Lamb: seh (Strong’s 7716)
Flock: tson (Strong’s 6629)
Root: שֶׂה (shin, hey) [Sounds like: say] & צֹאן (zayin, aleph, nun) [Sounds like tsone]
Sometimes when choosing the word of the week I think, well this one shouldn’t be too complicated. It’s a simple word. That’s what I thought about the word LAMB… But there are at least TWELVE different Hebrew words for sheep/lamb/ewe/ram that I could find! We will look at just two of these, although it is worth mentioning that rachel (7353) is one of the twelve words. Yes, if your name is Rachel, it means ewe, a female sheep… and in fact Rachel, the Biblical matriarch, lived up to her name and worked as a Shepherd (Genesis 29:9).
However, since Passover will soon be upon us, let us begin by looking specifically at the word seh, the lamb associated with Pesach, the Passover.
A few things about the word seh… first of all seh is always a young male lamb. Originally this word seh covered male yearlings of either sheep or goats, although it tended to favour lambs and it is usually translated as such. Seh is the word most often associated with lambs that were used in the ancient Hebrew system of sacrifice and atonement. Ultimately the word came to represent a sacrificial lamb.
Pesach: The Passover
The most famous use of seh is found in the story of the Passover, when Moses faced the Pharaoh of Egypt and God sent plagues on behalf of the Hebrew people. The final plague, death to all first born males in Egypt, was the knock-out punch to the Egyptians. To save the Hebrew people God sent instructions for them to place a sign on their doors. With this sign God would “pass over” their home and those inside would be saved:
Exodus 12:1-8, 11b-13
And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Speak unto all the community of Israel saying, On the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb [seh] according to the house of his father, a lamb [seh] for each household. And if the household is too little for a whole lamb [mi-seh], they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of souls there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb [ha-seh] needed in accordance with what each person will eat. Your lamb [seh] shall be a male without blemish of the first year and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. And you shall keep watch over it until the fourteenth day of the month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill them at twilight. And they shall take the blood of it and put it on the two sides and on the upper doorposts of the houses where they eat it. And they shall eat that night the meat roasted over fire, and they shall eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs…”.
“This is the Passover of YHWH. For I will pass through the land of Egypt on this night and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement. I Am YHWH. And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. The plague of death will not be in you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
The Passover is a pinnacle moment in the history of the Hebrew people. YHWH shows His complete power over His enemies and His complete protection over those who love Him. It is also a point of convergence for all that happened to the Hebrew people up to this point and the establishment of a nation under God that follows. Moses and the Hebrew people were spared from death at that moment in time… but the question becomes, is there salvation from the grave that is eternal?
The writers of the Tenakh (from the poets to the prophets) all recognize that the Passover was not a stagnant event and much of their writing seeks to find further fulfillment of the symbolism of Passover:
I long for your salvation [yeshua-teka], Lord,
and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost lamb [ke-seh].
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands.
We are tson, God’s flock of sheep
Followers of God are consistently described as a flock of sheep. The Hebrew word for flock is tson. In the following Psalm the writer ask God to look towards His flock and to help and redeem them:
If we had forgotten the name of our God
Or extended our hands to a strange god,
Would not God find this out?
For He knows the secrets of the heart.
But for Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are considered as a flock [ke-tson] to be slaughtered.
Arouse Yourself, why do You sleep, O Lord?
Awake, do not reject us forever.
Why do You hide Your face
And forget our affliction and our oppression?
For our soul has sunk down into the dust;
Our body cleaves to the earth.
Rise up, be our help,
And redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness.
