Cow, Kine, Cattle

See also Cattle

COW, KINE, CATTLE (chiefly פָּרָה֮, H7239, ox, heifer, but varied terms used). These designations include sheep and goats (Gen 32:7). Cattle are specifically mentioned in the account of the sixth day of creation which deals with conspicuous animals of interest to man. Noah took all the cattle according to their kinds into the ark, seven pairs of all clean animals. Flocks were possessed in abundance by the patriarchs. The peasants in Egypt and Syria had a small black breed kept for plowing but not for their milk, for goat’s milk was easier to obtain than cow’s milk. Damascus, however, had large milk cattle. Some have thought cattle came from bison or Indian buffalo, but more likely they descended from wild forms of Europe and North Africa (Bos taurus primigenius, also called Aurochs or Urus). Steers are fattened in abundance in this country, but the Israelites seldom castrated their cattle.

Cows were seldom sacrificed, but when they brought the ark back to the people of Bethshemesh, the two milch cows were promptly sacrificed. Bulls were the usual sacrifices (see Bullock">http://biblicaltraining.org/library/Bull,">Bullock BULL). A heifer, along with a goat, a ram and birds became the seal of a covenant God made with Abram (Gen 15:9). Recall that Hindus consider the cow sacred.

Meat was staple food in Solomon’s time; ten fat oxen and twenty pasture-fed cattle were provision for one day. The prodigal son has made the fatted calf famous (Luke 15:23), but it was a common custom to stuff a young ram with food. His jaw was even worked up and down so he developed into tender mutton for the diners. The Israelites, however, while in the desert had no beef or mutton, so lusted for the food of Egypt. In Pharaoh’s dream there were seven fat cows eaten by the seven lean cows which was a prophesy of plenty followed by famine. Since cows are vegetarian, not meat eaters, the dream was all the more poignant.

The cattle of Laban flourished under Jacob’s guidance until Jacob was ready to leave for his home. He bargained for the speckled and spotted and black and received many of the kind he wished because the recessive traits, not apparent in the breeding animals came to expression in the following generations. This is normal Mendelian heredity except that more recessives appeared than expected ordinarily. God’s providence was at work to repay Jacob for his labors.

Symbolic use of the flock is made by Zechariah who said “the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for want of a shepherd” and so he was appointed the shepherd of the flock which God cares for (Zech 10:2, 3; 11:7). “The Lord is my shepherd” is David’s famous psalm. Amos did not hesitate to call the voluptuous women of Samaria “you cows of Bashan,...who oppress the poor, who crush the needy” (Amos 4:1).

When the One comes whom the nations seek, the calf will dwell with the lion, the cow and the bear shall feed and His dwellings shall be glorious (Isa 11:6, 7, 10).

Bibliography J. P. Van Haitsma, The Supplanter Undeceived (1941), private printing.