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The goad is a traditional farming implement, used to spur or guide livestock, usually oxen, which are pulling a plough or a cart; used also to round up cattle. It is a type of long stick with a pointed end, also known as the cattle prod.
In Oedipus the King, the play by Sophocles, Laius, the biological father of Oedipus, tried to kill his son with a goad when they accidentally met at a juncture of three roads. They did not know at the time that they were father and son. Oedipus explains to Jocasta, his mother and wife, what took place: "When in my journey I was near those three roads, there met me a herald, and a man seated in a carriage drawn by colts, as thou hast described; and he who was in front, and the old man himself, were for thrusting me rudely from the path. Then, in anger, I struck him who pushed me aside. -- the driver; and the old man, seeing it, watched the moment when I was passing, and, from the carriage, brought his goad with two teeth down full upon my head. Yet was he paid with interest; by one swift blow from the staff in his hand he was rolled right out of the carriage, on his back; and I slew every man of them."
Tischler and McHenry (2006: p. 251) in discussing the biblical account of 'goad' hold:
In the early days, before Israel had its own metal industries, farmers had to rely on the Philistines to sharpen their goads, as well as other metal tools, the plowshares and mattocks, forks, and axes (1 Sam. 13:20).
The image of prodding the reluctant or lazy creature made this a useful metaphor for sharp urging, such as the prick of conscience, the nagging of a mate, or the "words of the wise," which are "firmly embedded nails" in human minds (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12).
Saint Paul, recounting the story of his conversion before King Agrippa, told of a voice he heard saying ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ Some versions of the actual account of his conversion earlier in the Acts of the Apostles also use the same phrase.
In the Latin alphabet, the letter L is derived from the Semitic crook or goad which stood for /l/. This may originally have been based on an Egyptian hieroglyph that was adapted by Semites for alphabetic purposes. Pollack (2004: p. 146), in discussing 'Lamed, Path 22' the path from Gevurah to Tiferet, Justice, in the pathworking of the esoteric Kabbalah, states:
We switch sides now and bring the power of Gevurah to the center. Lamed means 'goad' and in particular an ox-goad, as if we use the power of Gevurah to goad that Aleph ox, the silent letter, into a more tangible physical existence in the heart of the tree [of life]. Lamed begins the Hebrew words for both "learn" and "teach," and so encompasses the most Kabbalist of activities, study. Kabbalah has never been a path of pure sensation, but always has used study to goad us into higher consciousness. Lamed, alone of the Hebrew alphabet, reaches above the height of all the other letters. Through learning we extend ourselves above ordinary awareness.