render ʽa·ghurʹ as “crane,” Hezekiah’s reference to the bird’s “chirping [from tsa·phaphʹ]” hardly seems to describe the deep trumpeting sound made by that large bird. In his book Kleine Lichter, lexicographer Ludwig Koehler says the Hebrew ʽa·ghurʹ describes a bird that ‘ruffles or bristles its feathers’ and says concerning the bulbul that “during the pauses (of its song) . . . from time to time it lifts the extended crestlike feathers of the back of the head.” (Kleine Lichter [German], pp. 38, 39) Unlike the somewhat bellowing sound of the crane, the song of the bulbul is rather flutelike in tone and described as a combination chirp and warble.
Jeremiah (8:7) evidently refers to the seasonal arrival of migratory birds in his censuring the Israelites for not discerning the time of God’s judgment on them. Pointing out that many songbirds use the Jordan valley as a migration corridor, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (p. 74) states that the birds using such corridor “include the bulbul (E[astern] song thrush).” It is described as a bird of gardens and wooded valleys and streams, gracing the early spring air with its pleasant song.
Several original-language words, for instance, the Hebrew term par, have been variously translated “bull,” “bullock,” “calf,” and “ox.” In modern English usage “ox” has come to apply especially to a castrated bull, but the original-language words often rendered “ox” and “oxen” in various translations are not to be understood in this restricted sense. Although castration is the method ordinarily employed for breaking bulls for service as draft animals, apparently this was not practiced by the Israelites, for a mutilated animal was unfit for sacrifice. (Lev. 22:23, 24; Deut. 17:1; compare 1 Kings 19:21.) It has, therefore, been suggested that the breed used by the Israelites may have been of a gentle temper.
The male of beef cattle has occupied a prominent place in the religions of many pagan peoples. Whether because of its great strength or its potential as sire of a numerous progeny, it has been honored, even worshiped. The Babylonians employed the bull as the symbol of their principal god, Marduk. In Egypt living bulls, such as Apis at Memphis and Mnevis at Heliopolis, were venerated as incarnations of a god. In Greece the bull was prominently associated with the worship of Dionysus. The occurrence of the bull, Taurus, as one of the primary signs of the Zodiac, offers additional evidence of the important place accorded the bull in pagan religions.
Shortly after the Exodus, even the Israelites, likely because of being contaminated by the religious concepts with which they became acquainted while in Egypt, exchanged Jehovah’s glory for a “representation of a bull.” (Ps. 106:19, 20) Later, the first king of the ten-tribe kingdom, Jeroboam, set up calf worship at Dan and Bethel.—1 Ki. 12:28, 29.
According to God’s law to Israel, no veneration whatsoever, not even in a representative way, was to be given to the bull or any other animal. (Ex. 20:4, 5; compare Exodus 32:8.) Of course, bulls were offered in sacrifice (Ex. chap. 29; Lev. 22:27; Num. chap. 7; 1 Chron. 29:21), and at certain times the Law specifically directed that bulls were to be sacrificed. If the high priest committed a sin that brought guiltiness upon the people, he was required to offer a bull, the largest and most valuable sacrificial victim, this undoubtedly in keeping with his responsible position as leader of Israel in true worship. A bull also had to be offered when the entire assembly of Israel made a mistake. (Lev. 4:3, 13, 14) On Atonement Day a bull was to be offered in behalf of the priestly house of Aaron. (Lev. chap. 16) In the seventh month of their sacred calendar the Israelites were required to offer more than seventy bulls as burnt offerings.—Num. chap. 29.
The bull was also used by the Israelites in the work related to farm operations, for plowing and threshing. (Deut. 22:10; 25:4) The creature was to be treated humanely. The apostle Paul applied to God’s Christian servants the principle embodied in the Law with respect to not muzzling a bull while it is threshing, indicating that just as the working bull was entitled to feed on the grain it was threshing, likewise the one sharing spiritual things with others is worthy of receiving material provisions. (Ex. 23:4, 12; Deut. 25:4; 1 Cor. 9:7-10) Legislation covered cases of theft of a bull and of damage done to persons and property by an untended bull.—Ex. 21:28 to 22:15.
The bulls sacrificed by the Israelites symbolized the one unblemished offering of Christ as the only adequate sacrifice for the sins of mankind. (Heb. 9:12-14) Sacrificial bulls are also representative of a superior sacrifice, one that in all times and circumstances Jehovah delights in, namely, the spontaneous fruitage of lips that, like vigorous young bulls, is used to praise God’s name.—Ps. 69:30, 31; Hos. 14:2; Heb. 13:15.
In Bible symbolism the bull is used to denote power and strength. The molten sea in front of Solomon’s temple rested upon representations of twelve bulls, in groups of three facing each of the cardinal directions. (2 Chron. 4:2, 4) The four living creatures seen in vision by the prophet Ezekiel accompanying the chariotlike throne of Jehovah each had four faces, one of which was that of a bull. (Ezek. 1:10) In the vision of the apostle John, one of the four living creatures around the throne was like a young bull. (Rev. 4:6, 7) Hence, the bull would fitly represent one of Jehovah’s basic attributes, namely, unlimited power. “Strength belongs to God,” is the declaration of the psalmist.—Ps. 62:11.
In the Scriptures the bull also figures as a symbol of the aggressive enemies of Jehovah and his worshipers, who would seek to enslave or destroy God’s servants but who would themselves be annihilated at Jehovah’s day of vengeance.—Ps. 22:12; 68:30; Isa. 34:7, 8; Ezek. 39:18; see CALF; OFFERINGS.
There is good reason for rendering the Hebrew word reʼemʹ as “wild bull,” since this is the animal designated by the very similar Akkadian word rimu. Representations of the rimu in the art of the Assyrians indicate this creature to be the aurochs, 1 a fierce massive bovine measuring about six feet (1.8 meters) high at the shoulder. The remains of these mighty creatures have been found in various parts of Europe, while their existence in the Palestine of earlier times is indicated by the finding of their teeth in caves in Lebanon. The ancients evidently considered the wild bull to be a very fierce animal. Observes the English archaeologist Sir Austen Layard, in Nineveh and Its Remains, page 326: “The wild bull, from its frequent representation in the bas-reliefs, appears to have been considered scarcely less formidable and noble game than the lion. The king is frequently seen contending with it, and warriors pursue it both on horseback and on foot.”
That the wild bull was much larger and more dangerous than the largest domesticated bulls is borne out by the statements of Julius Caesar in his Commentaries (De bello Gallico): “They are little inferior in size to elephants; they are bulls in their nature, color and figure. Great is their strength and great is their swiftness, neither do they spare man or beast, which they have caught sight of. . . . [They] can not be habituated to man, or made tractable, not even when caught very young. The great spread of the horns as well as the shape and quality of them differ much from the horns of our oxen.”
In Scripture, allusion is made to several of the wild bull’s characteristics: its untractable disposition (Job 39:9-12), its swiftness and invincibility (Num. 23:22; 24:8), the power of its great horns (Deut. 33:17; Ps. 22:21; 92:10) and its friskiness in youth. (Ps. 29:6) Wild bulls are also used to represent the untractable enemies of Jehovah against whom the