Last night, I had dinner with my Bible study group. We had a great time chatting and catching up on ministerial work and life matters. One of us raised an interesting question that carried the main discussion of the night; what does a goat symbolize in the Bible?
The Bible implies a goat to symbolize sin. The goat has been captured in scripture as a symbol of sacrifice, specifically in giving sinful offerings. There are various interpretations of what a goat symbolizes in the Bible. However, most Christian theologians and teachers associate it with evil.
There are many debates on the symbolism of a goat in the Bible. Some Christians believe that Jesus was against goats and associate it with satan.
The scripture mentions the goat in a number of verses which give a different meanings. The article below will inform you about those Bible verses and look at the symbolic meaning of a goat and Jesus’ view on a goat; read on to find out more.
What does the Bible say about goats?
Several verses in the Bible mention the term goat with different meanings. Most Christian theologists associate the goat mentioned in scripture with evil and satanic beings.
In Mathew 25:32-37, the scripture suggests a negative perspective on goats. They represent people who have sinned and fallen short of God’s mercies.
As you read, God judges them harshly and sends the goats to eternal fire while the sheep are welcomed into heaven. Christians use these parts of the scripture to interpret what a goat symbolizes in real life, which they conclude as sin or evil.
What is the significance of a goat in the Bible?
The Bible uses different creatures to symbolize certain aspects of religion. As we read the scripture, we see mentions of the goat representing other things.
In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus used goats to teach his followers about attributes that, as Christians, they should avoid. Therefore, one of the significances of goat in the Bible is to teach readers of the scripture about values.
The Bible, in some verses, gives a futuristic narration using symbols such as goats to depict what will befall those who follow Christ and those who go against him.
4 symbolic meanings of a goat in the Bible
In the book of Leviticus, we see the representation of sin in goats; a ritual of atonement is done where people cast their sins to a goat. The goat is then driven out into the desert.
We get this narration in chapter sixteen, as the goat takes on all the sins of the Israelites and goes into the desert, Satan’s dwelling place. Jesus found Satan in the desert, where sins and curses were cast.
Goats are different from sheep as the latter was used as a thanksgiving sacrifice while a goat was used for the atonement of sins.
Another symbolization of a goat, as seen in the Bible, is to represent vision. Many instances in the scripture use the term goat between a prophecy or when the verse talks of futuristic events.
For example, in Mathew 25:32-37, scripture teachers insinuate that the parable of sheep and goats represents judgment. As we know, judgment is yet to take place.
Also, Daniel had a vision with a he-goat. Daniel 8:21-22 reads, “The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.”
In the book of Revelation, the word lamb appears severally in different verses, which narrate future happenings.
People often associate goats with leadership and superiority. People often refer to someone known to do something to their best ability as the ‘GOAT.’ There are parts of the scripture that are in line with this interpretation.
In Proverbs 30:29-31, the scripture implies leadership symbolized through a he-goat. “There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king secure against revolt.”
In the verse, a list of other creatures, a lion, a king, and a cock, along with the he-goat, describe leaders as described.
Also, verses in the Bible mention goats, implying to lead. We get this in Jeremiah 50:8, “Flee out of Babylon;
leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock.”
Jeremiah says to the people, as spoken by God, that they should emulate a he-goat and take charge of going before the others.
The King James Version mentions goats, replacing the word leaders in other Bible versions such as NIV.
This is found in Zechariah 10:3 which says, “My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle.”
If you have read the scripture, you may have encountered different Bible instances mentioning goat offerings. In many of these instances, they are offered as sin offerings.
Some verses highlighting this are Leviticus 5:6, Leviticus 9:3, Ezekiel 39:18, and Ezekiel 43:22-27. On the other hand, sheep are offered as a burnt offering for thanksgiving.
How many times were goats mentioned in the Bible?
There are several mentions of the term goats in the Bible. The number of times mentioned depends on the Bible version. The NIV version has 169 goat mentions, while there are 122 in the King James.
In the latter, some verses replace the term goat with a leader.
Most of the mentions associate with sin offerings. It was a common practice, especially in the Old Testament, where they cast their sins to the goats and sent them away into unknown lands or deserts. These several mentions show the significance of goats in the Bible and the Christian religion.
Bible verses about goats
Mathew 25:32. “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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
In this verse, goats and sheep represent people, and as follows in the preceding verses, goats are sent into the fire.
Jeremiah 50:8. “Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock.”
From the verse, goats symbolize leadership as God speaks to His people to lead the rest.
Leviticus 9:3. “Then say to the Israelites: ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb—both a year old and without defect—for a burnt offering.'”
Here, the verse mentions a male goat that, in this case, is to be offered as a sin offering. In Leviticus 5:6, we get more instances where the scripture shows how goats are offered as sin offerings.
Other verses that mention goats are Genesis 30:35, Daniel 8:21-22, Numbers 15:27, Ezekiel 39:18, and Ezekiel 43:22-27. Several other scriptures say goats are mainly depicted as a form of a sin offering.
Why is Satan depicted as a goat in scripture?
The scripture insinuates goat-like features to represent satan. Some of the descriptions of demons give a physical description of features present in a goat.
In Leviticus 16, God instructs the Israelites to place their sins onto a goat cast into the desert: “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering.”
The desert is seen as Satan’s dwelling place through different instances in the scripture. Therefore, readers of the scripture associate a goat with satan.
What did Jesus have against goats?
In Mathew 25:32-37, Jesus narrates to His followers the parable of the sheep and the goats. Here, Jesus likens goats to those who treat their neighbors without consideration.
Jesus teaches His followers that these people represent Him, and since the ‘goats’ are unjust and cruel, he sends them to eternal fire. In this context, Jesus has a dislike for those who have such character that goats symbolize.
Jesus loves all creation in real life, as the goats are the only symbols in the parable.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.