Of the Syrian sheep, according to Dr. Russell, there are two varieties; the one called Bedaween sheep, which differ in no respect from the larger kinds of sheep among us, except that their tails are somewhat longer and thicker; the others are those often mentioned by travellers on account of their extraordinary tails; and this species is by far the most numerous. The tail of one of these animals is very broad and large, terminating in a small appendage that turns back upon it. It is of a substance between fat and marrow, and is not eaten separately, but mixed with the lean meat in many of their dishes, and also often used instead of butter. A common sheep of this sort, without the head, feet, skin, and entrails, weighs from sixty to eighty pounds, of which the tail itself is usually ten or fifteen pounds, and when the animal is fattened, twice or thrice that weight, and very inconvenient to its owner.
The sheep or lamb was the common sacrifice under the Mosaic law; and it is to be remarked, that when the divine legislator speaks of this victim, he never omits to appoint that the rump or tail be laid whole on the fire of the altar, Ex 29:22; Le 3:9. The reason for this is seen in the account just given from Dr. Russell; from which it appears that this was the most delicate part of the animal, and therefore the most proper to be presented in sacrifice to Jehovah.
The innocence, mildness, submission, and patience of the sheep or lamb, rendered it peculiarly sheep and lamb, rendered it peculiarly suitable for a sacrifice, and an appropriate type of the Lamb of God, Joh 1:29. A recent traveller in Palestine witnessed the shearing of a sheep in the immediate vicinity of Gethsemane; and the silent, unresisting submission of the poor animal, thrown with its feet bound upon the earth, its sides rudely pressed by the shearer's knees, while every movement threatened to lacerate the flesh, was a touching commentary on the prophet's description of Christ, Isa 53:7; Ac 8:32-35.
There are frequent allusions in Scripture to these characteristics of the sheep, and to its proneness to go astray, Ps 119:176; Isa 53:6. It is a gregarious animal also; and as loving the companionship of the flock and dependant of the protection and guidance of its master, its name is often given to the people of God, 2Ki 22:17; Ps 79:13-80:1; Mt 25:32. Sheep and goats are still found in Syria feeding indiscriminately together, as in ancient times, Ge 30:35; Mt 25:32-33. The season of sheep shearing was one of great joy and festivity, 1Sa 25:5,8,36; 2Sa 13:23.
Sheep-cotes or folds, among the Israelites, appear to have been generally open houses, or enclosures walled round, often in front of rocky caverns, to guard the sheep from beasts of prey by night, and the scorching heat of noon, Nu 32:16; 2Sa 7:8; Jer 23:3,6; Joh 10:1-5. See SHEPHERD.
are of different varieties. Probably the flocks of Abraham and Isaac were of the wild species found still in the mountain regions of Persia and Kurdistan. After the Exodus, and as a result of intercourse with surrounding nations, other species were no doubt introduced into the herds of the people of Israel. They are frequently mentioned in Scripture. The care of a shepherd over his flock is referred to as illustrating God's care over his people (Ps 23:1-2; 74:1; 77:20; Isa 40:11; 53:6; Joh 10:1-5,7-16).
The sheep of Palestine are longer in the head than ours, and have tails from 5 inches broad at the narrowest part to 15 inches at the widest, the weight being in proportion, and ranging generally from 10 to 14 lbs., but sometimes extending to 30 lbs. The tails are indeed huge masses of fat (Geikie's Holy Land, etc.). The tail was no doubt the "rump" so frequently referred to in the Levitical sacrifices (Ex 29:22; Le 3:9; 7:3; 9:19). Sheep-shearing was generally an occasion of great festivity (Ge 31:19; 38:12-13; 1Sa 25:4-8,36; 2Sa 13:23-28).
Ge 4:2. Abounded in the pastures of Palestine. Shepherds go before them and call them by name to follow (Joh 10:4; Ps 77:20; 80:1). The ordinary sheep are the broad tailed sheep, and the Ovis aries, like our own except that the tail is longer and thicker, and the ears larger; called bedoween. Centuries B.C. Aristotle mentions Syrian sheep with tails a cubit wide. The fat tail is referred to in Le 3:9; 7:3. The Syrian cooks use the mass of fat instead of the rancid Arab butter.
The sheep symbolizes meekness, patience, gentleness, and submission (Isa 53:7; Ac 8:32). (See LAMB.) Tsown means sheep"; ayil, the full-grown "ram," used for the male of other ruminants also; rachel, the adult "ewe"; kebes (masculine), kibsah (feminine), the half grown lamb; seh, "sheep" or paschal "lamb"; char, "young ram"; taleh, "sucking lamb"; 'atod (Genesis 31 "ram") means "he-goat"; imrin, "lambs for sacrifice."
