Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The Hebrew verb ארה ('ara), means to pluck or gather. This verb occurs a mere two times: Song of Solomon 5:1, "I have gathered my myrrh... ," and Psalm 80:12, "...so that all who pass that way pluck its fruit".
But the derivatives of this verb occur much more frequently:
- The masculine nouns ארי ('ari) and אריה ('aryeh) both mean lion. According to HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament "these are two of seven words which are translated lion in the Old Testament. There is no demonstrable difference between the two." Lions feature in the Bible as the proverbial ferocious animal (Judges 14:5, 1 Samuel 17:34, Proverbs 22:13), as metaphor for the destructive power of God (Isaiah 38:13, Lamentations 3:10), or enemies (Jeremiah 49:19, Joel 1:6, also see 1 Peter 5:8).
Lions may have been known as gatherers because predation drives herds together and favors the natural selection of herd behavior. Ancient humans who traveled with the herds may have realized that the center of it was the safest, which may have led to the formation of central houses within a larger fenced in flock; the social equivalent of eukaryote formation (for more on this, see our article on the World-Mind Hypothesis).
- A third derivation is the feminine noun אריה ('urya), manger or crib; the item around which animals gather to eat (horses: 1 Kings 4:26, or cattle in general 2 Chronicles 32:28).
Note that our verb ארה ('ara) appears to be related in form to the verb ארר ('arar), which originally meant to bind but came to mean to curse or to bind someone with a spell.
Also note that the word for bee, namely דברה (deborah), is the feminine version of the masculine noun for word or message, namely דבר (dabar). That means that in Hebrew the image of "bees in a lion" (Judges 14:8) is the same as that of the "word in the crib" (Luke 2:7) when the genders are reversed.