Animals, Colors, Metals, Numbers and Signs in Scripture.







Cattle Overview

Often in the scriptures specific animals are associated with various bible subjects. Frequently, it is the characteristics or qualities or uses of the animals that the Holy Spirit uses to teach various spiritual lessons.

Cattle are called in the scriptures by different names. The following names all have reference to what we would call cattle today: bull, bullock, cow, kine, ox, oxen, heifer, and calf.

Cattle produce milk, provide meat, have useful hides, and are used as animals of labor in drawing carts or wagons and in plowing in the fields.

Cattle were often used in the sacrifices and offerings of the children of Israel in their ordinances and tabernacle and temple worship. Frequently we find they were associated with the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering.

Bulls will fight one another to have control over the herd of cows. The term, bully, is derived from the characteristics of bulls to push, fight, and seek control over other bulls and over the herd of cows.

Oxen were often yoked together to plow or to draw wagons.

In our upcoming essays, we will attempt to show how these characteristics of cattle are used to illustrate important bible subjects and spiritual lessons.

Bullock and the Offerings

The bullock was one of five animals used in the various sacrifices unto the Lord. The other animals used were the sheep, the goats, the turtledove and the pigeon.

The bullock, along with the sheep, was used in the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering. The goat was only used in the sin offering.

According to Leviticus chapter 7, in the sin offering and the peace offering the High Priest and the sons of the High Priest, who were the priests, were to eat the flesh of the offerings. However, they only could eat of the flesh of the offering if they were clean. If they had any uncleanness they were not to eat of the flesh of the offering.

As we have previously shown, the bullock is a beast of labor. The bullock in the offerings was symbolic of the labors of Christ who was offered for our sins and accepted of God.

In the New Testament, the redeemed children of God are called priests: Rev. 1:5 “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Notice that the ones for whom Christ died were washed from their sins in the blood of Christ and have been made priests unto God. Thus, the priests are clean through the atoning blood of Christ.

We draw the following conclusion from the above: the ones for whom Christ died and cleansed from their sins also are able to eat of the flesh of Christ. We eat spiritually of the flesh of Christ when we have the gospel proclaimed unto us and we believe it. Please note that only those who were cleansed by the blood of Christ can eat spiritually of the flesh of Christ through the gospel. Those who were not cleansed by the blood of Christ are unclean still and have no right to eat of the flesh of Christ. This explains 1 Cor. 1:18: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” Those that perish have no use for the gospel of the grace of God. Those who have been saved by the blood of Christ rejoice in the gospel of the grace of Christ.

Cattle and the labor of Christ

Rev. 4:6 “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

In the above passage of scripture, we are presented with a picture of four beasts. Each beast had a different face. All four beasts had six wings about him. All four beasts were full of eyes within. All four beasts continually cried, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. All four beasts give glory, honor, and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever. When the four beasts gave their testimony, the four and twenty elders fell down before him that sat on the throne and worshipped him.

All four gospels declare the holiness of Christ. They all declare him to be Lord God Almighty. They all declare him to be the eternal God which was and is and is to come. When these four gospels give their testimony, God’s born again children who are called kings and priests in chapter 1 of Revelation fall down and worship Christ and cast their crowns before the throne and say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created…”

Thus, there is a very strong parallel to the four gospels and the four beasts. However, each presents to us a different, yet completely consistent and perfectly harmonious, picture of Christ. The lion, in the scriptures, is associated with kings and kingdoms. There are more references to the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God in Matthew than all the other three gospels combined. Moreover, the 1st chapter of Matthew gives us the genealogy of the promised king.

The book of Luke presents to us a picture of the man Christ Jesus. It gives more details of the birth and early life of Christ and more details of his humanity than the other three gospels combined.

The book of John presents to us a picture of the divinity of Christ. The eagle is a bird that flies very high and has great and long distant vision. Like the eagle, the book of John gives us a very exalted view of Christ as the Son of God and as the Great I AM. It declares to us details of God’s everlasting covenant before the foundation of the world. Unlike the other three gospels, the book of John begins by declaring Christ to be the Word of God who created the heavens and the earth and all creatures therein in the morning of time.

