I read the news early this morning. It said that the Eifel Zoo in Luenebach, Germany had been inundated by floods and that lions and tigers and a bear had escaped, "Oh, My!" Later, it was confirmed that only the bear had escaped and tragically had to be shot. The other animals were still in their enclosures.
It happened that I was also painting lions today on the gates of Babylon, well it was blue cardboard boxes, but we are using our imaginations. The blue entrance adorned the ancient city and the throne room. Daniel, from the Bible, would have walked passed the lions on a regular basis. They are made from beautiful glazed bricks. The first time I saw one, I was stunned by the intensity of the color. It made me rethink the ancient world and my preconceived notions.
Through an odd set of circumstances, happy accidents and occasional planing I have managed to see many of the actual remains of theses lion sculptures.
When I was a boy, we went to the British museum and saw my first Babylon Lion. Then I saw one in the Louvre. Over twenty years ago our family went on vacation to Chicago. We went to the Oriential Museum on the campus of the University of Chicago. They have a huge display of materials from Nebuchadnezzar's palace, including two lions. On vacation to New York, we stumbled upon one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We saw the gates themselves and numerous of the glazed brick animals (it includes cattle and some mythical beasts) in Berlin. Two summers ago we went to the oldest Baptist Church in America, in Providence Rhode Island. We had a little bit of extra time and some people recommended the RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). We had low expectations, and then suddenly were confronted by one of these ancient feline statues. In January, Cindy and I went to the Archeological Museum in Istanbul to see and artifact from Israel. After exhausting the main part of the museum we stepped into our last building and were delighted to find the largest collection of these Ancient Babylonian decorations. (I missed one in Boston last year). Apparently you cannot have a legitimate museum without one of these lions. (Museums in Copenhagen, Detroit, Gothenburg, Sweden, Munich, Vienna, Toronto, and Yale all have some).
There were 120 lions, made of forty-six bricks in eleven rows. They lined the Processional Way which extended nearly half a mile into the city of Babylon. 2600 years ago the city was a marvel. I love that archeologists found these remains in the late 1800's and they reinforce the stories told in the Bible. They found the remains of the King's throne room, his ancient inscription dedicating the gateway. When people think that the Bible is filled with fictional stories, I like to show the the truth. Daniel really did live and work in a kingdom obsessed with lions. It does not take much to believe that they had a lion's den. Then we are confronted with the stories that require faith-that God protected Daniel and his friends in this foreign and hostile place. I for one believe the stories. That is why we will be teaching them to our children during Bible School in two weeks. our theme is Dare to be a Daniel. Why not join us in Babylon?