Sheep and Goats: a Study for Yom Kippur

A German ewe grazing, breed unknown.

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    And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice….I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known by My sheep. ( John 10:4, 14)

      I hear the alarm, a bleat repeating in the pasture: a brown kid, left behind with 5 sheep, while the other goats and lamb, including the kid’s mother , are missing.  I search a back pasture parallel to our woods, then back track to a corner. Behold, up on a green hill behind my neighbor’s house I see a brown and white  and black flock grazing. Not sure if they are mine, I call out to them: a black one looks up in my direction, the others’ noses in the grass.  I call again, and the black one, matriarch of the flock, looks again , and starts to run forward toward my voice.  Immediately, the others look up, run and follow her into the woods, and home.

    ” So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture will give You thanks (hodu) forever (le-olam-va-ed)…”. ( Psalm 79: 13)

“For He is our Elohim; and we are the nation of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.  Today if you will listen to His voice.” (Psalm 95: 7)

     A  friend recently asked me about the sheep and the goats in the Holy Bible.  The goat of the Levitical sin offering in Numbers and Leviticus, and also a foreshadow of the Messiah, Lamb of God,  is sa’ir,  a shaggy, he-goat, faun,( devil, and satyr) .   Sa’ir is more tame, definitely not wild, similar to the Pesach lamb which was kept days before slaughter in the home of the Israelites .( Exodus 12:3-5)

Numbers 28 :22  ” … a male goat (sa’ir) as a sin offering, to make atonement for you.” Ezekiel 43:25   “… every day a goat ( sa’ir) for a sin offering. “

      The priests laid hands on the heads of the goats (sa’ir) to transfer the sins to them , before slaying them.  We see this laying on of hands in Leviticus 4:24 : ” And he ( the priest or kohen)  shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat (sa’ir), and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before YHWH: it is a sin offering.”  The kohen took of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar, and at the bottom, thus the keporah(covering) through the blood.  ( v. 30) 

    In addition, upon the death of Aaron’s two sons, for unworthy fire to YHWH ( see Leviticus 10:1-2), Aaron now had to take two goats for a sin offering, and present them alive (16:7) before YHWH at the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation.  Aaron cast lots, one for YHWH, the other for Azazel. (v.8): YHWH’s goat was offered for a sin offering. ” But the goat…(to be the Azazel scapegoat] ), shall be presented alive before YHWH, to make keporah…and let it go…into the wilderness”(v. 10), carrying our sins. 

     The mercies of YHWH who forgives and puts our sins as far as the west is from the eternal east.  A “one for all” ordinance continued in Yeshua Messiah’s one time offering of Himself.  One day a year, Aaron would go in to the Holy of Holies, the Kadosh-Place, to make keporah for himself, his household, and for all of Israel. This is known as Yom Kippur (Yom HaKippurim: Day of Atonements) when YHWH cleansed us of both willful and unintentional sin. Yeshua was not only the priest or fit man (v.21), but also the Azazel, the goat, bearing upon itself all our iniquities for us. (v.22)

     The sin offering goat, sa’ir, is not used in 1 Samuel through Zechariah except in 2 Chronicles 29:23. What does this imply?  Perhaps, the children were not following the Levitical laws as ordained by YHWH, until King Hezekiah (Yechizqiyahu~strengthened of YHWH). 

“And he did that which was right in the sight of YHWH, according to all that David his abba had done“. ( 2Chronicles 29:2) 

     King Hezekiah opened the closed doors of the House (Bayit) of YHWH, and repaired them (v.3).  He brought in the Kohanim and the Lewiym ( the priests from the tribe of Levi), and instructed them to set themselves apart, and set-apart the Bayit of YHWH Elohim of their fathers (ahvot). 

