What Does A Goat Symbolize In The Bible?

The Bible was written in regions and countries where goats were part of the livestock that people reared. Looking at instances where the goat is mentioned in the Bible from the times of Amos to Proverbs, to the New Testament, one can’t help but try and dig a little deeper into understanding the meaning behind the goat. In this article, we shall delve a little deeper to help you understand what exactly the goat means in the different situations it is mentioned.

Symbol of Provision of Basic Needs

Symbol of Provision of Basic Needs

The Bible talks of goats’ milk in Proverbs. The Proverbs were written mainly to Solomon’s son to prepare him for kingship. In many verses of scripture, we see Solomon admonishing and training through his wise sayings recorded in the Book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 27:27, the Bible says,

“You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family and to nourish your female servants.”

This was one of the few times the Bible talks of goats’ milk. As early as then, people had discovered the superiority of goat’s milk over a cow’s milk and that goat milk was easier to digest. However, the scripture here sought to train Solomon’s son in wisdom and diligence just as David had taught Solomon.

While wisdom would dictate that the king should be proficient and knowledgeable in building palaces and strengthening his soldiers, Solomon drew to a very basic but sensitive responsibility of providing for one’s family. The goat milk was a symbol for that provision of the basic needs.

Symbol of Judgement

The Bible gives us a glimpse of the judgement day and the way people will be separated based on how they have lived their lives on earth. In Matthew 25:32, the Bible records:

“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

The picture painted here is that of people from all walks of life, Jews and gentiles, rich or poor, who are gathered before God for the final judgement. Those who lived their lives righteously will be separated from those who didn’t. The sheep are those who followed the teachings of Christ in their earthly life while those who didn’t follow are the goats.

The fate of the goats will be eternal fire while the sheep will be a life of bliss with the Lord. This is recorded in Matthew 25:41:

““Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

The Care and Provision of God

At times, we go through hardships, and we blame the Lord for abandoning us. Also, because of the suffering that we at times go through, we often forget that God cares for us more than we can imagine.

In the Book of Job, we came across a similar incident where a faithful and devout man by the name Job goes through untold suffering. In the middle of all that, he turns to God to present his case. In response, God begins speaking in Job 38, but one of the most profound statement he makes is in Job 39:1. He says,

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?”

Job may not have expected that God is caring to that level. This is brought out in his response in Job 42:5:

“I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.”

The mountain goat may have seemed to be an animal that no one cares much about, but God confirms that he not only cares for it but provides for it as well.

Symbol of Wealth

Symbol of Wealth

In addition to the sheep that the people in the Biblical times used to keep, there used to be goats as well. In the Book of 1 Samuel 25:2, the Bible talks of the wealth of a man in Maun which was a town in Judah. The Bible records:

“A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel.”

The wealth of men didn’t consist of the things that we value so much today, but in the abundance of the flocks they kept, the land they owned, and the servants under them.

A Symbol of Sacrifice

The Bible talks of a scapegoat as a bearer of the sins of men that was sacrificed by being released into the wilderness. In the Book of Leviticus 16:21, we are treated to this unique phenomenon where a goat is designated as the bearer of the signs of the community.

It is cast into the desert as a way of letting go the impurities of the Israel society so that the people can be clean.

This how the Bible describes the event:

“Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”

Apart from the scapegoat, male goats were used as sacrifices for sin offerings together with lambs, bulls and calves.

Conclusion

The goat is symbolic of different things in the Bible depending on the context. In the foregoing illustrations, the Bible has shown the symbol of sacrifice, wealth, care, and provision and other meanings.

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