Monday, April 28, 2014

The Firstling of our Flock

Wednesday night Jon went out to check on the animals before bed. He closed up the pen and counted, "goat, sheep, sheep... lamb!" Standing right next to Cutie Pie (our ewe) was a tiny little lamb nursing. Jon came running back the house hollering that we had a lamb in the barn. I couldn't believe it. I rushed out the see and saw the cutest little animal ever. She was still wet and probably had only been born about 45 minutes before. The crazy thing is that we didn't even know Cutie Pie was pregnant. We hoped she was (we do have a ram after all) but we had been checking her regularly and it didn't seem like she had gotten any bigger or changed at all. We just assumed that our goat had interfered too much in the mating process (remember our love triangle?) or that Solomon (the ram) was just too young to figure it out. Evidently... he figured it out.

So, this little lamb was a complete surprise!

It was late when we found the lamb and so we decided not to wake the kids up. In the morning Jon read scriptures about the "Lamb of God" for scripture study and then we told the kids that we had a surprise for them. They were just as surprised and excited as we were to see a lamb. Rose told me that it was the best surprise EVER. I have to agree.

She is so cute, and we can't get over watching her. We named her "Sweetie Bell" (which may or may not have been stolen from My Little Ponies :) It has also been so sweet to watch what a good mother Cutie Pie is. She protects it, licks it, nuzzles it, talks to it, nurses it, lets it climb all over her, and it follows her around everywhere. You can tell that she loves her little lamb. I feel like a grandma watching my own daughter mother... it makes my heart so happy and proud!

I didn't realize that lambs are born with really long tails and that it is common to "dock" or to clip their tails shorter. This is done for hygienic purpose because the tails can often become infected or dirty.  It has to be done in the first week of a lambs life. We are planning on docking Sweetie Bell's tail and as I was researching docking methods I learned some interesting scriptural facts about lambs too.

Mom and Dad with docked tails, and baby with a long undocked tail
See how long her tail is.  And she waggles it really cute too when she nurses! 
 In the scriptures the ancient Israelites were commanded to offer lambs of the "first year without blemish" as offerings at the tabernacle. I always assumed that "without blemish" meant that it couldn't be deformed or have gotten hurt, but that isn't what it means. To be without blemish meant that the lamb had not had its tail docked (clipped) or been castrated, which are common procedures to do to lambs. This means that a shepherd would have gone through his whole heard docking and castrating lambs, except for those that were the being set apart for sacrifice. From the moment of their birth these lambs would have been marked, and easily recognized, as sacrificial lambs because they would have looked different from other lambs. So it is powerful to realize that when Jesus was the called the "Lamb of God" it meant that he had been set apart from His birth to be a sacrifice. Which is a profound thought. 

This tidbit got me excited about lambs in the scriptures and as I was studying I was also intrigued by the word "firstling".  In Exoducs 34:19 God commanded that,

" All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male." 

And in Number 18:15 He stated,

" Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the Lord, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem."

Whether it was the first born  male baby of a woman or the first born male baby of a sheep, goat or cow it was to be dedicated to God. Robert J. Matthews explained,
"‘Firstling’ does not necessarily denote the oldest of the flock, but the firstborn of its particular mother. A ‘firstling’ is a male, the ‘first to open the matrix’ of its mother ( Ex. 13:2 34:19 ). Each mother in her lifetime could produce only one firstling, but a flock of sheep could have several firstlings born each year. In order to know which lambs were acceptable for sacrifice, the owner would have to know his flock. Some notice would have to be made of mothers and of young. Otherwise, how could anyone know which mothers had produced offspring for the first time? There is no way that a man, Adam or anyone else, could know which males were firstlings unless a record and some identification of mothers and offspring were kept. This requirement removes the element of chance and of haphazard obedience, or sometime obedience. Not only is one’s faith shown in the willingness to offer a sacrifice but also in the care required and the preparation needed beforehand in making the selection of the proper animal.
This particular passage of scripture illustrates the concept that the commandments of God require the intelligent and deliberate attention of those who are seeking salvation. It gives a reason for Paul’s observation that ‘without faith it is impossible to please’ God ( Heb. 11:6 ). For without faith one would not have kept a record and marked (at least mentally) which animals were proper for sacrifice” (Robert J. Matthews, “The Doctrine of the Atonement,” in Studies in Scripture, Volume Two: The Pearl of Great Price, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson [1985], 118–19).
Since Sweetie Bell is a ewe lamb she can't technically be the "firstling" of our flock (as that needs to be male) but it has been fun to learn more about sheep and how they fit into the scriptures. To ancient people sheep were an every day part of their lives and they would have understood the symbolism and message that God was trying to get across to them. Yet today many of us have no clue what God meant when he talked about an unblemished lamb, a firstling, sheep following the voice of the shepherd, wolves in sheep's clothing, or separating goats from the sheep. It has been fun for Jon and I to not only learn more about taking care of sheep, but to make spiritual and scriptural connections as well.

I am finding that I am a shepherdess at heart--- I really love these woolly creatures.

The goat on the other hand.... is a totally different story. 


  1. My good friend's in-laws have a sheep farm. It's been SO fun going down and seeing lambs be born every day! They really are cute! :)

    1. They really are. I think they might just be one of the cutest creatures on the planet!

  2. That was beautiful! These little tidbits intensify my love for the Savior. You make a wonderful shepherdess.

  3. i just love reading what you have to say! i am always uplifted by your applications to real life. you are inspiring!

  4. Thanks for sharing. I learned something new today!

  5. Surprise! Are you all singing 'mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy, a kiddle eat ivy too, wouldn't you?' Congrats on the baby lamb!
    And thank you for sharing your scriptural findings! I learned a lot. I always do whit you, you are an amazing teacher!!

  6. I insist that you write a post about why you hate the goat. It made me laugh just thinking of it. Also, that sheep family picture at the end is priceless. I don't believe that they just sit there like that so cute! You had to have posed them. Also, the insight about the sacrificial lamb was really cool. I have already shared it in institute and Sunday School.