Genesis 1:24-25 (NKJV)
Since I moved to the farm, I have had an ongoing “love-hate” relationship with the cows that live here. I’ve learned that the “hate” part was a result of my fear for these large creatures. The love part is mostly a result of my love for a good steak.
I’m not sure why in Genesis 1:24-25 God singled out one specific animal when He started creating animals. In Genesis 1:20-21 It says bc specifically created sky and sea creatures of all kinds, then in Genesis 1:22-23 God command His creation to be fruitful and multiple.
In Genesis 1:24-25 the author of Genesis (which many scholars believe was Moses) specifically wrote about God creating cattle. When they left Egypt, Pharaoh told them to take all their possessions (which included their animals). We do believe they left with flocks that included cattle, donkeys, and possibly sheep.
We know the Egyptian culture at the time worshipped cattle so they did not eat cattle. That would certainly explain why, even though they had flocks, the Israelites complained about starving in the wilderness. As the author of the first five books, Moses and the Israelites would have naturally considered cattle to be highly regarded. We must remember that Israel had lived in Egypt for 400 years prior to the Exodus. (https://www.gotquestions.org/Israelites-eat-flocks.html)
Certainly, the author of Genesis specifically mentioned God creating cattle as one of the first animals created.
We also need to remember the genre of this part of Genesis. Biblical Scholars believe the first section was not written as a history. They believe it is an allegory, or poetry that had hidden meaning. Considering that, the mention of cattle could have meant God created an animal that was highly regarded. Through the ages, cattle have serve numerous purposes. Kinds of cattle (oxen) did heavy lifting and plowing. In the wilderness the Israelites could have used donkeys and oxen to carry their belongings. Cattle could also provide meat but for the Israelites probably the milk would have been important. Because the Israelites had been taught that cattle were to be worshipped, they might not have been comfortable eating the meat of the cow. But as cattle died the Israelites would have used every part of the cow for practical purposes (bones to make tools, tissue for thread, a stomach (which cows have four of) for a canteen, etc.). Not eating the cattle would explain why the Israelites complained they complained about starving. As a result God gave them manna in the wilderness.
For all of those reasons, the author of Genesis would have considered cattle to be a valuable asset. When interpreting poetry, we understand the value of a word as a descriptive element. The mention of cattle in Genesis 1:24-25 would have been saying God offers “the very best” to earth and man.
Cattle in my world today are still a valuable asset. I watch daily as farmers care for their cattle. They give them the very best pasturelands. They make sure the size of the herd is not too large for the acreage they reside in. This week since we’ve had sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow, the cattle have been given large bales of hay. The farmers have delivered a daily supply of hay even when temperatures dipped into the negative indices. Many farmers still have to chop thick ice in the pond because that is the water supply for the cattle. Even today, cattle are considered to be a very valuable asset!
As a sidebar, the cattle near the pastures where I live seem to have adapted well to my two personal furry friends. My Shihtzu absolutely adores the cows! My Schnoodle has been much more guarded toward the very large 1500 pound cows (remember he IS half poodle). My Shihtzu is so small he can easily (and quickly) slip through the fence to go see the cows. After spending time with this herd for several months, my Shihtzu now grazes with them. One thing I can tell you about Shihtzus is that they are amiable and friendly.
After telling one of my grandsons about my pup grazing with the cows, he now calls my black and white Shihtzu Zac “a pigmy cow”. I think that description is laughable, AND appropriate!
The point is, even my dogs consider the cattle to be valuable.
Whatever the reason, the author of Genesis made it clear that ‘behemah’ (the Hebrew word for cattle or beast) was the first animal created. Because there were cattle in ancient Egypt, and they were highly regarded animals, it makes sense that the writer referred to the first animals as ‘cattle’.
Most importantly, whatever the first animal looked like, in Genesis 1:25, “God called it good.” God knew man would need this valuable animal even thousands of years later!
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Cattle and other Animals
Thank God for the animals in our world. If you have favorites, thank God for those. Mine are dogs and cows.
In God, Deborah