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” (AV), is generally understood to refer to the Arabian ibex, 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 “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” (vs. 2), suggesting that mountain goats inhabited this region. Interestingly, 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, AV, NW, RS) Some scholars believe that ʼaq·qohʹ may designate the same animal as yeʽe·limʹ, that is, the Arabian ibex. Others suggest that the Persian wild goat is meant.
[Heb., sa·ʽirʹ; plural, seʽi·rimʹ].
The Hebrew word sa·ʽir’ literally means “hairy or shaggy one” and is used in that sense as describing Esau. (Gen. 27:11) But in most texts it refers to a goat or kid of the goats. (Gen. 37:31; Lev. 4:24) However, in four texts (Lev. 17:7; 2 Chron. 11:15; Isa. 13:21; 34:14) the word is generally considered by translators as having a meaning beyond its ordinary usage.
At both Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15 it is clear that the term (seʽi·rimʹ, plural) is used as referring to things to which worship and sacrifice are given, and this in connection with false religion. The translators of the Septuagint and Vulgate versions, therefore, rendered the Hebrew word as “the senseless things” (LXX) and “the demons” (Vg). Modern translators and lexicographers in general adopt the same view in these two texts, using “demons” (Ro), “satyrs” (RS, AT, JB, JP), or “goat-shaped demons” (NW, see also Koehler and Baumgartner’s Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, page 926, and the Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 972), exceptions being the translation of Robert Young, which renders the term literally as “goat(s),” and the American Standard Version (1901), which uses “he-goats.”
Joshua’s words at Joshua 24:14 show that the Israelites had been affected to some extent by the false worship of Egypt during their sojourn there, while Ezekiel indicates that such pagan practices continued to plague them long afterward. (Ezek. 23:8, 21) For this reason some scholars consider that the divine decree issued in the wilderness to prevent the Israelites from making “sacrifices to the goat-shaped demons” (Lev. 17:1-7) and Rehoboam’s establishing priests “for the high places and for the goat-shaped demons and for the calves that he had made” (2 Chron. 11:15) indicate there was some form of goat worship among the Israelites such as was prominent in Egypt, particularly in Lower Egypt. Herodotus claims that from such Egyptian worship the Greeks derived their belief in Pan and also in the satyrs, woodland gods of a lustful nature, who were eventually depicted as having horns, a goat’s tail and goat’s legs. Some even suggest that such half-animal form of these pagan gods is the source of the practice of picturing Satan with tail, horns and cloven feet, a custom prevalent among professed Christians in the Dark Ages.
Just what such “hairy ones” (seʽi·rimʹ) actually were, however, is not stated. While some consider them to be literal goats or idols in the form of goats, this does not necessarily seem to be indicated; nor do other scriptures provide evidence of that nature. The term used may simply indicate that in the minds of those worshiping them such false gods were conceived of as being goatlike in shape or hairy in appearance. Or, the use of “goats” in these references may be merely a means of expressing contempt for all idolatrous objects in general, even as the word for idols in numerous texts is drawn from a term originally meaning “dung pellets,” not denoting, however, that the idols were literally made of dung.—Lev. 26:30; Deut. 29:17.
The sense of sa·ʽirʹ, and seʽi·rimʹ in the other two texts (Isa. 13:21; 34:14) is not as generally agreed upon as being connected with false worship. In these passages the desolate ruins of Babylon and of Edom are depicted as inhabited by wild creatures, including the seʽi·rimʹ. Some translations render the term in its literal sense as “goat(s)” (Yg) or “wild goat(s)” (AS), while Rotherham, though using “demons” at Leviticus and 2 Chronicles, prefers “shaggy creature(s)” in Isaiah. Similarly the Vulgate, which reads “demons” in the first two texts, uses pilosi, “the hairy ones,” for the Isaiah texts. Those preferring such literal rendering in these texts point out that the word appears among other creatures known to be literal beasts or fowl. Objecting to the rendering of sa·ʽirʹ as “satyr” at Isaiah 34:14, G. R. Driver (Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 1959, Vol. XCI, p. 57) points out that the satyr was nowhere used in mythology as a symbol of desolation but, rather, of lasciviousness and revelry, and, in favor of considering the sa·ʽirʹ as a literal goat, shows that goats flourish in bleak spots and that wild goats are reported to be common at the S end of the Dead Sea, and thus in the direction of desolated Edom, against whom Isaiah’s prophecy (34:14) is spoken.
Those favoring a translation in Isaiah such as is indicated by the Leviticus and 2 Chronicles texts show that the Septuagint translation uses “demons” for seʽi·rim in Isaiah and that John uses the same language as that of the Septuagint (Isa. 13:21) when describing desolated Babylon the Great as the habitat of unclean birds and “demons.” (Rev. 18:2) Of course, whether the apostle John here actually quoted from the Septuagint cannot be definitely stated. It is also to be noted that the Septuagint uses, not only “demons” for seʽi·rimʹ, but also “monsters” and “satyrs” at Isaiah 13:21, 22, whereas modern translations render the same Hebrew words as “ostriches” and “jackals” or “hyenas” (Da, Mo, RS, NW).
Thus, the matter is not one allowing for absolute certainty. Isaiah may have injected into his list of literal animals and birds references to demons, not meaning that such demons actually materialized in the form of goats, but, rather, that the minds of the pagans around those places would imaginatively people the desolate sites with such demon inhabitants. History shows that the people of Syria and Arabia have long associated monstrous creatures with similar ruins, and the jinn of the Arabs are depicted as having monstrous hairy forms. On the other hand, the seʽi·rimʹ occupying the desolate ruins of Edom and Babylon may well have been real animals, shaggy-haired and perhaps of such appearance as to cause observers to think of demons.