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The Lion & the Lamb: Civic Friendship

December 10, 2020 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm EST

Edward Hicks painting The Peaceable Kingdom illustrating an oracle from the Prophet Isaiah in which the lion lies down with the lamb

Isaiah’s Vision of the Lion and the Lamb: A Paradigm for Civic Friendship

A presentation by Laura Duhan-Kaplan at the “Religious Reflections on Friendship” discussion at the American Academy of Religion (online) annual meeting.

ABSTRACT: American artist Edward Hicks (1770-1849) painted many versions of Isaiah’s vision of “The Peaceable Kingdom” (11:6-9), using the prophet’s vision of peace between predator and prey animals to comment on personal and political events. In one painting, Hicks paints lions, a bear, and a wolf relaxing on a hill with lambs, cows, and children. In the valley, Hicks paints the 1683 Shackamaxon Treaty ceremony between Chief Tamenend of the Lenape Indians and William Penn.

The now-lost details of the treaty were likely similar to early “Peace and Friendship Treaties” between the Mi’kmaq and British groups in what is now Canada, described by Ray Aldred as an agreement to live well together on the land. Such an agreement rests on the cultivation of personal and social virtues similar to those required for civic friendship, as defined by Sybil Schwarzenbach.

Thus, here I explore Isaiah’s vision as a model of civic friendship. Following David Kimchi’s commentary, I assume the animals represent human beings in ethical relationship with one another. After briefly surveying different commentator’s views of the social and psychological changes implied in the vision, I will focus on the symbols of lion and bear. As Kenneth Way notes, these animals often appear in Bible as agents of Yahweh’s wrath. At peace, they imply that an emphasis on religions’ nonviolent aspects is an important ingredient in civic friendship.

Conference registration is required.


December 10, 2020
11:00 am - 1:00 pm EST


American Academy of Religion