The Typological Symbol of the Lamb in the Bible
From the earliest times of human being, images and symbols were a part of social and religious life and integrated its culture. Symbolism has played an active role in all world‘s religions from the beginning and symbols were objects which believers focused on and where they set prayers. The word symbol comes from the Greek word symbollo.
Symbol is defined as “something visible that by association represents something else that is invisible. “ The origin, meaning and traditions of Christian symbols originate in the old times when people cannot read and write and education was not accessible.One of the most important symbols of Christ in the Bible is the Lamb. Lamb represents Jesus (“And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! ” John 1:36) and the Church (“… he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. ” Isaiah 53:7). What are the definition and the meaning of the Lamb? In the Bible, lambs are depicted as animals which are killed. They are defenceless and easy to be hurt.People, who were undergoing hard conditions and suffering from brutal treatment, were compared to lambs that are led to be slaughtered. A lamb is a descendant of a sheep. In Christian symbolism, a lamb represents Jesus Chris, a descendant of God His Father. The whiteness of the Lamb symbolises innocence and purity. Lambs won’t hurt anyone. They are moderate, inquisitive and submissive. They take a good care for their own as well as the rest of the group and are always seen together. Jesus came from his Father to teach us how to act and how to be.Using parables, he was explaining what God is like and what we should be like. Jesus was explaining His love against people, His desire to be our fellow and comparing us to lambs and sheep, He was demonstrating His will to group us all into His Church. He called himself a Lamb, which was slaughtered for our sins and purified us with His blood. Old Testament was using lambs as animals for sacrifice. At the time when Bible was written, raising sheep was the main activity of making a living. The wealth of a person was measured by the size of his flock.The Jewish tradition commanded Jewish people to sacrifice lambs for their sins and in this way to conciliate with God. The sacrifice had to be a blemish lamb, a perfect one without any wrong. Only a perfect lamb could pay the debt brought about by the sins of people. As God is a Holy God, the perfect one, without any imperfection thus a picular sacrifice had to be. Therefore Jewish people chose a lamb using these criteria. The Passover was an annual event during which a perfect lamb was selected, bought so it could be sacrificed. One lamb for the sins of each family.There is a “Lamb” image found in the Old Testament. Gen. 22:9: “When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham! ” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided. ” A crucial part of social and religious life and worship under the Mosaic system was the lamb offered daily for ritual sacrifice in the temple. Exodus 29:38-42 reads, “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old regularly each day.One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer in the evening and with the first lamb one-tenth of a measure of choice flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. And the other lamb you shall offer in the evening, and shall offer it with a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord. It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. In Christian symbolism, the lamb represents Jesus, “the lamb of God” (agnus Dei). John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. The lamb is sometimes portrayed with a flag, symbolic of Christ’s victory over death in his Resurrection. Standing with a banner, the lamb represents the risen Christ triumphant over death. Standing with a cross and a gash in its side, it symbolizes the passion of Christ and Christ’s victory over sin. Seated on a throne or a book, the lamb represents the judgment of Christ.Because the lamb is humble, gentle, and innocent, lambs are often engraved on the tombstones of children. The Lamb of God represents the Jesus Christ (Gen. 4:4; Ex. 12:3; 29:38; Isa. 16:1; 53:7; John 1:36; Rev. 13:8), in allusion to the paschal lamb and also a symbol for Christians (as Christ is our Shepherd and Peter was told to feed His sheep). The lamb is also a symbol for St. Agnes (Feast Day 21 January), virgin martyr of the early Church. The Agnus Dei (to represent Jesus Christ, using the words of John the Baptist, and its sacrifice) is Latin meaning the “Lamb of God”.In ancient examples, the Agnus Dei may be seen lying upon the Book of Seven Seals or carrying the Banner of Victory. It is crowned with a three-rayed halo, a symbol for divinity. In other examples the Lamb stands upon a hill from which flow the Four Rivers of Paradise, signifying the Four Gospels. The image of Agnus Dei goes back to 5th century Rome. From the ninth century, wax imprinted with a lamb started to be used by Popes. One of the few Christian symbols dating from the first centuries is that of the Good Shepherd carrying on His shoulders a lamb or a sheep, with two other sheep at his side.In the first centuries, nearly one hundred frescoes were depicted using this symbol in Christian catacombs. Lambs symbolize us as children of God. Jesus called Himself our Shepherd and we are all His sheep. Even in the Old Testament David called the Lord: “My Shepherd”. It has always been in God’s intention to guard over us, to lead us, as the shepherd is guiding, leading and watching over his sheep, protecting them. The most important usage of the lamb was in the Passover ritual.In Exod 12, the Hebrews were instructed by God to kill a lamb and to smear some of its blood on the doorposts of their homes. They were to roast the lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The blood of the lamb smeared on the doorpost was to be a sign that would protect the people of God during the tenth plague, the plague of the death of the firstborn. The paschal lamb was the biblical prefiguration of Christ who offered himself in sacrifice. All four Gospels agree that Jesus was crucified at the time of the observance of Passover when the Passover lamb was slain.Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He was sacrificed to deliver us from sin, just as the first Passover Lamb was sacrificed to deliver the firstborn sons of the Israelites from death and to provide them with escape from Egypt. The Entire Passover feast represents what Jesus did for us on the cross. The Earthly Passover: 1. The lamb had to be without blemish (Ex 12:5) 2. The Lamb was killed at twilight on Nisan (Ex. 12:46) 3. Blood was smeared on the two doorposts and on the lintel of each house (Ex. 12:7) The Heavenly Passover: 1. Knowing you were not redeemed with corruptible things… ut with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet. 1:18, 19) 2. He died before sunset on the fifteenth of Nisan (Jn 19:30-33) 3. His blood is on the doorposts of our hearts and consciences (1 Pet 1:2) During the Old Testament times God commanded Israel to offer animal sacrifices for their sins in order to establish symbols pointing to the true and ultimate sacrifice for sins, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The lamb was the principal animal of sacrifice among the Jewish people in the evening and morning sacrifices.The place of the sacrifice is the place where the glory and grace of God is made known. The obedience of the Son of man is therefore the place where the guilt of sin is taken away, and since His obedience is an ultimate obedience its consequences are universal. Jesus is the “perfect lamb” without blemish who died on the cross so we no longer need to sacrifice a living lamb to pay the sanction of our sins. Not only that, Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all. His sacrifice was complete. God used animals as symbols for a short period in history in order to demonstrate to mankind what His salvation plan would be.