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Several translations frequently speak of the "wild ox." Where I come from, Ox is not the natural ("wild") state of such creatures. Oxen are normally relatively docile, castrated animals, which doesn't jive well with the with the concept of destructive power portrayed in the passages (links below).

NKJV, NIV, NASB

A couple of the relevant texts (in each case it's the violence of the animal in view):

Numbers 23:22 (NIV) - God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox.

Deuteronomy 33:17a (NKJV) - His glory is like a firstborn bull, And his horns like the horns of the wild ox;

Psalm 22:21 (NASB) Save me from the lion's mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.

In some passages, Bull and Ox (KJV Unicorn) are clearly different words in the original.

I know it's very difficult to translate animal names, but is there something in the Hebrew that led the translators of so many versions to choose "wild ox" instead of, say, "wild bull"? Or is my understanding of ox too narrow?

This question differs from the related question about unicorns in that it is interested in whether there is a Hebrew basis for the term "Ox", rather than "bull" (or anything else).

  • This question has already been answered here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/106/… – fdb Mar 21 '15 at 19:00
  • Similar, same passages, but I disagree - I'm wondering if there's particular linguistic evidence for "Wild Ox" (which seems like an unlikely creature to me, though potentially not more so than the unicorn). – Josiah Mar 21 '15 at 19:14
  • @fdb Thank you. When you see things like that, please vote to close » duplicate » start typing title of question » select the duplicate question. In the meantime, I would appreciate your input on whether there’s room for a different question here along the lines of Josiah’s suggestion above. – Susan Mar 21 '15 at 19:21
  • @Susan If there is really anything new to say. As yet, I do see that there is. – fdb Mar 21 '15 at 19:47
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    It seems to me the part of this question not well covered by the other question is actually more of an English language question than a hermeneutic one. "Bull" for example has gender specific connotations, "cow" and "cattle" don't come across right at all and the range of usage covered by "ox" seems to vary considerably by locale, but generally does include the thing being talked about. Whether there is a term that is unequivocally better and whether "ox" is limited in the way you think of it seems like an matter of English usage more that a textual problem. – Caleb Mar 27 '15 at 7:49
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The word ראם (re'em) likely refers to a specific animal known as the aurochs or urus (Bos primigenius) which is now extinct. The Akkadian cognate rimu, which is known to refer to this animal based on archaeological finds, supports this theory. The aurochs is a "grand wild ox", so translators using "wild ox" are following this theory, using a relatable description instead of an obscure word. (I am going to add a more thorough explanation of this theory to the other unicorn question since the existing explanations there don't cover this possibility.)

For reference/additional information see this link.

Edit: Adding a direct link to my thorough answer on the meaning of re'em, now posted in the previous unicorn question.

  • Your other answer is very helpful and interesting. Thanks! – Josiah Jul 20 '15 at 17:41
  • @Josiah: You are most welcome. – ThaddeusB Jul 20 '15 at 20:52
  • By the way, this is my first accepted answer, so thanks for helping achieve that milestone :). – ThaddeusB Jul 21 '15 at 0:19
  • Welcome to the site at the Stack Exchange network Thaddeus! – Josiah Jul 21 '15 at 19:54

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