[b-hebrew] Eglah: How Old Is an Eglah/Heifer?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Oct 24 09:30:34 EDT 2007

1.  My understanding of what  an "eglah" is in Biblical Hebrew is a young 
adult female cow.  As with a "heifer" in English, an eglah  either (i) is 
pregnant with her first calf, or (ii) is nursing her first calf,  or (iii) is 
pregnant with her second calf.  Once a cow has borne a second calf, that cow is no 
longer an  eglah/heifer, but rather at that point is a fully mature adult cow.  
Prior to getting pregnant the first  time, a cow is not yet old enough to be 
an eglah/heifer. 
2.  Every normal cow that is  36 months or older (age 3 years, in terms of 
regular, 12-month years, or older)  will not be an eglah/heifer, because each 
such cow will have already borne a  second calf. 
3.  Every normal cow that is  18 months to 23 months old (age 3 "years", in 
terms of 6-month "years") will be  an eglah/heifer, because each such cow will 
either be pregnant with her first  calf, or will be nursing her first calf, or 
will be pregnant with her second  calf, but will not yet have borne a second 
4.  Here is one of the things  that YHWH says to Abraham when the Covenant is 
"And He said unto him:  'Take Me a heifer ["eglah"] of  three years old…."  
Genesis 15: 9 
5.  Genesis  15: 9 makes perfect sense if the ages of human beings and of 
animals are being  set forth in the Patriarchal narratives in terms of 6-month 
"years".  On that basis, the eglah that Abraham  sacrifices to YHWH in making 
the Covenant is between 18 months and 23 months of  age, meaning that it is a 
young adult female cow, who has not yet borne a second  calf. 
By contrast, if a year in the Patriarchal narratives  always means a regular, 
12-month year, then Genesis 15: 9 would be very strange,  as virtually no cow 
age 36 months or older would be an eglah/heifer.  Rather, a cow that old 
would normally be  a fully mature adult cow, having borne at least two calves by 
that  date. 
6.  Some  other instances of the use of "eglah" in the Bible are as follows.  
Deuteronomy 21: 3 and Isaiah 7: 21 each  seem to emphasize that an eglah is a 
young cow.  That fits perfectly with my view of what  an eglah was.  Isaiah 
15: 5 and  Jeremiah 48: 34 each refers to a 3-year-old eglah in making 
prophecies, each of  which also references both Moab and Zoar, two places referenced 
in the  Patriarchal narratives.  One senses  that these references to a 
3-year-old eglah in these two similar prophecies may  be coming straight from Genesis 
15: 9, and in these prophecies may be referring  to something very unusual.  
At  Genesis 15: 9 itself, by contrast, there is no sense that Abraham is being 
asked  to select an unusual cow.  Rather,  Abraham is being told to select a 
valuable cow, an eglah, who has proven her  ability to bear a calf and give 
milk, and who has most of her reproductive and  milk-giving years ahead of her.  
An  eglah is the most valuable of the female cows for those  reasons. 
7.  Genesis  15: 9 is good evidence that all ages of humans and of animals 
are consistently  set forth in terms of 6-month "years" in the Patriarchal 
narratives, because an  eglah age 3 "years" makes good sense only if such "years" 
are 6-month "years",  so that the cow is a young adult female cow age 18 months 
to 23  months. 
The Patriarchal narratives make perfect sense.  We just need to re-think our  
interpretation of the Hebrew text. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois  

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