The book of Mark presents to us a picture of Christ in his labors. Like the calf which is a beast of burden, Christ is continually pictured in this book as one who is and was constantly laboring. The key word in this book is the word, “and.” The word, “And,” begins the majority of the verses of scripture in the book of Mark. Mark does not begin with the birth of Christ, but begins with the work of Christ. It shows his baptism and his going immediately into his labors. While this gospel is shorter than the other three gospels, yet it is full of description of the labors of Christ.

Some have thought that the four beasts in Revelation and the four living creatures in Ezekiel are the same. However, the four living creatures, though they have many similarities to the four beasts, are more characteristic of the labors of the gospel ministers.

Four Faces Face of an Ox
Four Faces of the Four Living Creatures

Ezek. 1:10, “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.”

The descriptions of the living creatures in Ezek. Chapter 1 given in figurative language are typical of the gospel ministry. The number four is often associated with the work of the Holy Spirit in the gospel. The four faces of the living creatures answers to four necessary characteristics of the ministers of the gospel.

First, it must be remembered that God, the Holy Spirit, calls men to preach the gospel. They are men both before the call and after the call. As men, they have the trials and temptations of men and go thru the problems and affairs of men just as other men do. Preachers of the gospel are not to be exalted or worshiped. Peter, when Cornelius met him and fell at his feet and worshiped him, took him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself also am a man.” Men are not to be worshiped nor are to receive worship. Jesus said in Matt. 23:8-10, “But be ye not called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called master: for one is your Master, even Christ.” Thus, the gospel ministry is not to be called Rabbi, Father, or Master! Similarly, the scriptures say, “God’s name is holy and reverend.” Since God’s name is “reverend” it would be wrong to call men “Holy Father or Reverend.” Such exalted terms are to be reserved for God only who is worthy of such praise.

Also, it should be noted that the gospel preachers, being men, are men called of God and their work should be respected as such. When he preaches the word and it convicts or reprimands us, we shouldn’t respond saying, “well he is just a man.” Yes, he is a man, but he is a man called of God to preach the word of God in power and demonstration of Spirit.

Next, the gospel ministers, as men, are to be examples of how men are to live. Peter, when addressing the elders in 1 Peter chapter five said to the elders, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Paul said in Phil. 3:17, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Additionally, in 2 Thes. 3:9 he wrote, “Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” Thus the gospel ministers, as men, are to live their lives in such a way as to be good examples of godly living unto those that they serve. To this end Paul told the young minister, Timothy, in 1 Tim. 4:12, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” James taught a similar lesson in James 5:10, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.”

The second face of the living creatures was that of a lion. The lion is one of the most bold of creatures. The gospel preacher must be bold. This boldness, however, is not to come from the fleshly nature. Some men have fleshly boldness based on their position in life or society or based on their education or natural strength or on the size of their financial statement or political position and popularity. Paul said of such things, “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Parisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blamesless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ...” Thus Paul concluded, “rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Since the gospel ministers as well as all of God’s people, are to have no confidence in the flesh, then where is their boldness to come from? Paul said in 1 Thes. 2:2, “But even after we had entreated, as you know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much contention.”

In addition, in Acts 4:13 we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men, they marveled and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” To the end that the gospel might go forth the disciples prayed in Acts 4:29, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” Then in verse 31 we read, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Thus, we conclude that the boldness of the gospel ministry comes from a walk with the Lord and the filling of the Holy Ghost, so that they may speak in power and demonstration of Spirit as Paul said, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” The disciples spoke boldly in the face of much opposition, persecution, and ridicule. To speak the word of God is to speak with the authority that God gives and to boldly proclaim his word. There is no place in the gospel ministry for a timid or cowardly preacher. We are to proclaim the whole counsel of God and some times those to whom we preach will find that offensive. Nevertheless, our preaching is to be to the honor and glory of God, not to the pleasing of men.

