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I have read that young lambs were not used for sacrifice - that what was used was one year old Rams with horns. Is this correct? The bible talks about lambs, but is this bad translation?

  • Welcome Paul. Young is not a precise word. 8 days is the minimum of age. – kouty Mar 4 '16 at 9:39
  • Thank you kouty. I ask because I have just read that lambs were never offered as a sacrifice. It was always Rams about a year old. I had not heard of this before so am a bit confused. Also, the translation in the New Testament saying behold the lamb should say behold the ram? The Passover states the blood of a lamb. Am I correct? – Paul Mar 4 '16 at 11:22
  • I thing up to 1 year it is lamb following the law – kouty Mar 4 '16 at 11:29
  • Sorry kouty if I am misunderstanding you. I get what you are saying about the age of the lamb. Were lambs under the age of 1 year used in sacrifice. What I am being told is that this is not the case. – user12117 Mar 4 '16 at 11:47
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Both were used, depending on the sacrifice.

Leviticus 22:27 is pretty clear:

When an ox, sheep or goat is born, it must stay with its mother for seven days; from day eight and on, it will be accepted as a burned sacrifice to God.

So the minimum age for any sacrifice is eight days.

The Passover sacrifice -- as well as the standard daily offering -- were less than a year old. But the wrong translation can confuse you on this. Both of them (Passover -- Exodus 12:5; daily offering -- Exodus 29:38) use the Hebrew phrase ben shana, literally, "of a year."

Jewish tradition translates that as within its first year of living, i.e. less than one year old. If someone didn't know any better (especially a native English speaker), they could misread that as "one year old." But that's mistaken. (Just as the year 1865 is in the 19th Century, which confuses a lot of people.)

Note that with Abraham's binding of Isaac, they're talking about finding a lamb to sacrifice, and at the end of the story Abraham finds a mature ram, which was caught by its horns. Maybe that's what you were thinking of?

Rams were also offered as sacrifices; an individual could volunteer to bring one, and the holiday sacrifices consisted of a mix of ram and lamb.

Maimondes' Code (Laws of Processing the Sacrifices 1:15) points out that when a "lamb" is called for, it's less than one year. When a "ram" is specified, it must have lived 31 days into its second year of existence (i.e. it must be at least one year and 31 days old). The animal actually spends one month in a twilight zone during which it's neither a lamb nor a ram.

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