Getting Your Goat

May 14, 2010 at 10:40 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 4 Comments
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You have probably heard the common expression, “So-and-so really gets my goat!” We use it when we talk about someone who has a way of provoking us.

I don’t think anyone knows for sure where the phrase originated. It might have come from the idea of someone getting your “goad.” A goad is a sort of prod or instrument used to irritate recalcitrant farm animals into moving forward. It might have come from an old expression whereby people said that an annoying person would “get your gut,” as in bringing out a “gut reaction.”

There was a time when farmers would use goats to calm down dairy cows. They have also been used at times to calm down race horses.

There are a few interesting references to goats in the Bible.

And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

Daniel 8:5

This goat represents Alexander the Great, who led the armies of Greece.

And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.

Daniel 8:6

The ram is Cyrus, king of Persia. The goat is powerful and angry, and he not only defeats the ram, he also stamps on him.

And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.

Daniel 8:7

Then he felt strong.

Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

Daniel 8:8

When someone “gets my goat,” they call out the “goat” in me, and then I become angry and full of pride. And that’s a problem. Because God does what to the proud? Resists. And He gives what to the humble? Grace (James 4:6).

Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

Zechariah 10:3

Zechariah gave a prophecy of the Messiah, and referred to the time referenced in Ezekiel 34.

Zechariah said that when the people begin to follow the evil shepherds, and are led astray by them, then God will turn the flock – the goats and the sheep – into war-horses, and He will defeat the evil shepherds. This reminds us to be careful not to be the ones trying to get someone else’s goat. If we begin to harass, and rebel against, and lead astray with false teaching, God’s flock, then we’re in a sense trying to get God’s goat. And we might find we’re getting hold of a goat we can’t handle.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Matthew 25:31-46

We have a mental image of goats as funny-looking animals with little beards who eat cans or shirttails, or who’ll butt you if you’re not looking. But God uses goats and sheep to illustrate something very serious. One day He will say, “Sheep on My right hand, goats on My left!” The significance of God’s right hand is that those on the right are favored and those on the left are disfavored.

Ask a farmer with a great deal of experience, and he will tell you that goats are never happy with what they have. They are always sticking their head through the fence. They
can’t stand to be confined. They are rebellious and stubborn. They are not good followers. Sheep will usually stay together, but goats wander off on their own. A “Judas Goat” is a goat that is used to lead – but it leads to the slaughter. Goats like to get higher up than the other animals.

We all have some goat-like characteristics in us. We want to stand out. We’re tired of following. We’re not happy with what we have. We like to eat things that sheep wouldn’t eat, even if these things have no value and will make us sick.

Don’t hold on to the “goat” in you. If someone wants to “get your goat,” let him have it. You don’t want it anyway.

What turns away wrath?

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

Those on the right hand of the Lord, the sheep, have the characteristics of those who will be favored by the Lord. Those on the left hand, the goats, have the characteristics of those who will be told to depart. So, if someone is harassing you, say, “Look, I know you’re just trying to get my goat, so I’m going to let you have it, but you are not going to be happy with it. I’m one of God’s sheep. He calls and I know His voice. Let’s leave that old goat to wander out in the wilderness like the scapegoat, and I can introduce you to my Shepherd. We can be in the flock today, and we’ll be like victorious war-horses one day.”

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  1. […] which comes about 12 years before the handwriting on the wall incident. This is the vision of the goat and the ram, and here it extends into a comparison of Antiochus Epiphanes (whose name meant “revelation […]

  2. […] is associated with wild, stubborn, or disobedient animals in the Bible. Like ox-goads, pricks would prod or force the animals to go […]

  3. […] I Thessalonians 1:8-9) 2. Birds of a Feather (Psalm 84:3-4) 3. As Good as Dead (Genesis 20-21) 4. Getting Your Goat (Daniel 8:5-8; Zechariah 10:3; Matthew 25:31-46) 5. Don’t Beat around the Bush (Exodus 3-4) 6. […]

  4. […] people who steal other people’s property (the 8th Commandment)? Are they the ones who really get your goat (figuratively if not […]


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