A cud-chewing mammal with hollow horns and usually long, relatively straight hair. A number of Hebrew and Greek terms are used to refer to male and female goats and their offspring. The common Hebrew term for “goat” is ʽez. (Le 3:12) Another Hebrew term for goat (sa·ʽirʹ) literally means “hairy.” (Compare Ge 27:11, where a word of the same form and from the same root is rendered “hairy.”) The male leader of a flock of goats was denoted by the Hebrew term ʽat·tudhʹ, rendered ‘he-goat.’ (Nu 7:17; compare Jer 50:8, ftn.) The term was used figuratively to refer to rulers or leaders and has been rendered “goatlike leaders.” (Isa 14:9; Zec 10:3) The Greek words for “goat” are traʹgos and eʹri·phos.—Mt 25:32; Heb 9:12, 13.
The Syrian goat (Capra hircus mambrica), distinguished by its long, drooping ears and its backward-curving horns, is the predominant breed of Palestine. Usually these goats are black; speckled ones are exceptional. (Ge 30:32, 35) He-goats were one of the items of Tyre’s trade.—Eze 27:21.
In Bible times, some of the goat herds may have been quite large. Nabal, for example, had 1,000 goats. (1Sa 25:2, 3) Jacob’s gift to Esau included 200 she-goats and 20 he-goats. (Ge 32:13, 14) And the Arabs brought 7,700 he-goats to King Jehoshaphat of Judah.—2Ch 17:11.
To the Hebrews the goat was very valuable. (Pr 27:26) It provided them with milk, from which butter and cheese could be made. (Pr 27:27) Its flesh, particularly that of the kid, was eaten. (Ge 27:9; De 14:4; Jg 6:19; 13:15; Lu 15:29) And for the Passover, either a male sheep or a year-old male goat could be used. (Ex 12:5) Goat’s hair, made into fabric, was employed in various ways. (Nu 31:20) “The tents of Kedar” may have been made from black goat’s hair (Ca 1:5), and goat’s hair was used in the construction of the tabernacle. (Ex 26:7; 35:26) Goatskins were made into bottles (see Ge 21:15) and were also used for clothing, as by certain persecuted pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah.—Heb 11:37.
The goat served as a sacrificial animal, being presented as a burnt offering (Le 1:10; 22:18, 19), a communion sacrifice (Le 3:6, 12), a sin offering (Ezr 8:35), and a guilt offering (Le 5:6). Every firstborn of the goats was to be sacrificed, but not until it was at least eight days old. (Le 22:27; Nu 18:17) A female goat in its first year (or, a female lamb) was the prescribed sin offering for a person not a priest or a chieftain. (Le 4:28, 32) At certain times goats were sacrificed as sin offerings for the nation of Israel as a whole. (Le 23:19; Nu 28:11, 15, 16, 22, 26-30; 29:1-39; 2Ch 29:20-24; Ezr 6:17) A young male goat served as the sin offering for a chieftain. (Le 4:22-26) On the Day of Atonement, two goats were used. One was sacrificed as a sin offering for the 12 non-Levite tribes, and the other was designated for “Azazel” and was sent away into the wilderness. (Le 16:1-27; see ATONEMENT DAY; AZAZEL.) Of course, those goats that were offered in sacrifice could not actually take away sins, but they merely pictured the real sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—Heb 9:11-14; 10:3, 4.
Figurative and Prophetic Usage. The hair of the Shulammite girl was compared to a drove of goats, perhaps alluding to the glistening sheen of black hair or to the luxuriant abundance of the girl’s tresses. (Ca 4:1; 6:5) Israel’s small army, when compared with that of the Syrians, was likened to “two tiny flocks of goats.” (1Ki 20:27) Goats were used to represent people, often those in opposition to Jehovah. (Isa 34:6, 7; compare Jer 51:40; Eze 34:17; Zec 10:3.) In Jesus’ illustration of the sheep and the goats, the goats represent those persons who refuse to do good to the least of his brothers.—Mt 25:31-46.
The he-goat of Daniel’s prophecy represented the Grecian (or Greco-Macedonian) World Power. (Da 8:5-8, 21) Concerning this The Imperial Bible-Dictionary (edited by P. Fairbairn, London, 1874, Vol. I, p. 664) observes: “It is interesting to know that this [the goat] was the recognized symbol of their nation by the Macedonians themselves. Monuments are still extant in which this symbol occurs, as one of the pilasters of Persepolis, where a goat is depicted with one immense horn on his forehead, and a Persian holding the horn, by which is intended the subjection of Macedon by Persia” (something accomplished by the Persians toward the close of the sixth century B.C.E.).
Mountain Goat, Wild Goat. The Hebrew designation yeʽe·limʹ, rendered “mountain goats” (NW) and “wild goats” (KJ), is generally understood to refer to the Nubian ibex (Capra ibex nubiana), a mountain-dwelling wild goat with large, heavily ridged, backward-curving horns. This animal is at home in the high mountains (Ps 104:18), where it negotiates jagged crags and narrow mountain ledges with graceful ease. During the period of gestation these goats seek out places not easily found by man. This may be alluded to at Job 39:1, where the question raised points up the fact that these creatures are quite independent of man, the birth of their young taking place unobserved by man.
The account at 1 Samuel chapter 24 tells of Saul’s pursuing David into the rocky area of En-gedi (meaning “Fountain (Spring) of the Kid”) on the western side of the Dead Sea. The pursuers looked for David and his men upon “the bare rocks of the mountain goats” (1Sa 24:2), suggesting that mountain goats inhabited this region. Even in recent times the ibex has been seen there.
The feminine Hebrew form ya·ʽalahʹ is employed in the passage at Proverbs 5:18, 19. Here the wife of one’s youth is compared to “a charming mountain goat,” the allusion possibly being to the grace of this animal.
At Deuteronomy 14:4, 5, where the reference is to animals acceptable for food, the Hebrew word ʼaq·qohʹ has been translated “wild goat.” (AS, KJ, NW, RS) Many scholars believe that ʼaq·qohʹ may designate the same animal as yeʽe·limʹ, that is, the Nubian ibex.