The domestic cattle of Israel have been much like those raised in the West, only there have
not been as many kinds of breed. In the time of Israel's prosperity, cattle were much more numerous than they have been among the Arabs today, and were probably better developed animals. The ancient Jews used the cattle for sacrifices, and for this purpose they had to be without flaws. The Arabs do not use cattle for meat very much, but rather use sheep and goat meat.
Various words are used in our English Bible to indicate cattle. The word "ox" is often used, and it is sometimes indicated that this animal was especially fatted for table use. "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith" (Proverbs 15:17). The words "bull" or "bullock" are used in Scripture to designate the male cattle. The bullock was one of animals that could be offered under the law of Moses as a burnt offering (Leviticus 1:5).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The yoke. The yoke is a rude stick that fits the necks of the cattle. Two straight sticks project down each side, and a cord at the end of these sticks and underneath the cattle's necks holds the yoke on the necks.
These yokes of wood are often spoken of in the Scriptures (Jeremiah 28:13, etc.).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Bull calves were often used in Bible times for meat. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Cattle in Easton's Bible Dictionary
abounded in the Holy Land. To the rearing and management of
the inhabitants chiefly devoted themselves (Deut.
8:13; 12:21; 1
Sam. 11:5; 12:3; Ps. 144:14; Jer. 3:24). They may be
(1.) Neat cattle. Many hundreds of these were yearly
in sacrifices or used for food. The finest herds
were found in
Bashan, beyond Jordan (Num. 32:4). Large herds also
the wide fertile plains of Sharon. They were yoked
to the plough
(1 Kings 19:19), and were employed for carrying
burdens (1 Chr.
12:40). They were driven with a pointed rod (Judg.
3:31) or goad
According to the Mosaic law, the mouths of cattle
the threshing-floor were not to be muzzled, so as to
them from eating of the provender over which they
(Deut. 25:4). Whosoever stole and sold or
slaughtered an ox must
give five in satisfaction (Ex. 22:1); but if it was
in the possession of him who stole it, he was
required to make
double restitution only (22:4). If an ox went
found it was required to bring it back to its owner
22:1, 4). An ox and an ass could not be yoked
together in the
plough (Deut. 22:10).
(2.) Small cattle. Next to herds of neat cattle,
the most important of the possessions of the
Israel (Gen. 12:16; 13:5; 26:14; 21:27; 29:2, 3).
frequently mentioned among the booty taken in war
Josh. 6:21; 1 Sam. 14:32; 15:3). There were many who
of large flocks (1 Sam. 25:2; 2 Sam. 12:2, comp. Job
also had shepherds "over their flocks" (1 Chr.
which they derived a large portion of their revenue
17:29; 1 Chr. 12:40). The districts most famous for
of sheep were the plain of Sharon (Isa. 65: 10),
(Micah 7:14), Bashan and Gilead (Micah 7:14). In
times the flocks of sheep were sometimes tended by
of the owners. Thus Rachel, the daughter of Laban,
father's sheep (Gen. 29:9); as also Zipporah and her
had charge of their father Jethro's flocks (Ex.
they were kept by hired shepherds (John 10:12), and
the sons of the family (1 Sam. 16:11; 17:15). The
familiarized their sheep with their voices that they
and followed them at their call. Sheep, but more
and lambs, were frequently offered in sacrifice. The
sheep was a great festive occasion (1 Sam. 25:4; 2
They were folded at night, and guarded by their
the attacks of the lion (Micah 5:8), the bear (1
and the wolf (Matt. 10:16; John 10:12). They were
wander over the wide pastures and go astray (Ps.
53:6; Hos. 4:16; Matt. 18:12).
Goats also formed a part of the pastoral wealth of
(Gen. 15:9; 32:14; 37:31). They were used both for
for food (Deut. 14:4), especially the young males
14, 17; Judg. 6:19; 13:15; 1 Sam. 16:20). Goat's
hair was used
for making tent cloth (Ex. 26:7; 36:14), and for
bedding (1 Sam. 19:13, 16). (See GOAT -T0001509.)
Cattle in Naves Topical Bible
(Of the bovine species)
-Used for sacrifice
-Gilead adapted to the raising of
-Bashan suitable to the raising of
Ps 22:12; Eze 39:18; Am 4:1
Cattle in Smiths Bible Dictionary
Cattle in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
kat'-'-l (behemah, "a dumb beast"; miqneh, "a possession"
from qanah, "to acquire" (compare Arabic qana', "to
acquire," and Greek kienos, "beast," and plural ktenea,
"flocks," from ktaomai, "to acquire," flocks being both with
the Homeric peoples and with the patriarchs an important
form of property; compare English "fee"); tso'n "small
cattle," "sheep" or goats (compare Arabic da'n, "sheep");
seh, a single sheep or goat (compare Arabic shah);
mela'khah, "property," from la'akh, "to minister" (compare
Arabic malakah and mulk, "property," from malak, "to
possess"); meri' "fatling" (1 Ki 19); thremma (Jn 4:12),
"cattle," i.e. "that which is nourished," from trepho, "to
nourish"; baqar, "kine," "oxen" (compare Arabic baqar,
"cattle"); shor, tor (Dan 4:25), tauros (Mt 22:4), "ox" or
"bull"; bous, "ox" (Lk 13:15); 'eleph, only in the plural,
'alaphim, "oxen" (Ps 8:7)): From the foregoing and by
examination of the many references to "cattle," "kine" or
"oxen" it is apparent that there are important points of
contact in derivation and usage in the Hebrew, Greek and
English terms. It is evident that neat cattle were possessed
in abundance by the patriarchs and later Israelites, which
is fax from being the case in Israel at the present day. The
Bedouin usually have no cattle. The fellachin in most parts
of the country keep them in small numbers, mostly for
plowing, and but little for milk or for slaughtering.
