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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
• Smith's Bible Dictionary
Bull, Bullock
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Bull, Bullock
Bull, Wild
Greek - bull, bulls
Hebrew - bull, bulls
Hebrew - bullock, bulls, bull, young bull, young bulls
Hebrew - bullock, bulls, bull
Hebrew - bull, bullock, bulls
Hebrew - wild bull

The term is a translation of several Hebrew words: “abbir,” “par,” and “shor.” The difference between “abbir” and “par” is not obvious but may be of some consequence. “Abbir” is used as an adjective most frequently to mean might or valiant one, either man, angels, or animals. “Par” seems to be used in reference to the male of the bovine species.

The bull was the symbol of great productivity in the ancient world and was a sign of great strength. Moses portrayed the future strength of Joseph with the term “shor” (Deuteronomy 33:17). The king of Assyria boasted of his great strength with the term “abbir” (Isaiah 10:13). The most frequent use of the bull in the Old Testament was as a sacrificial animal. Leviticus specifies that no castrated animal could be so used and that the animal must be at least eight days old (Leviticus 22:17-28). The bull is specified as the sacrificial animal for a peace offering (Exodus 24:5), a burnt offering (Judges 6:26), and as a sin offering (Ezekiel 43:19). On the other hand, the sacrificial animal is not so restricted in other passages (Leviticus 22:23; Numbers 23:14). The bull was used most frequently in connection with the inauguration of the sacrificial system or with sacrifices on special days. It was used in connection with the consecration of the priests (Exodus 29:1-37); at the dedication of the altar of the tabernacle (Numbers 7:1); for the purification of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-22); at the beginning of the month (New Moon [Numbers 28:11-15]); the Feast of Weeks (Numbers 28:26-31). The Feast of Booths had the distinction of requiring the largest numbers of bulls (seventy-one [Numbers 29:12-40]).

The bull may have been introduced into the cultic system of Israel from the practice of her neighbors. It was a widespread practice in the region in which Israel resided. In the Canaanite religion, the chief of the assembly was called “father bull El.” The bull was closely associated with Baal and may have influenced Jeroboam to set up the golden bulls at Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:28). The bronze sea in the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem was resting on the back of twelve bronze bulls.

Bryce Sandlin

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'BULL'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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