Cattle formed a considerable part of Israel's wealth. The full grown ox was seldom slaughtered, being more useful for plowing, threshing, and carrying burdens. The people's act, recorded in 1 Samuel 14:32, was one of excess. The third year was the time for breaking to service (Isaiah 15:5). Fattening for beef is not practiced in the East. Grazing is afforded in the South region (the Negeb), Carmel, Dothan, and Sharon. The ox ate foliage too in Bashan and Gilead (Psalm 50:10). Uzziah "built towers in the desert" (wasteland) to guard the pasturing cattle.
When pasture failed "provender," Hebrew a mixture of various grains, was used. Isaiah 30:24, "clean (chamits, 'salted') provender," or well fermented maslin, composed of grain, beans, vetches, hay, and salt, which beasts of burden in the East relish. The Arabs say, "sweet provender is as bread to camels, salted provender as confectionery." Also chopped straw (Isaiah 11:7; Isaiah 65:25). The sense in Malachi 4:3 is, "Ye shall go forth, and grow up, as calves of the stall," which when set free from the stall disport with joy; the believer's future joy at the Lord's second coming (Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 61:10; 1 Peter 1:8).
When harvest was over, and open pastures failed because of the heat, the ox was fed in stalls (Habakkuk 3:17) until vegetation returned. Saul himself had herded cattle, and Doeg his chief herdsman was high in his favor (1 Samuel 11:5; 1 Samuel 21:7). Joseph's brethren were assigned the office as an honourable one by Pharaoh (Genesis 47:6). Hezekiah and Uzziah, when the land was less disturbed by hostile inroads, revived cattle tending which had previously declined (2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 32:28-29).