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The Old English word beeves was used as a plural for beef, before "beef" itself began to be used as a plural as it is today. It was generally used to refer to full-grown cattle, without specifying gender, whether bulls, cows or oxen. The King James Version used "beeves" to translate the Hebrew word (pronounced) baw-kawr, which also wasn't usually specific in terms of gender; it simply meant to plow, although it's highly unlikely that bulls were included in the definition in most cases.


Oxen and Plow Beeves were among the animals that were acceptable for offerings, provided that they were without defect:

"Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel [see Children of Jacob], and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto The Lord for a burnt offering; Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats. But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto The Lord to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto The Lord, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto The Lord. Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts, that mayest thou offer for a freewill offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted." (Leviticus 22:18-23 KJV)

Beeves and other domestic animals were taken by the Israelites as war booty. The Lord's share, as specified by The Lord, was given to the Levites since they were generally not warriors (which doesn't mean that they were any less capable or courageous; John the Baptist was a Levite, and John feared only God - see also John's Last Days).

"And The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers of the congregation: And divide the prey into two parts; between them that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation: And levy a tribute unto The Lord of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep: Take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, for an heave offering of The Lord. And of the children of Israel's half, thou shalt take one portion of fifty, of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, of all manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of the tabernacle of The Lord. And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as The Lord commanded Moses."

"And the booty, being the rest of the prey which the men of war had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousand sheep. And threescore and twelve thousand beeves, And threescore and one thousand asses, And thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him. And the half, which was the portion of them that went out to war, was in number three hundred thousand and seven and thirty thousand and five hundred sheep: And The Lord'S tribute of the sheep was six hundred and threescore and fifteen. And the beeves were thirty and six thousand; of which The Lord'S tribute was threescore and twelve. And the asses were thirty thousand and five hundred; of which The Lord'S tribute was threescore and one. And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which The Lord'S tribute was thirty and two persons."

"And Moses gave the tribute, which was The Lord'S heave offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as The Lord commanded Moses."

"And of the children of Israel's half, which Moses divided from the men that warred, Now the half that pertained unto the congregation was three hundred thousand and thirty thousand and seven thousand and five hundred sheep, And thirty and six thousand beeves" (Numbers 31:25-44 KJV)

Fact Finder: Did the Israelites ever worship cattle?
See The Golden Calf

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