What Can Christians Learn from the Strange Verse that God Owns Cattle on a Thousand Hills?

Contributing Writer
What Can Christians Learn from the Strange Verse that God Owns Cattle on a Thousand Hills?

Why is it important to remember that God owns cattle on a thousand hills? Perspective. We live in a world that focuses on possessions yet is never satisfied. It is not until we gain insight into God’s perspective that we can truly understand what is important in life. There will never be enough money or possessions to make us happy because true happiness comes from a personal relationship with God.

So, what does “cattle on a thousand hills” have to do with anything? Let’s look closer at the scripture in context to find the answer.

Is There Really a Bible Verse about Cattle on a Thousand Hills?

The phrase “cattle on a thousand hills” comes from Psalm 50:10: “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”

This is a psalm of instruction and not praise or prayer. It’s a rebuke of how people were putting their rituals in worship above practical godliness in everyday life. God doesn’t need their sacrificial animals. What He desires is for them to behave in a way that is pleasing to Him. What does that have to do with cattle on a thousand hills? A lot when you look at the scripture in the context of the time.

What Did “Cattle on a Thousand Hills” Mean in Biblical Times?

Two main professions at the time of the psalm were farming and shepherding. The key to either of those professions was owning land, lots of land. In the modern world, most people think in terms of lots of land, meaning a piece of land big enough for a house and a yard where kids can play. Farming and shepherding required vast amounts of land to grow crops or feed animals, sometimes both.

Think about the price of an acre of land. Finding large portions of land with hundreds of acres is difficult and expensive, but God says he owns a thousand hills. Imagine the price tag for thousands of acres of land.

Yet not only does God have the land, but He also owns the cattle on those hills. This is a picture of great wealth.

What Does God Owning Cattle on a Thousand Hills Tell Us about Him?

Based on this verse, we can learn at least two things about who God is. First, God is the Creator.

If you read the rest of Psalm 50, you will see it goes on to say that the cattle on a thousand hills are merely a drop in the bucket compared to what God owns. In reality, “The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). As creator, God owns everything.

Second, God is our provider. In the Old Testament, Abraham, in obedience to God, is going to sacrifice Isaac, but God provides a ram instead, so “Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided’  (Genesis 22:14).

In the New Testament, Paul also points to God as our provider: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). For a more detailed list of scriptures, check out Bible Verses About God Provides.

How Does Knowing God Owns Cattle on a Thousand Hills Change Our Lives?

The Israelites were giving gifts of sacrifice to God with the mindset that it was something they owned. Melissa Henderson points out in her article “What Does it Mean That God Owns Cattle on a Thousand Hills?” that God doesn’t just want our sacrifice; he wants a relationship with us. As Creator, He already owns anything we could give Him, but as our heavenly Father, He also wants to provide for us.

It reminds me of when I was a little girl. Every Christmas, my dad would give me the piggy bank to buy Christmas presents. All year long, at the end of the day, my dad would empty his pockets of any change and have me put it into the bank. It was almost overflowing by Christmas, and I would empty it and roll the change. We would take the rolls to the bank in exchange for cash and then go shopping for presents. I thought I was buying the presents, but the money was my dad’s all along. He gave me the money to buy him a present.

When the Israelites took a lamb or cattle as a sacrifice, the lamb already belonged to God. He didn’t need their animals. He truly wanted their obedience in all things, not just rituals.

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Since God owns everything, we are merely stewards of His wealth. Any money we receive should be used properly as such. In his article “The God Who Provides,” James Boice gives us examples of people who loved money more than God: Achan, Solomon, Annais, and Sapphira. Their unhealthy attachment to money led to their downfalls.

In contrast, the scriptures tell us how we should behave as good stewards:

  • Hebrews 13:5a says, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have.”
  • 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
  • Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and put Me to the test now in this,” says the Lord of armies, “if I do not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

God, as Creator, owns everything, but God also is a loving Father who is our Provider. In Psalm 50:10, He reminds the Israelites of these things so that He can point them to what He really wants from them and us. He wanted obedience instead of sacrifice. They had become so concerned with the fine points of the laws regarding sacrifice that they had ignored the laws regarding behavior in everyday life, practical things like honoring their parents, not coveting what others have, and treating others as you would have them treat you.

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Everything we have is a gift from Him. We can trust Him to provide for our needs; in return, we should be good stewards of what we have been given. Our Father gives good gifts to His children because He loves us, but He also expects our obedience to His Word. When we let go of the love of money and love God alone, then He will provide for our needs. This attitude will bring true joy to your life no matter how little or how much you have. The God who owns cattle on a thousand hills is the God who provides for his children, and He is more than enough.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/pelooyen

Linda Lyle is a writer, teacher, knitter, and unintentional collector of cats. She has written articles for the Alabama Baptist, Open Windows, Refresh, as well as multiple novels and novellas. Her newest book, 5-Minute Prayer Plan for When Life Is Overwhelming, is set to release in October. She spins yarns on her blog The End of My Yarn at lindalyle.com

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. We hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in your life today.