab,” which captures the strangeness of the creatures but fails to express the religious or supernatural connotation of the word.

Some translators translate the phrase “ariels of Moab” as “sons of Ariel of Moab” after the unlikely LXX Greek translation,[1] or “lion-like heroes of Moab.” But there is no Hebrew word for “sons of” in the sentence, no indication of ariel being a personal name, and no Hebrew word for warrior used in the sentence. The Hebrew word for mighty warrior, gibborim, is used frequently throughout David’s narrative and that word is not here. The text says “two ariels of Moab.”

Some suggest it may be a reference to killing two lions. But the very next sentence states that Benaiah, the killer of the ariels, then killed a lion in a pit.

2 Samuel 23:20
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.
The Hebrew word for “lion” is not ariel, but aryeh. Adding the suffix “el” to the word adds a religious dimension of meaning that transcends mere lions. This is why Hebrew lexicons explain the most likely meaning as “lion of god.”[2] El was not merely a name used of Yahweh in the Bible, it was the name of the figurehead deity of the Canaanite pantheon as well as a general reference to deity in Mesopotamia.[3]In 1 Chronicles, some additional warriors from Gad join David when he is at Ziklag, and they are described exactly like ariels as “lion-faced warriors” with preternatural skills:
1 Chronicles 12:8
8 From the Gadites there went over to David at the stronghold in the wilderness mighty and experienced warriors, expert with shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were swift as gazelles upon the mountains:

Though animal-like abilities is a common metaphor used to describe extraordinary warrior skills, having faces like the faces of lions could mean more in light of the existence of these ariels, or Lion Men of Moab. Since the tribal location of Gad was precisely all the land of Moab across the Jordan, I decided to make the Gadite lion-faced men be those very Lion Men of Moab who converted to Israel and joined David. Two of these hybrid warriors then become the two traitors who face down Benaiah.

Psalm 57 was written when David was on the run and hiding out in a cave from Saul’s bounty hunters. Verse 4 says, “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.” Though a surface reading of this text appears to be an obvious figurative expression of David’s enemies, scholar B. Mazar suggests it may be a reference to a mercenary military corps of archers whose emblem was the lion-goddess.[4] Could they have come from Moab?

So what if these ariels are hybrid creatures reminiscent of the Watchers’ miscegenation in Genesis 6? What if they are elite warriors with hairy bodies and lion-like faces that only one of David’s own gibborim Mighty Men could slay? After all, the exploits of those Mighty Men in the passages we have been looking at are supernatural slayings of giants and hundreds of soldiers by single warriors. If these ariels were mere warriors, then the feat accomplished by Benaiah in slaying them would be the only one in the entire passage that was banal and without significance.

These ariels were something more than men, something supernatural.The ancient understanding of ariel as a lion-like hybrid humanoid finds support in a later Nag Hammadi text that speaks of a gnostic deity, Yaldabaoth, who was an ariel (spelled slightly different): “Ariael is what the perfect call him, for he was like a lion.”[5]

The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible says of this possible religious mythical interpretation of ariel:

This interpretation could be supported by a recently found bronze-silver figurine from Tell Abū el-Kharaz in Transjordan representing, according to the excavator’s opinion a male lion-faced warrior(-god?), which can be viewed, because of its appearance and its attributes, as a male pendant.[6]

The author then reveals that the word ariel shows up in the Mesha Stele, a Moabite stone inscription not too long after the time of King David.[7] These are the very Moabites from which 2 Samuel says the ariels come. The line of text in question could be translated, “the lion figure [ariel] of their beloved (god)’ which was dragged before Chemosh after the fall of the Israelite city.”[8]

Bible scholar B. Mazar notes this Mesha Stele connection and adds that the word ariel became a synonym for the lion-headed cherubim at the base of kingly thrones.[9]

So in David Ascendant, I created a special unit of these Ariels, lion-headed warriors of Moab, to explore that supernatural dimension with imagination that fit the thread of the cosmic War of the Seed.

The ancient Book of Jasher was a source text for both Joshua and David’s stories (Josh. 10:13, 2 Sam. 1:18). The extant version we have of the Book of Jasher, though dubitable, tells of two different stories that contain hybrid creatures that may be similar to the lion-men of Moab or the satyrs of Banias. In Jasher 36:29-35 we read of Anah, one of the sons of Seir the Horite, (remember the Seirites’ connection to satyrs) during the days of Abraham. There is a large storm that the writer says caused a group of about 120 “great and terrible animals” to come out of the forest by the seashore to be witnessed by Anah feeding his asses.

