[Heb., pa·rahʹ; ʼeʹleph (De 7:13); ʽegh·lahʹ, young cow].
The cow filled an important role in the economy of the Israelites. Besides serving as a draft animal, the cow was valued for its production of milk, from which other common items of diet were prepared, including cheese, butter, and buttermilk. (Nu 19:2; Isa 7:21, 22) Also, the hide could be used in making a variety of leather goods.
Young cows, or heifers, were at times sacrificed. (Ge 15:9; 1Sa 6:14; 16:2) The ashes of an entire red cow, burned outside the camp, came to be an ingredient in Israel’s “water for cleansing.” (Nu 19:2, 6, 9) In the case of an unsolved murder, the representative older men of the town nearest the slain one were required to kill a young cow in an uncultivated torrent valley and then wash their hands over the carcass while testifying to their innocence of the crime.—De 21:1-9.
In the Scriptures numerous illustrative uses of the cow or heifer may be noted. The seven fat-fleshed and seven thin-fleshed cows of Pharaoh’s dream were explained as referring to seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine. (Ge 41:26, 27) Samson spoke of his betrothed as his young cow with which the 30 groomsmen had plowed in order to arrive at the solution to his riddle.—Jg 14:11, 12, 18.
The luxury-loving women despoilers dwelling in Samaria are referred to as “cows of Bashan.” (Am 3:15; 4:1) Ephraim is likened to “a trained heifer loving to thresh.” (Ho 10:11) This comparison takes on added meaning when considering that the animals doing the threshing were not muzzled and, therefore, could eat of the grain, thus receiving direct and immediate benefits from their labor. (De 25:4) Because of becoming fat as a result of God’s blessing, Israel “kicked,” rebelled against Jehovah (De 32:12-15), and is, therefore, appropriately referred to as a stubborn cow, one that is unwilling to bear the yoke. (Ho 4:16) Egypt is compared to a pretty heifer that would come to disaster at the hand of the Babylonians. (Jer 46:20, 21, 26) The Babylonians, in their pillaging ‘God’s inheritance,’ Judah, are likened to a frisky heifer pawing in the tender grass.—Jer 50:11.
In prophecy the peaceful conditions that result from the reign of the Messiah, Christ Jesus, are appropriately represented by amicable relations between the relatively harmless cow and the rapacious bear.—Isa 11:7; see BULL; CALF; HEIFER.