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 1Sa 14:32, was one of excess. The third year was the time for breaking to service (Isa 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 (Ps 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. Isa 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 (Isa 11:7; 65:25). The sense in Mal 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 (Isa 25:9; 61:10; 1Pe 1:8).
When harvest was over, and open pastures failed because of the heat, the ox was fed in stalls (Hab 3:17) until vegetation returned. Saul himself had herded cattle, and Doeg his chief herdsman was high in his favor (1Sa 11:5; 21:7). Joseph's brethren were assigned the office as an honourable one by Pharaoh (Ge 47:6). Hezekiah and Uzziah, when the land was less disturbed by hostile inroads, revived cattle tending which had previously declined (2Ch 26:10; 32:28-29).
(a collection of cattle), Herdsmen. The herd was greatly regarded in both the patriarchal and the Mosaic period. The ox was the most precious stock next to horse and mule. The herd yielded the most esteemed sacrifice,
also flesh meat, and milk, chiefly converted probably, into butter and cheese.
De 32:14; 2Sa 17:29
The agricultural and general usefulness of the ox in ploughing, threshing, and as a beast of burden,
made a slaughtering of him seem wasteful. Herdsmen, etc., in Egypt were a low, perhaps the lowest, caste; but of the abundance of cattle in Egypt, and of the care there bestowed on them, there is no doubt.
So the plague of hail was sent to smite especially the cattle,
the firstborn of which also were smitten.
The Israelites departing stipulated for,
and took "much cattle" with them. ch.
Cattle formed thus one of the traditions of the Israelitish nation in its greatest period, and became almost a part of that greatness. The occupation of herdsman was honorable in early times.
Saul himself resumed it in the interval of his cares as king, also Doeg was certainly high in his confidence
Pharaoh made some of Joseph's brethren "rulers over his cattle." David's herd-masters were among his chief officers of state. The prophet Amos at first followed this occupation.