Calves were commonly made use of in sacrifices, and are therefore frequently mentioned in Scripture. The "fatted calf" was regarded as the choicest of animal food; it was frequently also offered as a special sacrifice ( 1 Samuel 28:24 ; Amos 6:4 ; Luke 15:23 ). The words used in Jeremiah 34:18 Jeremiah 34:19 , "cut the calf in twain," allude to the custom of dividing a sacrifice into two parts, between which the parties ratifying a covenant passed ( Genesis 15:9 Genesis 15:10 Genesis 15:17 Genesis 15:18 ). The sacrifice of the lips, i.e., priase, is called "the calves of our lips" ( Hosea 14:2 , RSV, "as bullocks the offering of our lips." Compare Hebrews 13:15 ; Psalms 116:7 ; Jeremiah 33:11 ).
The golden calf which Aaron made ( Exodus 32:4 ) was probably a copy of the god Moloch rather than of the god Apis, the sacred ox or calf of Egypt. The Jews showed all through their history a tendency toward the Babylonian and Canaanitish idolatry rather than toward that of Egypt.
Ages after this, Jeroboam, king of Israel, set up two idol calves, one at Dan, and the other at Bethel, that he might thus prevent the ten tribes from resorting to Jerusalem for worship ( 1 Kings 12:28 ). These calves continued to be a snare to the people till the time of their captivity. The calf at Dan was carried away in the reign of Pekah by Tiglath-pileser, and that at Bethel ten years later, in the reign of Hoshea, by Shalmaneser ( 2 Kings 15:29 ; 17:33 ). This sin of Jeroboam is almost always mentioned along with his name ( 2 Kings 15:28 etc.).
The calf was held in high esteem by the Jews as food. ( 1 Samuel 28:24 ; Luke 15:23 ) The molten calf prepared by Aaron for the people to worship, ( Exodus 32:4 ) was probably a wooden figure laminated with gold, a process which is known to have existed in Egypt. [AARON]
kaf (`eghel; par, or par, often rendered "bullock"):
The etymology of both words is uncertain, but the former has a close parallel in the Arabic `ijl, "calf." Par is generally used of animals for sacrifice, `eghel, in that and other senses. `Eghel is used of the golden calves and frequently in the expression, `eghel marbeq, "fatted calf," or "calf of the stall," the latter being the literal meaning (1 Samuel 28:24; Jeremiah 46:21; Amos 6:4; Malachi 4:2).
At the present day beef is not highly esteemed by the people of the country, but mutton is much prized. In the houses of the peasantry it is common to see a young ram being literally stuffed with food, mulberry or other leaves being forced into its mouth by one of the women, who then works the sheep's jaw with one hand. The animal has a daily bath of cold water. The result is deliciously fat and tender mutton. Such an animal is called a ma`luf. From the same root we have ma`laf, "manger," suggestive of the Hebrew marbeq, "stall."
The calf for sacrifice was usually a male of a year old. Other references to calves are:
"to skip like a calf" (Psalms 29:6); "the calf and the young lion and the fatling together" (Isaiah 11:6); "a habitation deserted .... there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof" (Isaiah 27:10).
Alfred Ely Day
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