Learning from God's Specific Will about Goats

July 20, 2012

In the many previous times that I have read through the Bible, I have not understood Leviticus 16:5-10 as an important passage about the specificity of God’s will. Recently, however, God granted me illumination about the remarkable nature of its teaching concerning God’s specific will about goats.

The Lord directed Moses to instruct Aaron about the offerings that he was to make as an atonement for the people of Israel:

Lev 16:5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.

7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.

9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

Aaron was to take two male goats (see Heb.) from the people for a sin offering (16:5). The people would have brought to him goats that met the requirements for the sin offerings (Lev. 4-5), and Aaron would receive them to present to the Lord at the door of the tabernacle (16:7).

Having brought the two goats to the door, he then had to cast lots for them to determine which one would be offered as the sin offering to the Lord and which one would be the scapegoat (16:8). Aaron thus was not left to his own wisdom to decide which one to use in which way.

Because the Lord was the One who determined the outcome when lots were cast (Prov. 16:33), this instruction makes clear that it was the Lord who thereby specified to Aaron which goat he would use for which purpose. The Lord, therefore, had a specific will for each goat and a specific will for Aaron about how he was to use each one.

This passage teaches us that the Lord had a specific will about matters (choice between the goat to be used for an offering and the one to be used for a scapegoat) that we would otherwise surely have thought that there would have been no difference in the choices that were to be made. If the Lord had a specific will about these goats and a specific will about which one Aaron was to use for each purpose, how credible is it to assert that He does not have a specific will for clearly important matters for us today such as who a person is to marry?

Rajesh

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2 responses to Learning from God's Specific Will about Goats

  1. Interesting point, but isn’t it possible that God may place greater importance on the details of OT sacramental ritual than on marital choice? I’m not sure this is necessarily apples to apples.

    • God does place great importance on the detail of OT sacramental ritual. I think, however, that this is an instance where there would be no ostensible difference between the goats, and yet God specified which would be used for which purpose. In principle, it points to a greater specificity than we would think necessary or even plausible.

      Whether it applies to the issue that I applied to is, of course, debatable. Thanks for the feedback, Duncan.