Travelers in the Holy Land realize that goat's milk is in
most places easier to obtain than cow's milk. The commonest
cattle of the fellachin are a small black breed. In the
vicinity of Damascus are many large, fine milch cattle which
furnish the delicious milk and cream of the Damascus
bazaars. For some reason, probably because they are not
confined and highly fed, the bulls of Israel are meek
creatures as compared with their European or American
In English Versions of the Bible the word "cattle" is more
often used in a wide sense to include sheep and goats than
to denote merely neat cattle. In fact, baqar, which
distinctively denotes neat cattle, is often rendered
"herds," as tso'n, literally "sheep," is in a large number
of instances translated "flocks." A good illustration is
found in Gen 32:7: "Then Jacob .... divided the, people
(`am) that were with him, and the flocks (tso'n), and the
herds (baqar), and the camels (gemallim), into two companies
(machanoth)." For the last word the King James Version has
"drove" in Gen 33:8, the Revised Version (British and
American) "company." Next to tso'n, the word most commonly
rendered "flock" in English Versions of the Bible is `edher,
from root "to arrange," "to set in order." `Edher is
rendered "herd" in Prov 27:23, and in Joel 1:18 it occurs
twice, being rendered "herds of cattle," `edhre baqar, and
"flocks of sheep," `edhre ha-tso'n. Miqneh is rendered
"flock" in Nu 32:26, "herd" in Gen 47:18, and "cattle" in a
large number of passages. Other words rendered "flock" are:
mar`ith (r. ra`ah (Arabic ra`a), "to pasture"), once in Jer
10:21; `ashteroth tso'n, "flocks of thy sheep," the Revised
Version (British and American) "young of thy flock," in Dt
7:13, etc., `ashiaroth being...
Cattle Scripture - 1 Chronicles 5:21
And they took away their cattle; of their camels fifty
thousand, and of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of
asses two thousand, and of men an hundred thousand.
Cattle Scripture - 2 Chronicles 35:8
And his princes gave willingly unto the people, to the
priests, and to the Levites: Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel,
rulers of the house of God, gave unto the priests for the
passover offerings two thousand and six hundred [small
cattle], and three hundred oxen.
Cattle Scripture - Deuteronomy 28:11
And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit
of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit
of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy
fathers to give thee.
Cattle Scripture - Deuteronomy 30:9
And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work
of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of
thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the
LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced
over thy fathers:
Cattle Scripture - Deuteronomy 5:14
But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in
it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy
daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine
ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger
that [is] within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy
maidservant may rest as well as thou.
Cattle Scripture - Genesis 1:25
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle
after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth
after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
Cattle Scripture - Genesis 47:6
The land of Egypt [is] before thee; in the best of the land
make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen
let them dwell: and if thou knowest [any] men of activity
among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.
Cattle Scripture - Genesis 8:17
Bring forth with thee every living thing that [is] with thee,
of all flesh, [both] of fowl, and of cattle, and of every
creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may
breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply
upon the earth.
Cattle Scripture - Joshua 8:2
And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto
Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle
thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an
ambush for the city behind it.
Cattle Scripture - Leviticus 5:2
Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether [it be] a
carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle,
or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and [if] it be
hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
Milk-giving cows, sometimes called "milch kine," were in common use (I Samuel 6:7; Deuteronomy 32:14). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Killing the Fatted Calf
Two occasions called for the slaying of this animal.
First, if a special guest was to be received and thus honored, the calf was then killed. When the witch of Endor entertained King Saul with a meal, the account says that she "had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted, and killed it" (I Samuel 28:24). The well-known New Testament example was when the prodigal's father said to his servants, "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry" (Luke 15:23). It was the custom to kill the animal, cook it, and then eat it, in quick succession. Abraham, Gideon, Manoah, the witch of Endor, as well as the prodigal's father, are examples of this. The Bedouin Arabs do this today when unexpected guests arrive. These Orientals would appear to be expert in the art.36
Second, the "fatted calf' was sometimes slain as a special sacrifice or offering unto the LORD. The prophet Amos mentions "the peace-offerings of your fat beasts" (Amos 5:22, Keil). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
But the chief use of oxen was by the farmer in his various activities. The Jews used the oxen where the modern farmer has used the horse. Oxen were put under the yoke and made to pull the plow. Cows as well as bulls were utilized, the latter having been castrated. "Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen" (I Kings 19:19). Oxen were used in threshing grain. "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn [grain]" (Deuteronomy 25:4). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The Fatted Calf
Special use of the fatted calf. The "fatted calf" as used by the Jews served a special purpose. This calf was stall-fed as is indicated by the prophet Malachi: "And grow up as calves of the stall" (Malachi 4:2). This animal is not only allowed to eat all that he wants to eat, but he is forced to eat more. The whole family, and especially the children, are interested in feeding it. It is fattened up in order that it may be killed for some special occasion. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Turning Cattle Loose
During part of the year, the cattle in Israel are allowed to graze. In the thickly populated sections, a boy will act as herdsman to see that they do no harm. But in the thinly populated districts, the farmers will sometimes turn their herds loose and let the cattle forage, hunting their own pasturage. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
While doing this they take on some of the characteristics of a wild animal. The Bible refers to some of these habits.
The Psalmist cried: "Many bulls have compassed me, strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion" (Psalm 22:12). The prophet Joel referred to the custom of turning herds loose to search for their own pastures: "How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture" (Joel 1:18). Under the dire conditions described by the prophet, the cattle could find no pasturage. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]