Jasher 36:29-35
And those animals, from their middle downward, were in the shape of the children of men, and from their middle upward, some had the likeness of bears, and some the likeness of the keephas, with tails behind them from between their shoulders reaching down to the earth, like the tails of the ducheephath, and these animals came and mounted and rode upon these asses, and led them away, and they went away unto this day.[10]
Another chapter in Jasher tells the story during the youth of Balaam son of Beor, about a strange animal that was devouring the cattle of the people of Chittim. A man named Zepho went in search of this creature and…
Jasher 61:15
he came into the cave and he looked and behold, a large animal was devouring the ox; from the middle upward it resembled a man, and from the middle downward it resembled an animal, and Zepho rose up against the animal and slew it with his swords.[11]

Were these creatures mere legends or were they genetic hybrid remnants of the miscegenation of the Watchers?

Read about the Lion Men of Moab in the novel, David Ascendant, Book 7 of Chronicles of the Nephilim.


[1] “Although the LXX interferes seriously in the text, presupposing a double haplography in the Hebrew text, this reading points into the right direction. As a matter of fact NKH Hiphʿil in the historical books never means to strike upon an object (cf. also E. Jenni, ErIs 24 [1993] 114–118), but to strike down, i.e. to kill somebody… Consequently, Ariel here designates some kind of person, best translated as ‘lion of God’: S. Münger, “Ariel,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 88–89.
[2] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic ed., 72 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000).
[3] W. Herrmann, “El,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 275.
[4] B. Mazar, “The Military Élite of King David,” Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 13, Fasc. 3 (Jul., 1963), 312.
[5] James McConkey Robinson, Richard Smith and Coptic Gnostic Library Project, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 4th rev. ed., 173 (Leiden; New York: E. J. Brill, 1996).
[6] S. Münger, “Ariel,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 89. Münger refers to the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (P. M. Fischer, ADAJ 40 [1996] 101–110, esp. 103–104 with figs. 3a-b).
[7] 850 B.C.
[8] S. Münger, DDD, 89. Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament translates ariel as the name of the king of the city, and Hallo’s Context of Scripture translates it as the more unlikely object, fire hearth. James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East an Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 320; William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, Context of Scripture (Leiden;  Boston: Brill, 2000), 137.
[9] B. Mazar, “The Military Élite of King David,” Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 13, Fasc. 3 (Jul., 1963), pp. 316.
[10] Johnson, Ken (2012-01-09). Ancient Book Of Jasher (p. 129).  Kindle Edition.
[11] Johnson, Book Of Jasher (p. 223).

19 comments on “Of Myth and the Bible: Part 10 The Lion Men of Moab

  • Wow! Brian this was an amazing article! I thank our dear Lord that there are people like you who have stepped up to do the research and explain what is sometimes tucked away in the text of Scripture. Thank you for your dedication in the task of research so others like me can understand such text. Not many pastors or teachers will tackle this either because they don’t know or are afraid to.

    Reply
  • Exactly how many scholars of early Jewish writings believe the extant book of Jasher equals the one mentioned in the Bible?

    The extant book of Jasher’s status of being an “early Jewish writing” is so questionable it’s not even listed here at this encyclopedic site of early Jewish writings: http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/

    You might as well be citing sermons of Augustine concocted by Medieval writers who put words in to Augustine’s mouth about one-eyed men and other weird peoples.

    Reply
    • You may want to refer to Dr. Michael Heiser’s books, “The Unseen Realm” and “Reversing Hermon” wherein he addresses the Yashar subject well.

      Reply
  • Those two words in Jasher, “ducheephath” and “Keephas” have me puzzled. What more do you know about those words? I know next to nothing when it comes to Hebrew, but I take it that those words are Hebrew. Is there a way to pick them apart to understand their meaning?

    Reply
  • Brett Allen - Cover UFO Magazine 2009 says:

    Although I have no doubt of ancient genetics, but I must ask… why can’t the word be literal, just as we use it today – to denote flight as in airborne flying vehicles?… After all, from the East’s ancient architecture and texts full of the vimana and stupas, to Mesoamerica’s Olmec figurine showing a reptilian, possibly Enki, astride what appear to be an airborne vehicle, and La Venta’s exhibit 19, both quite infamous; not to mention the airplane like artifacts Ivan T. Sanderson made famous (recently appropriated by Georgio Tsukalos) from the Magdalena River tombs of Columbia? All show what appears to be ancient airborne “ariel” vehicles…

    Reply
    • Hi, Brett. Thanks for your comments. The problem with interpreting “Ariel” as relating to flight is that it is a linguistic fallacy to apply the English meaning of words that are translated from another language like Hebrew. Ariel in Hebrew had to do with lions and God because of their meaning of the words, not ours. Also, be aware that the examples of “flying machines” you give have been debunked at http://ancientaliensdebunked.com.

