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People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Calf. The young of cattle, much used in sacrifice, often stall-fed, and regarded as choice food. Genesis 18:7; 1 Samuel 28:24; Amos 6:4; Luke 15:23; Luke 15:27; Luke 15:30. Some of the Egyptian deities, as Apis and Mnevis, were honored under the symbol of a calf. There were two notable occasions on which calf-like images were set up by the Israelites for worship. The first was when Aaron, at the demand of the people, made of their golden earrings a molten calf, hollow probably, or of gold plating upon wood. After the metal was cast it was fashioned, finished or ornamented, with a graving tool. Moses, when he saw it, burnt and reduced this image to powder, cast it into the water and made the Hebrews drink it. Exodus 32:1-35. Some centuries later Jeroboam set up golden calves at Dan and Bethel, which thus became and long continued to be centres of unhallowed worship. 1 Kings 12:28-30. Some suppose it was intended to honor Jehovah by these visible symbols, or at least to mix his worship with that of idols. For example, Aaron proclaimed "a feast to the Lord," Exodus 32:5; and Jeroboam, we may fairly believe, never hoped to keep his subjects from resorting to Jerusalem, by at once setting up a god in downright opposition to Jehovah. His object was to persuade them that their worship would be as acceptable by means of his symbols as by the ceremonials of the temple. The passing between the divided parts of a calf, Jeremiah 34:18-19, has reference to an ancient mode of ratifying a covenant. Comp. Genesis 15:10; Genesis 15:17. The "calves of our lips," Hosea 14:2, leads in the R. V., "So will we render as bullocks, the offerings of our lips," that is, we will offer praise, as animals are offered in sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15. See Lamb.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Calf'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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