You May Eat the Wild Goat

September 27, 2013

Under Mosaic legislation, Israel was given strict dietary guidelines. This was for a stated purpose: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deut. 14:2, ESV). The dietary restrictions were but one means that YHWH used to mold His people into a holy nation and teach them that they were uniquely His.

Deut. 14:4 lists three domestic animals which could be eaten: “These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,” (This follows v. 3 which states, “You shall not eat any abomination.”)

Then v. 5 lists seven kinds of wild animals: “the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep.” “Some of these animals cannot be identified with certainty.” [1] One thing that obviously makes the text challenging is that three of the seven words are hapax legomena (words that appear only once in a document). The word usually translated “wild goat” (ya’el) is a different word than the one used here (aqqo).

ya’el is found in Psalm 104:18 “The high mountains are for the wild goats. . .”

Another interesting text: “When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, ‘Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.’ Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks” (1 Sam. 24:1-2, ESV). Note that the site of Engedi is the location of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. The word Engedi means “spring of a kid,” and is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The biblical “wild goat” is still frequently seen there today and is most often identified with the ibex.

Goat at Engedi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Goat/Ibex at Engedi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

See more on the wild goat in Ferrell Jenkin’s posts here and here.

Click on image for larger view.


[1] Christensen, D. L. (2001). Deuteronomy 1–21:9 (Vol. 6A, p. 291). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

%d bloggers like this: