OX or BULLOCK (Hebrew,
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Among the agricultural Semites the ox or bull had a sacred character. Thus in Sabea it was sacred to Athtar (comp. Mordtmann in "Z. D. M. G." xxx. 289, and Barton in "Hebraica," x. 58); at Tyre, Astarte was represented with the head of a bull or cow (comp. Ashtoreth); and the sacred character of the bull in Babylonia is indicated by the name of the constellation Taurus (comp. Jensen, "Kosmologiẹ," pp. 62 et seq.). That the Israelites also held the bull sacred in the early days of their agricultural life, is proved by the worship of
It was probably due to the sacred character thus acquired that the figures of twelve oxen were employed in the Temple to support a large laver (I Kings vii. 25; II Kings xvi. 17; Jer. lii. 20). Partly in consequence of this sacred character, too, partly because of its use for food, the bull became one of the most important of the sacrificial animals (Ex. xxix. passim; Lev. iv. passim; Num. xxviii., xxix. passim; Ps. 1. 13; etc.). From its sacred and economic importance, the proper performance of the functions of the bull became, as in Job xxi. 10, a token of prosperity.
The Hebrew word "shor" is said to apply to an ox even when it is only one day old (B. Ḳ. 65b), as well as to the different kinds of oxen, including the wild ox ("shor ha-bar" or "shor ha-midbar"; comp. B. Ḳ. 44b) and the unicorn. Hence the Talmudic saying: "The ox which Adam offered to God had only one horn in its forehead" ('Ab. Zarah 8a). Egyptian oxen, it is said, have large bellies (Suk. 21b; comp. Parah ii. 2). If in the month of Adar the ox is cold in the morning but at noon lies down in the shade of a fig-tree, this is an indication that the month has fallen in its proper season, and that it is not necessary to intercalate a second Adar month (Sanh. 18b; comp. Yer. R. H. ii. 58b). R. Ḥisda declared that a black ox is the most valuable for its skin, a red ox for its flesh, and a white ox for plowing, and that a black ox with white spots is inferior in every respect (Nazir 31b). Oxen are considered to be dangerous domestic animals; so much so that one who, while praying, sees an ox coming toward him may interrupt his prayer. The Talmudists strongly warned the people to keep out of the way of an ox: "When thou seest the head of an ox in its food-basket, ascend upon the roof and throw the ladder down after thee." Still, according to Samuel, it is only a black ox in the month of Nisan that is dangerous, because Satan jumps between its eyes (Ber. 33a). See Unicorn.
- Kohut, Aruch Completum, s.v.
- Levy, Neuhebr. Wörterb. s.v.
- Lewysohn, Z. T. pp. 129, 307.