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I was listening to a homily and here is what the priest said:

"You would travel with your family to Jerusalem and you would have either brought a lamb or you would have acquired a lamb and what you do is live with that lamb in your home, the lamb would not leave your house, the lamb had to be good, spotless, male, unblemished; the lamb would live in your house, typically eating from your table for one week. Why? So that you would begin to love the lamb, so that this is not just some anonymous sacrifice..."

My issue is about the lamb "eating from your table" part of that preaching. I understand that the priest was trying to make a point and the homily was great. I can take that it might be possible that, in Jewish tradition, an animal might be able to stay inside a house temporarily. However, I understand that Jewish people were obsessed with purity and it just seems fair to believe that having an animal eat from your table might have been deemed as improper.

So my questions are:

  1. Is it possible that Jewish people would keep a lamb inside their house, have them eat from their table, during one week prior to sacrifice?
  2. Are there any reliable resources that support or correct this assertion?
  • 1
    'Eating from your table' does not necessarily require us to think of hooves holding a knife and fork. I think the preacher means 'eating food from your table' and is trying to convey the (limited but real) intimacy of having a lamb at home for a week. I think the lamb is on the floor eating stuff dropped from the table. – Nigel J Nov 24 '18 at 12:40
  • @NigelJ I do get that this has the attributes of figurative speech and (just for the record) I am well aware that a lamb would not be literally having its head on the table while the family was eating. However, having it constantly around just implies that at some point it would be in physical contact with the people in the house, not excluding while eating. I am no expert but this just appears "improper" by old testament logic... – jrojasqu Nov 24 '18 at 15:19
  • Shearing a sheep requires intimate contact with the animal. So does shedding lambs from ewes. I don't see a problem, myself. – Nigel J Nov 24 '18 at 19:04
  • How do the question or any of the answers relate to the "catholicism" tag? – Ray Butterworth Mar 31 at 0:29
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The origins of the preparation for the sacrificial lamb go back to the Exodus when God told his people to prepare a lamb for slaughter prior on the evening before they were to be released. It was called the Passover, because God’s angel would literally pass over the homes of the Hebrews who had followed God’s instructions as detailed in Exodus 12: 1-10.

Each household was to choose a year old unblemished male lamb (or female kid). It was taken into the house on the 10th day of the month Abib (pronounced Aviv) and kept until the 14th, before it was slaughtered and its blood was splashed with a bunch of hyssop on the doorposts and the upper part of the doorway of the dwelling in which they were to eat it. The lamb (or goat) was slaughtered, skinned, its interior parts cleansed and replaced, and it was roasted whole, well-done, with no bones broken. (See also 2 Chronicles 35:11 and Numbers 9:12)

No mention is made of the lamb “eating from the table” of the Hebrews. The animal was to be kept indoors for four days and fed, but lambs don’t eat human food. Lambs need milk from their mothers and then they move on to eating grass. I should like to see any biblical reference to the lamb literally “eating from the table”. I think that is a figure of speech, not a literal description.

Neither does the Bible suggest the purpose was to “bond” with the lamb and feel an emotional attachment to it. The purpose was to obey God’s instructions so the angel of death would pass over the house. Jews still celebrate the Passover, although these days, I don’t think they have to bring the sacrificial lamb into their house for four days!

Instructions on the preparation of the Passover lamb:

Exodus 12: 1-10: “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat he flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.”

Information on the sacrifice of a goat from Leviticus: http://www.blbclassic.org/search/translationResults.cfm?Criteria=goat+offering&t=KJV&sf=5

Information on ‘Offer’ and ‘Offerings’: http://www.therain.org/appendixes/app43.html

  • Now you mention it, I'm wondering about that, too! The NIV and NLT both say the lamb or the goat had to be year-old males (Exodus 12:5). I've checked my notes and can't find any reason for saying (female goat), so I've removed that comment. Thanks for picking it up, and it's good to know people actually read answers and spot errors! – Lesley Mar 30 at 16:00
  • You might be interested to know that Jews do not sacrifice animals anymore, after the temple was destroyed (link). They are awaiting for the temple to be rebuilt, but I personally think God ordained it so. – Beestocks Mar 30 at 21:01
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If we look at the bigger picture, Jesus was set aside as a sacrifice on Palm Sunday, Nissan 10, which is the true symbolism behind why lambs are set aside on this day during the Passover service.

This lamb can be home grown or bought, so it is not so much the relationship between the person and the animal emphasized here, but what God is able to for them if they believe by faith.

The Bible does not go into detail about how the lamb is to be treated once it is set aside. Practically, setting the lamb aside can allow for better observation, since a condition is that the lamb must be spotless and without blemish.

There could be a degree of relationship element to it when considering the parable of the lost sheep, since the act of leaving the ninety-nine to save the one lost lamb and then carrying it home resonated in Jewish culture.

Interestingly, the Midrash, biblical commentary by ancient Judaic authorities from as early as 2nd century AD, notes that the lamb is tied to the bed post during this time (link). However, the interruption of the reason behind the sacrifice is questionable, since they seem to try to distance the symbolism of the lamb from Jesus, attributing it instead to an act of defiance against Egyptian paganism.

Also, the Jews stop sacrificing after the temple was destroyed in 70AD (link). They are awaiting for the temple to be rebuilt (but I personally think this was divine intervention). Because of this, much of the pure traditional details of how God ordained the passover in the Old Testament time is lost, and the current teachings by Rabbis are rather unreliable.

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