This imagery of a redeemer for the Lost Sheep of God permeates scripture. We can see this in the Covenant that YHWH has with King David. YHWH promised King David that one of his descendants would establish a Kingdom in His name, and that this descendant would be a Son to God:
2 Samuel 7:12-14a
YHWH: “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a Father to Him and He will be a Son to Me…”
Many years later God again promises to redeem and deliver His flock:
YHWH: “Therefore, I will deliver My flock [le-tsoni], and they will no longer be a prey; and I will judge between one sheep [seh] and another [la-seh]. Then I will set over them One Shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, YHWH, will be their God, and My servant David will be a leader among them; I YHWH have spoken. I will make a Covenant of Peace [berit shalom] with them…”
Keep in mind Ezekiel was a prophet about 400 years after King David reigned on earth. Listeners to this prophetic message would likely have interpreted the mention of God’s “servant David” as someone from the line of the great Jewish King David. In Ezekiel’s prophecy YHWH goes on to say:
“And they shall know I, YHWH their God, am with them, and they are my people even the house of Israel,” declares the Lord YHWH. “And you, My flock [tsoni], flock of My pasture, you are mankind. I am your God,” declares the Lord YHWH.
God promises a redeemer from the line of David. We are God’s flock, but we need a redeemer among us… one of the sheep set apart, a promised one, a Messiah, to be an advocate for all of us. The prophet Isaiah describes this Messiah:
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like a flock [ka-tson] have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But YHWH has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb [ka-seh] that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep [u-kha-rakhel] that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
Yeshua as the Passover Lamb
The fundamental question to those of the Jewish faith is this: Is Yeshua HaMashiach? Is Jesus the Messiah? Is He the Jewish Messiah promised by God?
When John the Baptist (who, by the way, was a Jew, not a “Baptist”) first encounters Yeshua he cries out: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
Yeshua confirms this:
So the Jews gathered around Him and demanded, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ [the Messiah], tell us plainly.”
“I already told you,” Jesus replied, “but you did not believe. The works I do in My Father’s name testify on My behalf. But because you are not My sheep, you refuse to believe. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Yeshua knows His own death. He knows where His life is leading him. He recognizes the Passover symbolism set out in the time of Moses and that He is the descendant of David and the Passover lamb that is to die for the sins of the world.
In His final days Yeshua and His disciples went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover. :
Luke 22:7-8, 14-16
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”… When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it (the Passover) finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
(For a detailed look at how Yeshua is represented in the Passover meal check out this informative video here).
And so, like a lamb led to slaughter, Yeshua is sacrificed on the cross. Yeshua’s sacrifice fulfills the Davidic covenant and fulfills His role as redeemer for us.
After His death and resurrection, His followers are quick to point out the obvious connections between Yeshua and the Lamb. Paul goes directly to the point calling Yeshua, “Christ our Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Peter, the Apostle, also makes a direct comparison between Yeshua and the Passover Lamb:
1 Peter 1:18-20
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot. He was known before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in the last times for your sake.
Sacrificing the Son
Knowing all of this and seeing the connection between Yeshua and the Passover lamb we can now understand the full context of the controversial story, way back in Genesis, of YHWH asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac.
Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he [Isaac] said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb [ha-seh] for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb [ha-seh] for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of YHWH called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the boy, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place YHWH Will Provide…
And YHWH does provide. He does not make us sacrifice ourselves or each other. He sends His only Son to be a lamb for the slaughter… in order that we might truly live.
This is not so much a “test” for Abraham, rather it is an in-living colour example of what God was prepared to do for us. If you are horrified by the thought of Abraham killing his child at the request of God, how much more horrified should you be knowing that God was sorrowfully willing to give His beloved as a sacrifice for us? Do you think it was easy for God to turn His back on His only Son?… to allow humanity to hang Him on the cross and to not step in?… to watch on stand-by as your only son became a Passover Lamb, taking on the sins and sorrows of every soul ever created? Yeshua’s death meant our life. It was God’s covenant promise to us from long ago… and He kept His promise at a terrible cost.
The Lamb is an offering of Peace
Yeshua is the descendant of David, He is the Son of God, the firstborn; He is the Passover Lamb and the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The Passover is a Peace Offering and Yeshua is that Peace. He is the Prince of Peace and nothing can separate us from His love.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Next week: Salvation