Separating Goats and Sheep

goatMatthew 25:33 …

and he will put the sheep on his right, and the goats on the left.”

The RIGHT hand signifies, among the rabbis, approval, eminence and righteousness; while the LEFT hand is rejection and disapproval. Throughout the Bible the word “right” means approval while the word “left” signifies the bad or evil people. In the “new testament,” the good means those who have been “born again” (John 3). Of the good and faithful servants he approves, and therefore exalts them to his glory; of the slothful and wicked he disapproves, and casts them into gehenna.

SHEEP, which have ever been considered as the emblems of mildness, simplicity, patience and usefulness, represent here the genuine disciples of Jesus. The name is given to them because the sheep is an emblem of innocence and harmlessness. The right hand is the place of honor and denotes the situation of those who are honored, or those who are virtuous. However, GOATS are naturally quarrelsome and lascivious, and were considered as the symbols of riotous, profane and impure men. Goats are literally, “kidlings.” The sheep and goats are represented as having previously pastured together. This was the place of dishonor, denoting condemnation. Compare the parables of the Tares and the Net. The goats here represent the Israelites who had lived and died in their sins. This was the place of dishonor, denoting condemnation.

The distinction that was then made between the precious and the vile, Yahweh separated them one from another, as the tares and wheat were separated at the harvest in 74 A.D., the good fish and the bad at the shore, the corn and chaff in the floor. The wicked and godly in the first century dwelled together in the same kingdoms, cities and families, and are not distinguishable one from another; such are the infirmities of saints, such the hypocrisies of sinners, and one event to both: But in that day in the first century, they were separated, and parted forever; “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked” (Malachi 3:18). They could not separate themselves one from another in that world, nor could any one else separate them, but the Lord knows them that are His, and He could separate them. This separation was so exact, that the most inconsiderable saints could not be lost in the crowd of sinners, nor the most plausible sinner be hid in the crowd of saints, but every one shall go to his own place. This is compared to a shepherd’s dividing between the sheep and the goats; it is taken from Ezekiel 34:17, “Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle.” Jesus is called the great Shepherd; he now feeds his flock like a shepherd, and will eventually distinguish between those that are his, and those that are not, as Laban divided his sheep from Jacob’s, and set three days’ journey between them (Genesis 30:35-36).The godly are like sheep—innocent, mild, patient and useful. The wicked are like goats, a baser kind of animal, unsavoury and unruly. The sheep and goats are here feeding all day in the same pasture, but will be housed at night in different folds. Being thus divided, he will set the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Jesus puts honour upon the godly, as we show respect to those we set on our right hand; but the wicked Israelites shall have everlasting shame (Daniel 12:2). It is not said that he shall put the rich on his right hand, and the poor on his left; the learned and noble on his right hand, and unlearned and despised on his left; but the godly on his right hand, and the wicked on his left. All other divisions and subdivisions of the Israelites were abolished; but the great distinction of men into saints and sinners, sanctified and unsanctified, will remain forever, and men’s eternal state will be determined by it.

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