The sheep never existed in a wild state, but was created expressly for man, and so was selected from the first for sacrifice. The image is frequent in Scripture: Jehovah the Shepherd, His people the flock (Ps 23:1; Isa 40:11; Jer 23:1-2; Ezekiel 34). Sinners are the straying sheep whom the Good Shepherd came to save (Ps 119:176; Isa 53:6; Jer 50:6; Lu 15:4-6; Joh 10:8,11). False teachers are thieves and wolves in sheep's clothing (Mt 7:15). None can pluck His sheep from His hand and the Father's (Joh 10:27-29).
Sheep were bred in great numbers in Palestine, and formed a large part of the property of the Israelites. The species common there was the broad tailed sheep with horns (Ovis laticaudatus and Ovis aries). In Palestine they follow the shepherd and know his voice, and will not follow a stranger. Sheep and lambs were constantly offered in sacrifice. The morning and evening lamb and the passover lambs were all types of the sacred One who was called "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."
Symbolically sheep are figurative of mankind, as being prone to wander: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." Isa 53:6; Lu 15:4-7. The Lord said, "My sheep shall never perish." The Good Shepherd calls His own sheep by name, and when brought into His own company they have perfect security, liberty, and sustenance. Joh 10:9. The Lord led His sheep out of the Jewish fold: these were united with His 'other sheep' (Gentile believers), that they all should become 'one flock' with one Shepherd. Joh 10:3,16. In the future judgement of the nations, those saved are called 'sheep,' in distinction from the lost, who are called 'goats.' Mt 25:31-46.
Sheep were an important part of the possessions of the ancient Hebrews and of eastern nations generally. The first mention of sheep occurs in
They were used in the sacrificial offering,as, both the adult animal,
and the lamb. See
Sheep and lambs formed an important article of food.
The wool was used as clothing.
Rams skins dyed red were used as a covering for the tabernacle.
Sheep and lambs were sometimes paid as tribute.
It is very striking to notice the immense numbers of sheep that were reared in Palestine in biblical times. (Chardin says he saw a clan of Turcoman shepherds whose flock consisted of 3,000,000 sheep and goats, besides 400,000 Feasts of carriage, as horses, asses and camels.) Sheep-sheering is alluded to
Sheepdogs were employed in biblical times.
Shepherds in Palestine and the East generally go before their flocks, which they induce to follow by calling to them, comp.
though they also drive them.
The following quotation from Hartley's "Researches in Greece and the Levant," p. 321, is strikingly illustrative of the allusions in
Having had my attention directed last night to the words in
I asked my man if it was usual in Greece to give names to the sheep. He informed me that it was, and that the sheep obeyed the shepherd when he called them by their names. This morning I had an opportunity of verifying the truth of this remark. Passing by a flock of sheep I asked the shepherd the same question which I had put to the servant, and he gave me the same answer. I then had him call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him. The shepherd told me that many of his sheep were still wild, that they had not yet learned their names, but that by teaching them they would all learn them." The common sheer, of Syria and Palestine are the broad-tailed. As the sheep is an emblem of meekness, patience and submission, it is expressly mentioned as typifying these qualities in the person of our blessed Lord.
etc. The relation that exists between Christ, "the chief Shepherd," and his members is beautifully compared to that which in the East is so strikingly exhibited by the shepherds to their flocks [SHEPHERD]
SHEEP, ??, occurs frequently, and ???, a general name for both sheep and goats, considered collectively in a flock, Arabic zain. The sheep is a well known animal. The benefits which mankind owe to it are numerous. Its fleece, its skin, its flesh, its tallow, and even its horns and bowels are articles of great utility to human life and happiness. Its mildness and inoffensiveness of temper strongly recommend it to human affection and regard; and have designated it the pattern and emblem of meekness, innocence, patience, and submission. It is a social animal. The flock follow the ram as their leader; who frequently displays the most impetuous courage in their defence: dogs, and even men, when attempting to molest them, have often suffered from his sagacious and generous valour. There are two varieties of sheep found in Syria. The first, called the "Bidoween sheep," differs little from the large breed among us, except that the tail is somewhat longer and thicker. The second is much more common, and is more valued on account of the extraordinary bulk of its tail, which has been remarked by all the eastern travellers. The carcass of one of these sheep, without including the head, feet, entrails, and skin, weighs from fifty to sixty pounds, of which the tail makes up fifteen pounds. Some of a larger size, fattened with care, will sometimes weigh one hundred and fifty pounds, the tail alone composing one third of the whole weight. It is of a substance between fat and marrow, and is not eaten separately, but mixed with the lean meat in many of their dishes, and often also used instead of butter. A reference to this part is made in Ex 29:22; Le 3:9; where the fat and the tail were to be burnt on the altar of sacrifice. Mr. Street considers this precept to have had respect to the health of the Israelites; observing that "bilious disorders are very frequent in hot countries; the eating of fat meat is a great encouragement and excitement to them; and though the fat of the tail is now considered as a delicacy, it is really unwholesome." The conclusion of the seventeenth verse, which is, "Ye shall eat neither fat nor blood," justifies this opinion. The prohibition of eating fat, that is of fat unmixed with the flesh, the omentum or caul, is given also, Le 7:23.