Did the Lion Lie Down with the Lamb?—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 11:6, ESV).

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Talk about a learning experience. I pride myself on being a committed student of God’s Word. I have a seminary degree and have read the Bible many times over the last 32-plus years. Isaiah 11:6 comes up several times per year in the Book of Common Prayer’s Daily Office readings, so I should know this verse. Well, as Proverbs 16:18 tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

But recently, the wife of one of my church’s pastors urged her friends on Facebook to read this verse more closely. So, I did, and was surprised. I thought it should say that “the lion lies down with the lamb.” I have always heard that phrase. Surely, I thought, it is in the Bible, and this is the verse. How did I miss this? Perhaps, while reading Isaiah 11, I saw this passage, and thought, “Oh, that sounds like the verse about the lion and the lamb,” but did not check the cross-references to find it. (Or perhaps, maybe my coffee did not kick in yet. I think I’m usually only about halfway through my first cup when reading the Old Testament passage.)

Did I miss something? Some of my King-James-only friends might suggest that I was reading one of “those corrupt modern English translations” that are part of a conspiracy to distort God’s Word and deceive believers. But, the King James Version says essentially the same thing as my English Standard Version:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

All of the English translations I read depict the same two animals: a wolf dwelling with the lamb. (Wait a minute: He’s not lying with lamb, he’s dwelling with it!) Even Martin Luther’s German translation, published about 70 years before the KJV, said “wolf.” So did the Hebrew. If there was a conspiracy to change God’s Word, it goes back many centuries.

So, what is the lesson here? Christians need to read their Bibles. We need to be wise, discerning, and diligent. Sometimes, we can grow so accustomed to thinking the Bible says something, because we have always heard it that way, that we miss what God is really trying to teach us.

Some of the mistakes committed by students of Scripture are minor. Is theology affected if Matthew 2:1-12 does not specifically say that three wise men visited the baby Jesus when He was born? (It does not tell us the exact number. Tradition assumes there were three, based on the number of gifts. By the way, Jesus could have been a toddler already by the time they arrived.) Many people think that the Red Sea parted instantly when Moses prayed, even though Exodus 14:21 says it took all night for the wind to blow it apart. (I have to admit, that would not have looked quite as cool in the classic movie, The Ten Commandments.)

However, diligence is in order because some mistakes affect biblical morality and core teachings necessary for salvation. In 1631, a print run of the Bible contained an egregious typographical error in Exodus 20:14, leaving the crucial word “not” out of the verse, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The Bibles were immediately recalled after the error was discovered, but a few copies are still in existence. If such an error can get past the proofreaders, think of the errors we can make when we do not study the Bible accurately. (See here and here for some of my previous posts on this subject.)

In a forthcoming post, I will reflect more on the actual meaning of this verse.

(PS: Regarding the picture of the wolf at the top of the page. I generally try to honor copyright laws when selecting pictures for my post. Unfortunately, any pictures depicting a wolf lying with a lamb, in relation to Isaiah 11:6, were protected by copyright. Therefore, I selected the above picture which is under US Government copyright, and therefore is free for reuse with proper acknowledgment. Wolves are beautiful creatures, but I would not try to pet this one!)

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

11 responses to “Did the Lion Lie Down with the Lamb?—Isaiah 11:6”

  1. Please reconsider, there are several areas of residual proof the verse did say “the lion shall lie with the lamb”. Elvis Presley song, a video clip from jeopardy asking the question, a sermon/speech from martin luther king Jr. and I have found one from John hagee. Please there are other verses that have been changed. You are not the only one who has read the lion will lie with the lamb. We didnt just all make it up in our minds. Consider the mandela effect. God bless.


    • There are quite a few good explanations for the Mandela effect, explaining how mass culture can misremember events. For all it’s worth, I never thought Mandela died until his actual death in 2013 (I remember when he was released from prison and when he served as President of South Africa); I remember hearing Darth Vader say, “No! I am your father!” when I first saw “The Empire Strikes Back” in the 1980s (a couple years after it was released, when people were already misquoting the line). I did fall for a few Mandela-effect memories, though.
      As I mentioned in my post, I do not remember ever reading “The lion will lie with the lamb” in my Bible reading–only that I had always heard it was in there. Apparently, so many Christians are duped by Christian pop culture that we can think something’s there that isn’t. I believe Jeopardy has also said there were three wise men and Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Neither of those is in the Bible, either.
      If somehow reality has changed and a Bible verse has been rewritten behind our backs, it means one of the following: (1) God is not as true to His Word as He always claimed to be and therefore cannot be trusted; (2) God was unable to preserve His Word and is therefore not all-powerful; or (3) God does not even exist, but a multiverse does. Take your pick. The only other option I can imagine is that, since ALL textual evidence points to the “wolf” reading, God expects us to go with that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In response to Fran: How could the author of “Pilgrim’s Progress” get it wrong? Simple: He was writing fiction. If I remember correctly, he wrote it while in prison. Did he actually copy from his Bible? Probably not, since I can find no reliable biblical text with “lion and lamb” wording. Perhaps the entire misunderstanding can be the result of people quoting John Bunyan instead of the Bible.
    The question becomes what we place our faith in regarding the knowledge of God: Do we believe what we can objectively see in His Word? Do we trust what we think we know about God’s Word? Do we trust what people have told us about God’s Word? To claim that “lion and lamb” is the correct wording, when there is no textual basis for it in Scripture itself, creates a horrible image of God.
    What kind of God would tell us that His Word is perfect and trustworthy, and then intentionally distort His Word to see if we will trust what is in our hearts INSTEAD of His Written Word? That sounds more like Satan than the one true God to me.
    As I said in this post, “So, what is the lesson here? Christians need to read their Bibles. We need to be wise, discerning, and diligent. Sometimes, we can grow so accustomed to thinking the Bible says something, because we have always heard it that way, that we miss what God is really trying to teach us.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! We make so many assumptions about the word of God — even when we know it well. I don’t profess to know it well, but I do read and study daily — strengthening my knowledge and relationship with God. I love posts like this one that are completely transparent, showing that humans err.

    Liked by 1 person

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