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was not thought too mean a present for a king to make in ancient times to his ally: for Moses informs us, that “ Abi. melech took sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and wo. men-servants, and gave them to Abraham.”e Soon after, these eminent personages entered into a treaty with each other, and, on that occasion, Abraham “ took sheep, and oxen ,and gave them to Abimelech."
The ox, especially when fattened, is of a rounder form than any other domestic animal; a circumstance which has given him a name in the Hebrew text. The beauty of his shape has been celebrated in the lines of heathen poets, and acknowledged in the dictates of inspiration. In the prophecies of Jeremiah, the kingdom of Egypt is compared to “ a very fair heifer;"and the same allusion is involved in these words of Hosea : “And Ephraim is an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn ; but I passed over upon her fair neck.”! The beauty of the heifer has been sung by the prince of Italian poets :
“ Pascitur in maguis sylvis formosa juvenca.” 3 Geor. l. 219. And by Ovid,
“ Victima labe carens et præstantissima forma.” Met. lib. xv. An air of grandeur and majesty has been remarked in the motions and attitudes of the bull, and a certain generosity in his aspect, which the Latin bard celebrates in these terms:
“ torvæque decorus
Frontis honos.” Homer had long before sung the praise of bovine excellence:
Ηυτε βες αγελαφι μεγ εξοχος επλετο παντων
Ταυρος : ο γαρ το βοισσι μεταπρεπει αγρομενησι. 2 Il. I. 480. • Gen. xx, 14.. Jer. xlvi, 20. & Hos. x, 11.
These high authorities justify the figure which Moses 'em. ploys, in the blessing which he pronounces on the tribe of Joseph : “ His glory is like the firstling of his bullock;" the generosity of his heart, and the majesty of his presence, were conspicuous in the amiable and dignified father of that tribe, the preserver of his family, and an eminent type of our gracious Redeemer.
The playful disposition of a young ox, the son of the herd, as the Hebrews beautifully call him, has been remarked by writers of eyery age.
- - επην βοτανης κορεσωνται
Odyss. lib. ix. Their wanton gambols on the soft grass, is thus described by Theocritus :
Ωρχευνα ενα μαλακά ται πορθιες αυλικα ποια.
Νικη μαν εδ αλλος, αναστατοι δ' εγενοντο. It is therefore with strict propriety, the Hebrew bard compares the shaking of the earth, and the reeling of the mountains with all their forests, when Jehovah descended in terrible majesty, to deliver the law from the top of Sinai, to the friskings of a young calf: “ He maketh them also to skip like a calf : Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn."i The prophet Jeremiah is supposed, by ancient interpreters, to refer to the same circumstance, where he foretels the ruin of Babylon : “ Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage ; because ye are grown fat,” or sport, “ as the heifer at grass, · and bellow as bulls.” A similar allusion is made by Ma. lachi, when he describes the glorious appearance of the promised Messiah, and the joy of his people : “ But unto you that fear my name, shall the sun of righteousness arise h Idyll. vi, 1. 45, 46. .
i Psalm xxix, 6.
with healing in his wings ; and ye shall go forth and grow up, or gambol, as calves of the stall.”j
The strength of the bull is too remarkable to require description ; and his courage and fierceness are so great, that he ventures at times to combat the lion himself.k Nor is he more celebrated for these qualities, than for his disposition to unite with those of his own kind against their common enemy. For these reasons, he has been chosen by the Spirit of inspiration, to symbolize the powerful, fierce, and implacable enemies of our blessed Redeemer; who, forgetting their personal animosities, combined against his precious life, and succeeded in procuring his crucifixion : “ Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me around."! Nor can we conceive a more striking and appropriate symbol of a fierce and ruthless warrior; an instance of which occurs in that supplication of David : “ Rebuke the company of the spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver.” In the sublime description of Isaiah, which seems to refer to some great revolutions, which are to be effected in times long posterior to the age in which he flourished; probably in these last days, antecedent to the millennial state of the church ; the complete destruction of her strong and cruel enemies is thus foretold: “ And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls, and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”n
The ox is a heavy and sluggish animal, blunt in his feelings, and almost destitute of sagacity; yet he may be i Mal. iv, 2. * Bochart. Hieroz. vol. ii, lib. ii, c. 28, p. 279.' Psa. xxii, 12. m Psa. Ixviii, 31.
n Isa. xxxiv, 7.
subdued to the yoke, taught to recognize his master, and to persevere with patient industry in his service. It is therefore, with peculiar force and beauty, the prophet contrasts his character and actions, with the dispositions and behaviour of Israel ; who, although taught by God more than the beasts of the field, had, by yielding to their vicious propensities, become more brutish than the dullest and most stupid of the lower animals : “ The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider.”
In the rutting season, the bull, naturally bold and untractable, becomes quite ungovernable, and often furious, especially when it is attempted to subject him to restraint. It is, therefore, with peculiar energy, that the prophet represents the sons of Zion in the days of their calamity, as lying at the head of all the streets, like a wild bull in a net : raging and struggling to break their toils, but entangling themselves still the more, and rendering their condition worse, by their own violent passions, and useless exertions.
The ox, like other inferior animals, is neither tormented by reflecting on the past, nor guessing at the future ; he grazes without fear or doubt, amidst the green pastures, and fattens for the knife, unconscious of the doom that awaits him : and when his owner comes and leads him away to the slaughter, his brute imagination only figures a richer meadow, or a more agreeable companion. Equally unconscious and cheerful is the miserable youth, whom an abandoned woman has entangled in her toils, and leads away to forbidden pleasures. He is not aware of his danger, and his misery: he goes with blind infatuation,
• Isa. i, 3.
and pitiable mirth to his destruction : “ He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks.” p
The prevailing colour among the herds in the east is red. This fact is attested by Pindar in these lines :
Μηλα σεγαρ τοι εγω
Pytk. 4. “ I leave thee, flocks and red herds of oxen.” And when he offered a hecatomb to Neptune, a red herd of Thracian bulls was the present :
Φωνισσα δε Θρηικιων αγελα ταυρων
Tragxsy. 9 Under the law, Jehovah commanded a red heifer to be offered as a kind of sin offering, to purify from certain legal defilements. The animal was killed, and then burnt without the camp, (as the sin offering was upon the great day of atonement), and the blood sprinkled seven times directly before the tabernacle, although it was not shed at the altar. The law of Moses only required, that the heifer should be red, and young, without spot and blemish ; and which had never been subjected to the yoke.
To these plain instructions, the Jews added an infinite number of niceties and exceptions, in choosing a heifer, for this offering. If she was not perfectly red, without the mixture of any other coulour; if she had but two hairs black or white---she was reckoned unfit for the purpose.
Why the law demands a young cow rather than a bul. lock, (which was commonly preferred by the divine legislator,) and why one perfectly red, it is not easy to deter
P Prov. vii, 22.