From Bible Encyclopedia
The common generic word for “goat” is עז, ‛ēz (compare Arabic ‛anz, “she-goat”; αἴξ, aíx), used often for “she-goat” (Genesis 15:9; Numbers 15:27), also with גּדי, gedhī, “kid,” as עזּים, gedhī ‛izzīm, “kid of the goats” (Genesis 38:17), also with שעיר, sā‛īr, “he-goat,” as שעיר עזּים, se‛īr ‛izzīm, “kid of the goats” or “he-goat,” or translated simply “kids,” as in 1 Kings 20:27, “The children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of kids.” Next, frequently used is שׂעיר, sā‛īr, literally, “hairy” (compare Arabic sha‛r, “hair”; χήρ, chḗr, “hedgehog”; Latin hircus, “goat”; hirtus, “hairy”; also German Haar; English “hair”), like ‛ēz and ‛attūdh used of goats for offerings. The goat which is sent into the wilderness bearing the sins of the people is sā‛īr (Leviticus 16:7-22). The same name is used of devils (Leviticus 17:7; 2 Chronicles 11:15, the Revised Version (British and American) “he-goats”) and of satyrs (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14, the Revised Version, margin “he-goats,” the American Standard Revised Version “wild goats”). Compare also שׂעירת עזּים, se‛īrath ‛izzīm, “a female from the flock” (Leviticus 4:28; Leviticus 5:6). The male or leader of the flock is עתּוּד, ‛attūdh; Arabic ‛atûd, “yearling he-goat”; figuratively “chief ones” (Isaiah 14:9; compare Jeremiah 50:8). A later word for “he-goat,” used also figuratively, is צפיר, cāphīr (2 Chronicles 29:21; Ezra 8:35; Daniel 8:5, Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:21). In Proverbs 30:31, one of the four things “which are stately in going” is the he-goat, תּיש, tayish (Arabic tais, “he-goat”), also mentioned in Genesis 30:35; Genesis 32:14 among the possessions of Laban and Jacob, and in 2 Chronicles 17:11 among the animals given as tribute by the Arabians to Jehoshaphat. In Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:19; Hebrews 10:4, we have τράγος, trágos, the ordinary Greek word for “goat”; in Matthew 25:32, Matthew 25:33, ἔριφος, ériphos, and its diminutive ἐρίφιον, eríphion; in Hebrews 11:37 δέρμα αἴγειον, dérma aígeion, “goatskin,” from aix (see supra). “Kid” is גּדי, gedhī (compare En-Gedi (1 Samuel 23:29), etc.), feminine גּדיּה, gedhīyāh (Song Of Songs 1:8), but also ‛ēz, gedhī ‛izzīm, se‛īr ‛izzīm, se‛īrath ‛izzīm, benē ‛izzīm, and ériphoš. There remain יעל, yā‛ēl (1 Samuel 24:2; Job 39:1; Psalm 104:18), English Versions of the Bible “wild goat”; יעלה, ya‛ălāh (Proverbs 5:19), the King James Version “roe,” the Revised Version (British and American) “doe”; אקּו, 'aḳḳō (Deuteronomy 14:5), English Versions of the Bible “wild goat”; and זמר, zemer (Deuteronomy 14:5), English Versions of the Bible “chamois.”
(1) Heb. 'ez, the she-goat (Genesis 15:9; Genesis 30:35; Genesis 31:38). This Hebrew word is also used for the he-goat (Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 4:23; Numbers 28:15), and to denote a kid (Genesis 38:17, Genesis 38:20). Hence it may be regarded as the generic name of the animal as domesticated. It literally means “strength,” and points to the superior strength of the goat as compared with the sheep.
(2) Heb. 'attud, only in plural; rendered “rams” (Genesis 31:10, Genesis 31:12); he-goats (Numbers 7:17-88; Isaiah 1:11); goats (Deuteronomy 32:14; Psalm 50:13). They were used in sacrifice (Psalm 66:15). This word is used metaphorically for princes or chiefs in Isaiah 14:9, and in Zechariah 10:3 as leaders. (Compare Jeremiah 50:8.)
(4) Heb. sa'ir, meaning the “shaggy,” a hairy goat, a he-goat (2 Chronicles 29:23); “a goat” (Leviticus 4:24); “satyr” (Isaiah 13:21); “devils” (Leviticus 17:7). It is the goat of the sin-offering (Leviticus 9:3, Leviticus 9:15; Leviticus 10:16).
