God provides a ram and not a lamb for Abraham as a sacrifice.

I've been taught, and I believe it makes sense, that the provided ram was a foreshadowing of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb of God.

Genesis 22:2 NKJV

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

It continues in Genesis 22:9-13 NKJV

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” 12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

Jesus is often called the lamb of God:

John 1:29 NKJV

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

John 1:36 NKJV

And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Revelation 12:11 NKJV

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Sure both a ram and a lamb are sheep, but considering Jesus is called the lamb of God, if this were to be a foreshadowing, does it not make more sense to provide a lamb?

  • We are not told so we do not know. In any case, the Greek word for "lamb" (arnion) meant any kind of sheep by the time of the NT.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 6 at 8:26
  • @Dottard The LXX identifies the animal as κριὸς, a word not used in the NT. I do not think there is any hermeneutical support for saying ἀμνός includes κριὸς. Commented Jan 6 at 16:19
  • @RevelationLad - arnion (see BDAG) in the NT means a sheep of any age. Therefore, arnion included "ram".
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 6 at 19:45

3 Answers 3


It is important to note that the ram was caught by its horns. Lambs do not have horns as they are sheep up to 12 months old. The horns will start to develop slowly and their growth rate will depend on the breed of the sheep. However, it is safe to say that the horns will be fully grown by the time the ram is three years old.

Regarding the event that foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus, it may not be accurate to think that the ram represents Jesus. Rather, it is Isaac who represent Jesus. According to Jewish tradition, Isaac is over thirty years old at that time, and therefore he was capable of rejecting Abraham. However, Isaac was submissive to his father's action, just as Jesus submissive to God. The ram represents redemption. Together, they foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus.

There is a question in this site about the age of Isaac when he was offered.

How old was Isaac when he was offered up by Abraham


Kids and lambs are both acceptable sacrifices.

Exodus 12:5

Your lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.

Moreover, the case of Abraham, he had recently been commanded to offer a sacrifice of goats rather than sheep. This happened immediately after God promised Abraham that all of Canaan would be his to possess.

Genesis 15:8-9

“Lord God,” he asked, “how will I know that I will possess it?” He answered him: Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

In addition, there is the issue of logistics. Lambs do not normally climb up mountains to forage in a thicket. Goats prefer fibrous foods, including thistles and brambles, so they are more likely to look for food in thickets.

Conclusion: A lamb would have been a clearer foreshadowing not only because Jesus was called the Lamb, but also because in the NT goats are rejected by the Son of Man while sheep are accepted. (Matthew 25:33) But assuming Abraham's sacrifice indeed foreshadowed that of Jesus, there are good reasons why a goat rather than a lamb was sacrificed. Israelite tradition allowed that either a lamb or a kid be offered; Abraham had previously been commanded to offer goats; and a lamb was far less likely to be caught in a thicket on a mountainside.

  • 1
    A ram was found and sacrificed. A ram κριός is not a goat. Ram and lamb are the same species, ram and goat are different species.
    – grammaplow
    Commented Jan 7 at 1:33

Relative to the expected "lamb for the burnt offering" (Genesis 22:7), the provided ram is the metaphorical father of the lamb. Points:

  1. A ram was provided because it was a test of Abraham (father of nations).
  2. A ram was provided because it was a test of covenant fatherhood: multiple times in this test of Genesis 22 the relation between father and son is emphasized, sometimes unnecessarily so.
  • take your son v.2
  • your only son v.2
  • and his son, Isaac v.3
  • and laid it on Isaac, his son v.6
  • and Isaac said to his father Abraham v.7
  • Here I am, my son v.7
  • for a burnt offering, my son v.8
  • bound Isaac his son v.9
  • to slaughter his son v. 10
  • son v.12
  • only son from Me v.12
  • instead of his son v. 13
  • not withheld your son v.16
  • your only son v.16
  1. Abraham's test was not a test of compliance (like Baal and Molech requirements to sacrifice their firstborn sons) but a challenge test to solve by the covenant (7 covenant encounters or lessons between Gen 12-21). i.e. from all that I've taught you, do you believe I am really like Baal or Molech? Push back using the very tools I trained you on - Genesis 18 intercession.
  2. The provided solution to Abraham's test was specifically and deliberately chosen to be a ram, not a lamb. The narrator is very specific in distinguishing between three kinds of sheep in the nearby texts: Ewes (Genesis 22:28-30), lamb (Genesis 22:7), ram (Genesis 22:13), and emphasizes that it had horns (3 yrs old) the signs of maturity by which it was trapped in the thicket.
  3. The provided ram represents the father-figure that dies in the place of the metaphorical lamb. This is theologically the opposite of the core of Baal and Molech worship, where the father sacrifices his son in order to obtain religous benefit for himself, powerful sacrifice the vulnerable. In Judaism and Christianity, God's fatherly compassion for his children costs Him dearly.
  4. Typologically it still points to Jesus Christ who is both our father (our ram - relative to us) and at the same time is God's Son (lamb of God). In Isaiah 53:7 the types for Christ are lamb and ewe: "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is silent (feminine singular) before her shearers (feminie singular), he opened not his mouth."
  5. The provided ram fulfills Abraham's prophecy even better than he predicted: he had said "God will provide Himself, a lamb, for the burnt offering, my son." Genesis 22:8. Isaac was initially a type for Christ as a willing sacrifice, but when the ram appears as the better type for Christ's actual sacrifice, Isaac reverts to being a type for humankind that is saved by God. Shifting types. I believe Abraham was set up by the test to become the type for Christ, to come up with a covenant-based response to this problematic test - he passed the test but fell short of the ideal, see next.
  6. It is fitting that in a test of covenant fatherhood, of a man named father (Abraham), emphasizing the relation between father and son, that God provides the solution of a father animal dying in the place of the vulnerable victim. This, however, suggests that perhaps Abraham (as covenant father) should have offered himself in the place of Isaac (the promised son), thereby reversing his life-long phobia of being killed and giving his wife away to save his own life?
  7. Theocentric interpretation: If Abraham falters as a father in saving his son Isaac, God will step in as Isaac's real father -in the symbol of the ram- to save.This is supported by Isaiah 63:16 "Yet you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us, You, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer, From Everlasting is your name."

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