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Scripture references are to the NIV-UK, unless otherwise noted


Q The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats’ (Exodus 12: 5). Why was a firstborn goat allowed to be substituted for a firstborn lamb? Surely a lamb – not a goat – typified Jesus, ‘our passover’ (1 Cor. 5: 7, 8)?


A Exodus 12: 5 states there are only two mandatory requirements, namely, that the animal selected for the Passover sacrifice be


1. The firstborn of its flock or herd;


2. Physically unblemished.


The only optional element, then, was the (personal) choice of animal.



The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for several generations, their fortunes varying as their plight under their taskmasters became worse. We may assume that many families were poor and did not own flocks and herds. This is suggested by the LORD’s instruction in Ex. 12: 4, that ‘if any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share with their nearest neighbour’. Apart from merely discouraging waste, there is in this admonition the hint that no household should deprive another of the privilege – indeed, the necessity – of partaking of the Passover.


Sheep were kept for meat and wool; goats for milk and the animal’s hide. Some families may have held a few of each in a small enclosure. In such cases, their personal selection of a goat instead of a sheep, at the LORD’s direction, suggests that He regarded both animals as of equal worth and prophetic significance. There’s no suggestion in the text that the goat was inferior. Either animal had to meet the two requirements mentioned above: (a) the firstborn of sheep or goat and without blemish, each of which prefigured Jesus, Jehovah’s only-begotten son; and (b) Jesus’ sinlessness and physical perfection.


Both sheep and goats would have been inspected carefully and chosen according to these criteria. Apparently, the category of animal was not pertinent under the circumstances then prevailing.



In the days of Josiah, king of Judah, long after the people were settled in the Promised Land, at the time of a later commemoration of the original Passover, we read (2 Chron. 35: 7):


Josiah provided for all the lay people who were there a total of thirty thousand lambs and goats for the Passover offerings, and also three thousand cattle – all from the king’s own possessions.


Throughout the Scriptures Jesus is depicted as the antitypical lamb, sacrificed on behalf of His people (who also are pictured as sheep, e.g., ‘little flock’ [Luke 12: 32]).


For example:


John 1: 29: ‘The next day John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”’


1 Cor. 5: 7: ‘Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.’


Rev. 13: 8: ‘All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.’


Clearly the biblical type portrays the antitype of Christ as a ‘lamb’. Compare the following:


Gen. 22: 13: ‘Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.’

Heb. 11: 17-19: ‘By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.’



The time-honoured understanding that Jesus is the ‘paschal lamb’ of God is not undermined by the choice of a goat for the Passover.




05/2021 – – no copyright



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