(8) There are two Hebrew words used to denote the undomesticated goat: Yael, only in plural mountain goats (1 Samuel 24:2; Job 39:1; Psalm 104:18). It is derived from a word meaning “to climb.” It is the ibex, which abounded in the mountainous parts of Moab. And 'akko, only in Deuteronomy 14:5, the wild goat.
Goats are mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew 25:32, Matthew 25:33; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:19; Hebrews 10:4. They represent oppressors and wicked men (Ezekiel 34:17; Ezekiel 39:18; Matthew 25:33).
Several varieties of the goat were familiar to the Hebrews. They had an important place in their rural economy on account of the milk they afforded and the excellency of the flesh of the kid. They formed an important part of pastoral wealth (Genesis 31:10, Genesis 31:12; Genesis 32:14; 1 Samuel 25:2).
2. Wild Goats
The original of our domestic goats is believed to be the Persian wild goat or pasang, Capra aegagrus, which inhabits some of the Greek islands, Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, and Northwestern India. It is called wa‛l (compare Hebrew yā‛ēl) by the Arabs, who in the North apply the same name to its near relative, the Sinaitic ibex, Capra beden. The last, doubtless the “wild goat” (yā‛ēl) of the Bible, inhabits Southern Palestine, Arabia, Sinai, and Eastern Egypt, and within its range is uniformly called beden by the Arabs. It is thought by the writer that the “chamois” (zemer) of Deuteronomy 14:5 may be the Persian wild goat. The word occurs only in this passage in the list of clean animals. See Chamois; Deer; Zoology. Wild goats are found only in Southern Europe, Southwestern Asia, and Northeastern Africa. They include the well-known, but now nearly extinct, Alpine ibex, steinbok, or bouquetin, the markhor, and the Himalayan ibex, which has enormous horns. The so-called Rocky Mountain goat is not properly a goat, but is an animal intermediate between goats and antelopes.
3. Domestic Goats
Domestic goats differ greatly among themselves in the color and length of their hair, in the size and shape of their ears, and in the size and shape of their horns, which are usually larger in the males, but in some breeds may be absent in both sexes. A very constant feature in both wild and domestic goats is the bearded chin of the male. The goats of Palestine and Syria are usually black (Song Of Songs 4:1), though sometimes partly or entirely white or brown. Their hair is usually long, hanging down from their bodies. The horns are commonly curved outward and backward, but in one very handsome breed they extend nearly outward with slight but graceful curves, sometimes attaining a span of 2 ft. or more in the old males. The profile of the face is distinctly convex. They are herded in the largest numbers in the mountainous or hilly districts, and vie with their wild congeners in climbing into apparently impossible places. They feed not only on herbs, but also on shrubs and small trees, to which they are most destructive. They are largely responsible for the deforested condition of Judea and Lebanon. They reach up the trees to the height of a man, holding themselves nearly or quite erect, and even walk out on low branches.
Apart from the ancient use in sacrifice, which still survives among Muslims, goats are most valuable animals. Their flesh is eaten, and may be had when neither mutton nor beef can be found. Their milk is drunk and made into cheese and semn, a sort of clarified butter much used in cooking. Their hair is woven into tents (Song Of Songs 1:5), carpets, cloaks, sacks, slings, and various camel, horse and mule trappings. Their skins are made into bottles (nō'dh; Greek askós; Arabic ḳirbeh) for water, oil, semn, and other liquids (compare also Hebrews 11:37).
5. Religious and Figurative
Just as the kid was often slaughtered for an honored guest (Judges 6:19; Judges 13:19), so the kid or goat was frequently taken for sacrifice (Leviticus 4:23; Leviticus 9:15; Leviticus 16:7; Numbers 15:24; Ezra 8:35; Ezekiel 45:23; Hebrews 9:12). A goat was one of the clean animals (sēh ‛izzīm, Deuteronomy 14:4). In Daniel, the powerful king out of the West is typified as a goat with a single horn (Daniel 8:5). One of the older goats is the leader of the flock. In some parts of the country the goatherd makes different ones leaders by turns, the leader being trained to keep near the goat-herd and not to eat so long as he wears the bell. In Isaiah 14:9, “.... stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth,” the word translated “chief ones” is ‛attūdh, “he-goat.” Again, in Jeremiah 50:8, we have “Go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he-goats before the flocks.” In Matthew 25:32, in the scene of the last judgment, we find “He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats.” It is not infrequent to find a flock including both goats and sheep grazing over the mountains, but they are usually folded separately.