[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
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
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.
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