The Missing Lamb

When the prophet Nathan told David of a rich man who had stolen and killed a poor man’s sheep (2 Samuel 12), David’s judgment that the man restore it fourfold was based on the stipulation in Exodus 22:1. But why does that law stipulate a fivefold restoration for the same crime concerning an ox?

The fact that in the Hebrew, the word used for the animal stolen differs in each case from the word used for the animals that were to be restored (literally “made whole”) might be a crucial clue. The restitution for a stolen bull (shor) is five oxen (bakar), and the restitution for a stolen individual sheep or goat (seh) is four from either a flock of sheep or a flock of goats (tson).1As noted by Adam Clarke. This change reflects the move from the one to the many, possibly picturing the difference between the Covenant Head (single animal) and the Covenant Body (corporate animal). What we have here, in symbolic form, is the death of Adam for his bride, the slaying of one man for the people (John 11:50; 18:14). But the question of the difference in the number of restored animals remains.

That answer might be found in the difference between the people whom these bulls and sheep or goats represented before God. The Abrahamic sacrifices in Genesis 15 constitute a proto-tabernacle, where the bull stands in for the Bronze Altar, and the ram for the Golden Table. In terms of the Creation week, these are both Day 3 elements, the Altar being the four-cornered land and the Table being the firstfruits of the land and the womb claimed by God.

The single bull and single sheep relate to the Abrahamic promises, a fruitful land and womb, as a reversal of the Edenic curses. Adam’s work upon the land was cursed (Covenant head), and Eve’s womb was cursed (Covenant body). But then Adam and Eve were to become co-regents, “heads of state,” when multiplied into a “body” through obedience to God’s Law, and by God’s blessing. Instead of cutting off Adam for his theft, the shedding of animal blood allowed the promise of restoration through a conquering son. My assertion here is that this promised son is “the missing lamb.”

Land (Adam: Leaders) Womb (Eve: Followers)
Covenant Head
(one stolen and slain)
Bronze Altar
Golden Table
Covenant Body
(many restored, “made whole”)
from the Flock

Firstly, we should note that these animals correspond to some degree to the two offerings of blood by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The blood of a bull was offered for the priesthood (the sacrificial “bridegroom”), and the blood of the first goat was offered for the people (the “bride”). James Jordan writes:

A distinction between the two is set forth in Leviticus 4. In verse 3, if the high priest sins and brings guilt on the whole people, he must bring a bull as a purification sacrifice. Similarly, in verse 13, if the whole congregation brings guilt upon itself, it must also sacrifice a bull. On the other hand, in verse 22, if a leader sins and brings guilt only upon himself, he must sacrifice a male goat; and in verse 27, if any one of the common people sins, he is to sacrifice a female goat or lamb. What this indicates is that the bull represents the office-bearer, who symbolizes the whole community, while the sheep or goat represents the ordinary leader or citizen.2James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, 266-267.

So much for the horizontal distinction, but what about the vertical progression from “one” to “many” among these kinds?

Since a bull was not used for agriculture but for seed (that is, more of its kind), the loss of a bull was the loss of future oxen, which might explain the fivefold restitution. Five oxen picture the complete fivefold Covenant pattern, including the final step, Succession. The five oxen were thus the legal restoration of the inheritance lost in the stolen and slain bull.

Sheep and goats stood in for the actual offspring, initially Isaac, later pictured in the Levites who represented the firstborn of Israel before God (Numbers 3:12), so the reason for the fourfold restitution might be the “missing” Succession/inheritance of the Levites, who were allocated no earthly land, and thus relied upon offerings from the other tribes. Pictorially, the Bronze Altar is the Land and the Golden Table is the faithful priesthood situated upon it, lifted up as a tithe, a firstfruits devoted to God, and given instead a spiritual inheritance, a “heavenly country.” Jesus was cut off without inheriting the fruit of land or womb, devoted to God. Indeed, even the structure of Leviticus ends with Sanctions, having no Succession. In that sense, the book is only fourfold.

Echoes of this pattern can be seen in the first sacrifices, where the sin of Adam and Eve was covered (Garden), Abel was “stolen” and “slain” (Land) and then Enoch was a kind of firstfruits of the faithful, taken by God (See Why Enoch Was Taken). Enoch was the missing lamb, lifted up from the earth and presented to God. There are also shades of this in the treatment of Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel, who was elevated above his disqualified brothers as heir to the Covenant. His brothers stole and slew one of their father’s goats and smeared its blood on Joseph’s robe to explain why he was missing (Genesis 37:31-33). Later, Joseph “stole” Benjamin from his brothers to try their hearts, then gave Benjamin a fivefold portion (Genesis 43:34).

Another hint of this pattern of the “missing lamb” is found in the coverings which were placed upon the furniture of the Tabernacle when it was dismantled and moved from place to place. All of the elements were covered in cloths of blue and then tachash (most likely decorative beadwork, not porpoise skin3Encyclopedia Mikra’it; Stephanie Dalley, “Hebrew Tahas, Akkadian Duhsu, Faience and Beadwork.”), but the dishes, pans, bowls and jars upon the Table for the drink offering were also uniquely covered with a cloth of scarlet beneath the tachash (Numbers 4:7-8), indicating the blood of the firstborn, Jesus, chosen from the flock and devoted to God.

Thus, it seems that the five oxen picture Israel’s earthly dominion over the Land. The missing fifth flock member pictures the awaited priest-king, the seed of the woman (with no earthly father), who inherits heaven and earth because He is not merely an earthly servant under the Law (the Bronze Altar) but also a heavenly Son according to the promise (the Golden Table). (See Galatians 3:29; 4:30.) Through His patience, the saints are given a better inheritance, one which includes all nations, fulfilling the promises to Abraham.

For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 5:28)

The final instance of this “missing lamb” is in Revelation 4-5. John has been lifted up from an earthly worship service (the Bronze Altar) into the heavenly court. He describes for us the source material for the elements within the tent of the Tabernacle, the throne (the Ark), the elders (the Incense Altar), the seven torches (the Lampstand), and the Veil (cherubic guardians filled with eyes). But John weeps because no one is worthy to open the New Covenant scroll. As James Jordan observes in his lectures on Revelation, the reader is supposed to notice that the Table of Showbread is missing. The intended message is that not a single Adam has been obedient to God (as a priest) that he might be worthy of “Adamic” kingdom. But then, finally, John rejoices because he has found the missing Lamb, the one whose blood was the foundation for a new kind of Temple, and a New Covenant Succession.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
ETHICS: Priesthood
for you were slain,
(Bronze Altar)
and by your blood
(Golden Table/Firstfruits)
ETHICS: Kingdom
you ransomed people for God
ETHICS: Prophecy
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the Land.”
(Revelation 5:9-10)

References   [ + ]

1. As noted by Adam Clarke.
2. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, 266-267.
3. Encyclopedia Mikra’it; Stephanie Dalley, “Hebrew Tahas, Akkadian Duhsu, Faience and Beadwork.”

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