      Reply
  • richard emele says:

    Thanks for the research. Just a thought I’m throwing out there; didn’t the terms “lions” or “young lions” used in many places in scripture, refer to strong men or strong young men who are dangerous, cocky, passionate, or even arrogant with the vigor of their youth?

    Reply
  • Nothing new under the sun.
    Not myth.
    NEPHALIM BLOODLINES

    GOD BLESS.

    I BELIVE Aug 21st through Sept 23rd 2017 will prove interseting.

    Reply
  • Tomas the Messenger says:

    So why does the bible tell us to go to that specific book for information?
    Joshua 10:13″And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.”

    And again in 1 Samuel 1 :18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)

    Reply
  • lion like men= are those who have received the spirit of satan.
    1pe.5:8 adversary the devil as a roaring lion
    Ep.2:2 prince power of the air worketh in children of disobedience
    Rev.13:16-18 = mark of the beast 666 =word thought deed
    Most of mankind has already received the mark of the beast.
    Ecc.3:18 sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themelves are beasts
    Ps.73:22 So foolish was I, and ignorant I was as a beast before thee.
    2pe.2:12 as natural brute beast
    Jude 10 they speak evil of things they know not they know naturally as brute breasts in those things they corrupt themselves.
    Hosea 13:6-8 heart exalted they have forgotten me I will be unto them as lion as a leopard
    group called the black panther a black panther has black spots which is leopard . Their are groups of people that wear hairstyles called lions mane .
    Rev.13:1-2 beast rise up out of the sea leopard bear lion dragon
    The sea = people nations the beast are people of different nations.
    1ki.13:21-24 a prophet of God is deceived and disobeys God’s word and is killed by a lion (1cor.12:29-32 this man is saved but is judged by God .)
    Daniel 6 : Daniel is placed in the lions den and is protected by God.
    This is prophecy of the last days for those trust and obey God.
    Ps.91:13 tread upon lion adder young lion dragon trample under feet.
    This is promise from God for those who obey God . Tread= water
    This verse is picture of those given authority over their enemies who obey God. (Lu. 11:30Son of man sign for this generation)
    Ps.44:5 Through thee will we push down our enemies; through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us 6 For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. Isaiah 59:19 When the enemy comes in like a flood the SPIRIT of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.
    Isiah 43:2 When though passest through the waters, I will be w/thee and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Ps.66:12/Dan.3:25-27)
    Gen 9 covenant between God and Noah’s seed . Beast fear man as long as Noah’s seed did not eat flesh w/life and blood which is symbolic of the church eating the flesh of another Christ. Gen.9:4-6 vs. Jn.6:35-53/2Cor.11:1-4 be not deceived as Eve they will preach another Jesus . Deut. 32:31 their rock is not our ROCK. Churches today carry guns . Mt.17:17 faithless generation . Gen. 9:4-6 whoso sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man (Gen1:26-27) The eating of flesh of another Christ is the spirit of revenge. Look at netflix alone one TV show movie after another about revenge. God word warns us revenge belongs to God not us. Romans 12:19-21. Lu.21:22 days of vengeance. Examples from the music industry preaching another christ. Carrie Underwood Jesus take the wheel soon followed by another hit song before he cheats is song about a women getting even w/her lover for cheating on her. Cocathia Wurst song rise like a phoenix is a song of revenge . We are being conditioned by the media men hate women . Women hate men . Whites hate blacks . Blacks hate white . Get even every man rise up against his enemy.
    The media is preaching the doctrine of another Christ. Gen9:4-6 = Rev.6:4 peace taken from the earth men kill one another Rev. 13:10 he that killeth w/the sword must be killed w/the sword . Heb.10:38 the just shall live by faith Mt.26:51 drew hsi sword and struck a servant of the high priest’s and smote off his ear. 52 then Jesus said for all they that take the sword shall perish w/the sword 53 thou thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels .
    Mt.18:10 Take heed despise not one of these little ones for I say unto you That in heaven their angels do always hehold the face of my Father which is in heaven
    2kings 6:17 Angels surround Elisha and his servant
    Ps.125:2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people
    Ps.44:5-6 through thy name will we tread (Ps 91:13)them under that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my BOW neither shall my SWORD save me.
    Hosea 1:7 will not save them by bow, nor by sword nor by battle by horses nor by horsemen
    Zec.4:6 not by might nor by power but by my SPIRIT
    The word of God is prophecy from Genesis to Revelation what has happen before will happen again . Luke 17;25-30 the revealing of the son of man shall be like the days of Noah and Lot .
    Jer.17:15 cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm, whose heart departeth from the LORD. 2chor. 16:7-12
    The wise hear and obey the word of God.

    Reply

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