12 Days of Christmas | Day 1 | Word Study on “Lamb”

Hello everyone! Today is the first day of the 12 Days of Christmas blog tour and I’m starting it out with a word study on the word Lamb!

Thanks so much for voting, everyone! I really appreciate your feedback, and I was super happy to see what words y’all wanted me to do!

Well…turns out there are a lot of Hebrew words for “lamb.”

Here’s what I found on BibleHub for Strong’s conncordance:

Keseb (כֶּשֶׂב)- translated lamb or sheep; seems to be found in places referring to Old Testament sacrifices (in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), as well as where Joseph is multiplying his flock despite Laban’s interference (Genesis 30).

Kebes (כֶּבֶשׂ)-translated lamb, but often specifically translated as male lamb; also found in places with instructions for Old Testament sacrifices (throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers).

Kibsah or Kabsah (כִּבְשָׂה)- translated female lamb or ewe; found refering to the gifting (or taking in some cases) of a lamb, with a few references to Old Testament sacrifices (found in Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, and 2 Samuel).

Seh (שֶׂה)- this one is a little different from the other words, because it means one of a flock and can be translated as either a lamb, sheep, or goat.

Found in the classic passage where Abraham is instructed to offer up his son as a sacrifice, both where his son asks “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen 22:7) and where Abraham answers “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Gen 22:8).

Interestingly enough, when God does physically provide a “lamb” to Abraham it uses a different word that doesn’t directly translate to lamb. The word is “ayil” (אַיִל) and instead, it translates as ram or “leader of the flock.” Ayil is sometimes even used to describe people, as in a mighty leader (i.e. Exodus 15:15 regarding the Moabite leaders).

I find this kind of cool. It’s almost like Abraham asked for just “one of the flock” but the LORD gave him the “mighty leader of the flock.” Like they were sacrificing seh after seh (“one of the flock”), but until the true and greater Ayil (leader of the flock) was sacrificed we could not have true salvation. Interesting, right?

Tson (צאֹן)- translated as flocks, either of small cattle, goats, or sheep. Has 274 occurrences throughout the Old Testament, and is used pretty much everywhere to refer to flocks. For instance Genesis 4:2 says that “Abel was a keeper of flocks,” or keeper of tson. Or in 1 Samuel 17:34, David tells Saul that he was “tending his father’s sheep” or tending his father’s tson.

Some other less significant words meaning lamb, that have very few occurrences are:

  • Immar (אִמַּר)- meaning “a lamb” or lambs, has 3 occurrences in the Old Testament.
  • Taleh or tela (טָלֶה or טְלָא)- meaning “a lamb,” has 3 occurrences in the OT.
  • Kisbah (כִּשְׂבָּה)- means “a ewe lamb” or a female lamb, has 1 occurrence in Leviticus.
  • Dekar (דְּכַר)- means “ram” or male sheep. Corresponds to word “zakar” meaning male (e.i. “male and female He created them” Gen 1:27).

Alrighty! That was a lot for the Hebrew. 🙂

Now for the New Testament Greek stuff. There are also a lot of words for “lamb” in Greek, but not quite as much and they’re a little more specific. I’ve parred down to what I think are the most important three.

Arnion (ἀρνίον)- means a little lamb or just “a lamb.” Specifically it refers to someone innocent and pure, particularly those suffering unjustly. Most occurrences are in the book of Revelation, but it is also the word Jesus uses before his ascension when he asks Peter “do you love Me more than these?” and then commands him to “tend My lambs” (John 21:15).

Amnos (ἀμνός)- means “a lamb,” but refers to innocence and sacrifice. Often refers to a one-year-old lamb (without blemish) such as would be used for a sacrifice. Used by John when he declared as Jesus walked by “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Pascha (πάσχα)- this word refers specifically to “the Passover lamb” and can be used to refer to Passover in general. For instance, when the disciples are discussing the upcoming Passover with Jesus shortly before his betrayal they asked “where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” they used pascha to refer to the Passover. So while pascha means Passover lamb, it can also simply refer to Passover overall.

That’s about all for the Greek!

In the Bible, lambs were used for food, money (aka livelihood), gifts, and sacrifice. But they are very important to us, because when Jesus came innocent and unblemished at Christmas, he came as the true and greater Ayil (ram, leader) come to take our place, and he came as the true and greater Pascha (Passover lamb) to make a way for our Salvation. So behold the lamb of God!

Have an awesome day!

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

-John 1:29 (ESV)

“Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

-1 Peter 1:17-19 (ESV)

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

-Revelation 5:13 (ESV)

Song of the Day:

Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson

See you tomorrow for lots of Christmas-y books!!! I’m looking forward to it.:) I hope you enjoyed today’s post despite all the lengthy Hebrew and Greek stuff. 🙂

Also, make sure to check out Faith’s fun Flash Fiction Challenge here and enter the Giveaway! From there you can check out all the other people participating in the blog party. Enjoy.

*All Bible quotations are from the NASB translation unless otherwise noted


Author: Faith on the Farm

I’m just a Christian girl who’s striving to glorify God here on the farm. I love sunsets, roses, my dog, and about everything you can photograph on a farm. As you’ve probably guessed, I love photography. When I’m not singing or working on schoolwork, you’ll probably find me cooking, practicing cello, or somewhere outside with my dog by my side and camera in hand.

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