” For our ahvot have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of YHWH our Elohim, and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from ( YHWH)…”. (v. 6)

     The king continued how the fathers had shut the door, put out the lamp, not burned incense ( no prayers reaching Heaven), nor offered burnt offerings in the (Holy) Kadosh-Place to the Elohim of Yisrael.  The consequence of turning away had delivered Judah to trouble.  So now it was in the king’s heart to make anew a covenant with YHWH, “ that His fierce wrath may turn away from us.”(v. 7-10)  After cleansing themselves and the Bayit of YHWH, they offered 7 each of  bullock , ram, sheep and goat for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the Kadosh-Place and for Judah. (v.21)

“…the Kohanim received the blood, and sprinked it on the altar… And they brought forth the male goats for the sin offering before the king; and they laid their hands upon them…to make keporah (covering)  for kol  (all) Yisrael…”. ( 2 Chronicles 29:22-24)

           “And this shall be a binding ordinance (chuk le olam va- ed / forever) to you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day…you shall afflict your beings…do no work at all…for on that day shall the kohen make keporah for you, to cleanse you, that you may be  clean from all your sins before YHWH.” (v. 29-30)

     Excluding the Levitical sin offering portions, other  goat varieties are used such as tayesh, the butting buck or he-goat, or attud and ez.    Ez, she-goat ( strong) or male in the plural , appears as in Daniel 8: 5: “… an he-goat (ez)  came from the west passing over the whole earth without touching the ground.”  In the same verse , goat switches to tzaphiyr , which does means the prancing and skipping he-goat, ” The goat (tzaphiyr) had a prominent horn between its eyes.”      Numbers 7 verses 16 through 88 alternates ez with attud, “one kid of the goats( ez) for a sin” and “… 5 he-goats (attud).” These goats, attud, are prepared, full grown, he-goats, leaders, chief ones, the ram.  Ya’al is the wild goat or the ibex, still seen in Israel, as in Psalm 104:18. 

     Sheep are not as complicated as goats.  Goats are browsers, jumpers, and see things as better on the other side of the fence.  Goats always find a way out of the enclosed pasture, while sheep remain content  inside .  Tson or tse’own means to migrate, and refers to a flock of sheep or goats, small cattle or lamb.  Abraham was a keeper and had sheep and oxen.  The brown sheep of Jacob in Genesis 30:32-35 were keseb or kisbah, young ewe or lamb, which were encouraged with the rods(~ to Aaron’s almond rod) to multiply.

     If I were not a shepherd myself, I would not have understood verse 6 in Song of Solomon, chapter 6: “Your teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, where everyone bears twins, and there is not one barren among them.”  Sometimes the sheep are so close together as they graze , and eat, nose to nose in line, they look like upper or lower teeth! The Hebrew for sheep is raw-chel, to journey or ewe, as prominent part of the herd, from which we get the name Rachel.  We do not bathe sheep ordinarily since their wool is very thick and full of lanolin, repelling dirt! So “go up from the washing” is symbolic of arising from the cleansing of sin,  and being fruitful, “bearing twins”, in YHWH.

     Sheep appear 3 times in Isaiah 53: ” All we like sheep (tson or migrate) have gone astray”(v.6); “He is brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep (rachel or prominent part) before its shearers is dumb”.  Goats are not mentioned In Isaiah 53,  because the Lamb of YHWH, spotless and without sin,  bore our sins .

     Finally, in the end,  ” When the Ben Ahdahm shall come in His tifereth (glory), and all the kadosh heavenly malachim with Him, then shall He sit upon the kesay (throne) of His tifererh: And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a Shepherd divides His sheep from the goats: And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then shall the Melech say to them on His right hand, Come you blessed of My Abba, inherit the malchut (kingdom) prepared for you…“. (Matthew 25: 31-34) 

     The sheep, on the right hand are the covenant keepers .  They have done to the least of them: gave food and drink of the Word, took in and clothed with the Bisorah, the Good News of Salvation through Christ, the Anointed One, visited, and prayed with and brought light to the captive. (v.35-40)  “Then shall He say also to them on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for s.a.tan and his shadim(devils)…These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the tzadikim (righteous) into chayim  (life) eternal. (v. 41 &46)                                                                              



One thought on “Sheep and Goats: a Study for Yom Kippur

  1. wonderful teaching,insightful and a blessing to read and teach with….Thank You!….May you have an easy fast….and I can just imagine the sheep and goats separation….May your name forever be sealed in the Lamb’s book of life

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