[Heb., ʽegh·lahʹ; Gr., daʹma·lis].
A young cow that has not produced a calf.
A heifer was among the animals that Abraham cut into two parts, and he then saw “a smoking furnace and a fiery torch that passed in between these pieces.” This was in connection with God’s concluding of a covenant with him.—Ge 15:9-18.
In Israel a person who touched a human corpse, a human bone or grave, or who came into a tent in which lay a corpse, was unclean. He was required to undergo a specified cleansing procedure on pain of being “cut off from the midst of the congregation.” In this procedure the ashes of a sound red cow on which no yoke had come were used. Water in which some of these ashes had been mixed was sprinkled on the unclean one. Paul makes reference to this procedure, showing that it only had the effect of sanctifying to the extent of cleanness of the flesh but that it typified the real cleansing of conscience through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—Nu 19:1-22; Heb 9:13, 14.
A young cow was also used when bloodguilt rested on a city because of a murder in which the murderer was unknown. The older men of the city nearest to the one found slain, accompanied by some of the priests of the sons of Levi, were required to take the young unworked cow and break its neck in an uncultivated torrent valley in which there was running water. Then the older men of that city were to wash their hands over the young cow and to appeal to God not to put bloodguilt on the city. God would hear the plea and relieve the city of the guilt of shedding innocent blood. Evidently the fact that the cow’s neck was broken, instead of the cow’s being slaughtered as a sin offering, indicated that, in symbol, the cow suffered the punishment that should have been borne by the unknown murderer, and this procedure did not serve in any way to benefit the murderer as expiation for his crime. To Jehovah God, who sees all, was left the judgment of the actual murderer. Of course, if the murderer should later be discovered, he would be put to death for murder, as the Law required. The ceremony involving the young cow would make the matter publicly known and would tend to assist in the uncovering of the murderer.—De 21:1-9; Nu 35:30-33.
The prophet Jeremiah spoke figuratively of the nation of Egypt, when settled prosperously and well fed in her land, as “a very pretty heifer” but foretold that her defeat was to come. (Jer 46:20, 21) The same prophet also likened the Babylonian conquerors of God’s people to a heifer pawing in the tender grass, because of their exultation over their capture of Israel. (Jer 50:11) Hosea spoke of Ephraim, the ten-tribe kingdom, as having at one time been like a trained heifer, under God’s instruction and blessing, having plenty, as a threshing animal was allowed to eat of the fruitage of its work, which was comparatively light.—Ho 10:11; De 25:4.