Everyone else had gone to bed. But Ungan and Mahina couldn’t sleep. It was only yesterday that the lions had caught and eaten another worker. He’d been taken right out of his tent, screaming and kicking. For several months, Ungan, Mahina and dozens of others had been working on a railway bridge across the Tsavo River in Kenya. In that time, two maneless male lions had terrorized the work crew. Just the roars were enough to send workers running behind their thorn fences – a place where there was little safety. It got to be so bad that construction on the bridge couldn’t continue – Ungan, Mahina and others simply wouldn’t work with the lions prowling around. The British officer responsible for the construction of the bridge was a man named Colonel John Henry Patterson. He finally managed to shoot and kill both lions. By the time of their death, this pair of lions were said to have hunted down and eaten nearly 140 people. Most of them were indentured workers from India like Ungan and Mahina. This all happened in 1898. Today, you can still see the man-eaters of Tsavo at the Field Museum in Chicago, where Patterson had sold the hides.
Lions have had an innate ability to strike fear in the hearts of people all over the world. Lions used to range over much of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Eventually, they were hunted out of much of their former territory till today when they’re only found in Africa and a few regions of India. In Bible times, lions were almost everywhere, also in Israel. Even if many people had never seen one, they would have heard them. Their loud ferocious roars would be a constant reminder of lurking danger. In those times, lions were known for their strength, their stealth, their vicious attack, and their boldness. The lion was the ultimate hunter.
This helps us understand why the apostle Peter compares the devil to a lion. In verse 8, he says, “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The roaring lion is an image of something that would normally strike fear into people’s hearts. The lion that prowls around is restless and hungry. He’s serious about what he wants: he wants to draw blood, he wants death. He wants to devour somebody; literally, the text says that he’s looking for somebody to drink down. Satan is out on the hunt, looking for you and me. And it’s clear that his intentions are vicious and cruel. It’s clear that he’s bold and stealthy. He has only one goal: the eternal spiritual death of whoever he can get his dirty paws on.