Haile Selassie I: The Lion of Judah and King of Kings

by Susan Leem, associate producer

The Lion of JudahA Rastafarian holds the former Ethiopian flag with the golden crowned lion, a version used during Emperor Selassie’s reign. (photo: Aaron Maasho/AFP/Getty Images)

When social activist Marcus Garvey said ”Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer” in 1920, Rastafarians found their answer a decade later in the crowning of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I. Followers of Rastafari celebrate the birthday of their messiah, said to be a direct descendent of King Solomon and Queen Sheba, on July 23rd.

The phrase “Lion of Judah” comes from the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation:

"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

Haile Selassie in AlgiersHaile Selassie (r), originally Prince Ras Tafari Makonnen, at the opening session of a nonaligned summit in Algiers. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

There is no official Rastafarian creed, but the BBC compiled a list of six basic principles of Rastafari from the 1977 book, The Rastafarians, The Dreadlocks of Jamaica by scholar Leonard Barrett. The first one: “Haile Selassie I is the Living God.”

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