CATTLE (Hebrew, = "possession"):

Term used to denote all domestic animals, the principal possession of nomadic and pastoral peoples.

Cattle were very important in the early life of the Hebrews. The story of Abel, who was a "keeper of sheep," and offered unto the Lord "of the firstlings of his flock" (Gen. iv. 2, 4), is without doubt an indication of the conditions of early times. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob his sons were "shepherds" in all the significance of the word (Gen. xlvi. 34; xlvii. 1, 3, 4, 6); and their respective stories show the importance of cattle in their lives. Their cattle furnished them their dwelling, the tent, their clothing, and their food, the last consisting of milk, cheese, and butter, and, on great occasions, meat. They also supplied them almost exclusively with the material of the sacrifices.

In Agriculture.

After having settled in the Land of Promise, the Israelites did not entirely abandon their early mode of life. Some tribes, particularly those of Reuben, Gad, and Simeon, continued in the pastoral life, in which they were encouraged by the nature of their respective territories. Others seem to have continued the rearing of cattle, along with their new agricultural occupations. Therefore the herds and flocks were a part of all blessings (Deut. viii. 13, xxviii. 4) and prophecies (Jer. xxxi. 27, xxxiii. 12, 13; Zech. ii. 4). In the ordinary usage of the language, kings were called "shepherds" (II Sam. v. 2, vii. 7; Isa. xli. 28), and the same figurative language is used to describe Providence (Ps. xxiii. 2).

The live stock of the Israelites consisted chiefly of small cattle, horned cattle, and asses. The camel and the horse were not common in Biblical times. Small cattle—i.e., sheep and goats—were the most numerous, since Palestine, like the other Mediterranean countries, was in ancient times, as in modern, well suited to the habits of these animals. They were known by the collective name ; (ẓon; compare the Homeric μὶλα; see Goat, Sheep). Horned cattle were raised successfully only in well-watered places, as the valley of the Jordan, the plain of Sharon, and, particularly, the western part of Bashan. They were called (baḳar, "plowers"; compare "armentum," from "arare"; see Ox). Asses were as common as they were good, and she-asses were especially appreciated (Gen. xii. 16, xxx. 43; Josh. vii. 24; I Sam. viii. 16), even after the introduction of the horse (Ezra ii. 66 et seq.; Neh. vii. 68 et seq.).

Kindness to Animals.

Many passages in the Scriptures enjoin on man kindness and humanity toward domestic animals. God, as Creator and Providence of all animals, gave man sway over them, delegating to him His providence, as well as His dominion. Punishing man, He strikes also the animals; making His peace with mankind, He extends the reconciliation to animals. The firstlings of the domestic animals are His, as are the first-born of Israel. Domestic animals were entitled to their rest on the Sabbath (Ex. xx. 10, xxiii. 12; Deut. v. 14), and during the Sabbatical year were allowed to wander through the fields feeding on the spontaneous products (Lev. xxv. 7; Ex. xxiii. 11). Castration was forbidden, according to Josephus ("Ant." iv. 8, § 40; probably based on Lev. xxii. 24), and, likewise, hybridization (Lev. xix. 19). To plow with an ass and an ox was not allowed, probably because of the superior strength of the ox, which was the plower par excellence (Deut. xxii. 10). The overladen ass must be relieved of part of his burden, and if he should fall under it, his master must help him up (Deut. xxii. 4). The ox treading out the corn was not to be muzzled (Deut. xxv. 4). A cow or a ewe and her young could not be killed in one day (Lev. xxii. 28). The origin of the command not to seethe a kid in its mother's milk (Ex. xxiii. 19, xxxiv. 26; Deut. xiv. 21) is uncertain. Its purpose seems to have been to deter the Israelites from a heathen custom (see Bochart, "Hierozoicon," pp. 634 et seq.; Dillmann, on Ex. xxiii. 19; Nowack, "Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie," p. 117. Maimonides, "Moreh Nebukim").

Shelter at Night.

During the summer cattle were left in the open air. At night they were driven into pens or folds, for which the Bible has a great variety of names: , Boẓrah (Micah ii. 12); , Mikla (Hab. iii. 17 et seq.); , Gederah (Num. xxxii. 16, 24, 36); , Mishpetayim (Gen. xlix. 14). These pens were sometimes fenced about with stakes; more often, however, they consisted of an enclosure with a dry-stone wall, to protect the cattle from wild beasts; and occasionally they were provided with watch-towers (II Chron. xxvi. 10). The cattle were counted in the morning and the evening when going out and coming in; and the shepherd was obliged to replace every missing head, unless he could prove that it had not perished through his own fault (Gen. xxxi. 39; Ex. xxii. 12-13; compare Amos iii. 12). In the neighborhood of the pens were watering-places, consisting generally of a well or cistern, with a trough. To dip out the water and fill the troughs must have been one of the hardest duties of the shepherds (Gen. xxiv. 20, xxix. 8-10). During the winter the cattle were sheltered in regular stables (, marbeḳ), which were furnished with cribs (, ebus). It is incidentally mentioned that the ox and the cow were generally fed on chopped straw (, teben, Isa. xi., lxv. 25), or sometimes on a sour mixture (, belil ḥamiz), a provender consisting of various grains, mixed with alkaline herbs (Isa. xxx. 24), sometimes like the "farrago" of the Latin (see Bochart, l.c. pp. 113, 303; Blau, in "Z. D. M. G." xxvii. 522 et seq.). Horses also were fed on chopped straw and on barley. Oats and hay were then, as now, unknown in Oriental countries. Fatlings were probably kept always in the stables, hence the expression. "'egel" or "'egle marbeḳ" (, I Sam. xxviii. 24; Jer. xlvi. 21; see Gesenius, "Thesaurus," p. 1260; Bochart, l.c. pp. 302 et seq.). Elsewhere fat beeves are called (Beri'im = "fattened"), in contradiṣtinction to , re'i ("beeves of pasture," I Kings v. 3), or , meri'im (II Sam. vi. 13; I Kings i. 9). There is no evidence that the Hebrews understood the art of breeding with a view to the bettering of the race. Under this heading one would hardly consider the trick of Jacob, used to increase his flocks at the expense of his father-in-law.

  • Bochart, Hierozoicon;
  • Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie.
E. G. H. H. H.
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