Next, they four had the face of an ox. An ox is a burden bearer. There is much work and many burdens that the gospel ministers are called on to bear. Paul wrote, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” Thus, the gospel minister is a laborer in the word and doctrine. As Peter was admonished of the Lord, he is to feed the lambs and the sheep. Thus, they are to “feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Likewise, Peter admonished the elders to “feed the flock of God which is among you.” Of course that food that is to be fed to the flock is the word of God. Likewise, the elders are to be overseers over the flock as recorded in 1 Peter 5:2, “taking the oversight thereof,” and Acts 20:28, “over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers.” Also Acts 20:31, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warm everyone night and day with tears.” Similarly, Paul told Timothy, “But watch thou in all things...”

Additional parts of the work of the gospel ministry are set forth in Eph. 4:12, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The gospel ministry is to labor to “perfect the saints.” Here, the word perfect means, “maturing.” We are to labor for the maturing of the saints that they may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Next, we are to labor to teach and encourage the saints of God to labor in their individual ministry. Thirdly, we are to “edify” or “build up” the church or “body of Christ” in the worship and service of God.

An additional work of the gospel ministry is to comfort the Lord’s people. Is. 40:1, 2, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” 1 Cor. 14:3, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort.” The gospel ministry are to speak comfort to the hearts of God’s people concerning their sins. Also, they are to speak comfort concerning the loss of loved ones as set forth in I Thes. 4:18, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

The gospel ministry are to labor to the timely salvation of God’s people, teaching them to “save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Also, they are to teach them to save them from their ignorance and from going about to establish their own righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4). Also, they preach to save the Lord’s people from a condemning conscience (Mk. 16:15, 16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

The fourth face of the living creatures is the “face of an eagle.” The eagle flies high and sees far. Similarly, the gospel ministers, thru the leadership of the Holy Spirit, are blest to “come up hither” that is to be lifted up in Spirit to the understanding of God’s word. Thru the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the gospel ministers are given insights in the understanding of the scriptures and are blest to be lifted up in giving praise, honor, and glory to the Almighty God. In so doing thru their preaching, they also raise up the congregations they serve to give praise, honor, and glory to the God of glory for his grace, mercy, and love toward them. The gospel ministers are blest to see the covenant of redemption God made before the foundation of the world and the end result of that covenant that will be fulfilled when time shall be no more. Thus, they are permitted to see far off (eternity passed; eternity future) and to be lifted up to preach and lift up the Lord’s people to praise God for his goodness.

Labors of the Oxen

In the scriptures, the name, “oxen,” is the name given to cattle that are used in performing work such as drawing a wagon, or carrying a burden, or plowing. Thus, the ox is associated with labor.

There are some Old Testament scriptures that through the use of figurative language pointed us to the work of the Apostles in the New Testament:

1. 1 Kings 7:23 “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 24 And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast. 25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.”
2. 1 Kings 7:44 “And one sea, and twelve oxen under the sea;”
3. 1 Kings 19:19 “So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.”
4. 2 Chr. 4:3 “And under it was the similitude of oxen, which did compass it round about: ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about. Two rows of oxen were cast, when it was cast. 4 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.”

References 1, 2, and 4 above point us to the buildings and structures associated with the temple. King Solomon and the children of Israel through the direction of the Holy Spirit built a large molten sea much like a circular cup that was set upon the back of twelve oxen. These twelve oxen point us to the New Testament work of the twelve apostles.

The molten sea was typical of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord gave the apostles responsibility to serve as a foundation for that gospel work:

1. Eph. 2:19 “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”
2. Rev. 21:14 “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
This work of the apostles in laying the foundation of the gospel church is manifest in both the writings of the apostles and prophets and in the setting forth of the principles, laws, and ordinances that govern the gospel church and the true worship of God and the true discipleship of those who enter the gospel kingdom. The Lord commanded the apostles before he ascended back to heaven: Matt. 28:18 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Today, the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ still looks to the teachings of the Lord and his apostles and the pattern of true worship and discipleship manifest by the Lord’s apostles to govern their activities and worship in the church and in the maintaining of proper church order and governance. Paul, told the young preacher Timothy: 2 Tim. 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

The Lord gave this labor to the apostles and blessed them through the Holy Spirit to perform this work and it is still a great blessing to us today in the Lord’s true church. Why would we ever want to change it or to depart from it or to add to it as the Lord gave it and the Lord is perfect in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. It cannot be made any better than that.