"Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round." Psalm 22:12 (KJV)

Who were the to bulls of Bashan to David? What was significant about Bashan being used in this verse?


9 Answers 9


The Hebrew idiom of "Bulls of Bashan" is probably an amalgam of two ideas:

  • The plain of Bashan was a large fertile plain used for pasture in the northern part of the territory of Israel (Duet 3:10, Josh 20:8). It was famous for it rich pasture used for raising well-fed cattle (Jer 50:19, Micah 7:14, Nah 1:4). The cattle raised on Bashan were proverbial for their strength, size, passion and self-contentment (Deut 32:14, Ps 22:12, Eze 39:18, Amos 4:1).
  • King Og was a fierce opponent of Israel when they arrived to take the land from the local inhabitants but Og was defeated (Deut 3:3-5). This territory was given to the half tribe of Manasseh (Num 21:33-35, Deut 3:1-11, 13, Josh 13:7, 8, 12.)

Thus, "Bulls of Bashan" appears to be idiom for large, fierce enemies. The Pulpit Commentary observes:

Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. Bashan, the richest pasture-g"round of Palestine, produces the largest and strongest animals (Ezekiel 39:18). Hence "the kine of Bashan" became an expression for powerful oppressors (Amos 4:1).

In Psalm 22, David is struggling with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and cries out in anguish to God to comfort him and strengthen him. Just what caused these feelings of anguish is not specified in Psalm 22, but it is a frequent theme of David's psalms.


“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’ (Amos 4:1)

Bashan is the name of a location and means fruitful. Bashan was given to half of the tribe of Manasseh (cf. Deuteronomy 4:41-43). The other location given is the mountain of Samaria. This is in the territory given to the other half of the tribe of Manasseh: enter image description here

So the "cows" from Bashan who are in Samaria literally means they came from East Manasseh and are in West Manasseh. In a sense, the tribe of Manasseh which has the largest territory is brought together in Israel proper and so is symbolic of the entire Northern Kingdom.

"You cows" is the English rendering of פרות. Now פרת, vocalized as פָּרָה means cow, but vocalized as פָּרָה means to cause to bear fruit. Essentially there is a play on words:

you cows of Bashan
you fruit bearers of fruitful

The prophet has used a play on words which emphasize the plenty they have been given to contrast the egregious mistreatment of others. These "fruitful" people, that is, those who have plenty, oppress the poor and crush the needy.


Amos 4:1 Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.

kine of Bashan is a way to say something very rich or fat.

Deuteronomy 32:14  Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.

Source https://www.youtube.com/user/TheShepherdsChapel




New International Version Amos 4:

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

Why Bashan?

the name "Bashan" (G1316) appears rather frequently, 60 times, in the Bible. The word means "smooth". It refers to a district east of the Jordan given to the half-tribe of Manasseh who had lots of livestock. It is famous for its fertility, Psalm 22:

12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Ezekiel 39:

18b as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls—all of them fattened animals from Bashan.

What is the picture of the cows of Bashan?

The Hebrew word for cows is feminine plural. They are strong, rich, and fat. That's the picture that Amos paints in Amos 4:1. This is a setup to contrast what is coming next:

2 The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness:
“The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
the last of you with fishhooks.
3You will each go straight out
through breaches in the wall,
and you will be cast out toward Harmon,

  • In Amos, I think the cows have a double meaning:. The first is a reference to the wives of the northern elites during the time of Jeroboam II. The second is to the "golden calves" that marked the entrance to northern shines, which Amos proceeds to denounce. He specifically criticizes Gilgal, which was overlooked by the mountains of Bashan, although the Bible makes no mention of a golden calf there. Commented Feb 9 at 19:00

My understanding of this phrase about the bulls of Bashan agrees with what this person said in their answer about the Romans being referred to as dogs and the demonic forces of Jesus' own people but I also believe that the word "bull" is also referring to the "religious" written law, which can be referred to as a "bull" in which the Sanhedrin/Jews of that time based their condemnation of Jesus to justify their crucifying him. It was the breaking of what they called Blasphemy in their Bull (law) that gave them basis in the eyes of man. His supposed breaking of the Bull was the law against considering oneself as God or equal to. Their Bulls=Laws were being used and driven inside the people spiritually by the demonic forces to try and destroy the Messiah because they had already accepted the curse to be on their heads verbally by saying "let his blood be upon us and our children's children" after Pilate had already told them he found NO FAULT IN HIM. The Oath was then made...just as a jury reveals what their verdict is the judge and is sealed by saying,"this is what we all so say" before a sentencing and ultimately a punishment is then carried out. I believe it is the demonic drive coupled with a manipulative orchestrated interpretation of law to set the stage of his enemies against him that this phrase refers to. Imho

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics SE, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other SEs. Our community looks for answers to reflect a good degree of research and references. Typically, we like answers that cite scholarly references and/or explain how your interpretation arises from the text. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 16:49
  • David wouldnt have been able to point any one specific past event but through prophecy he relayed his understanding. I am not a prophet yet God can explain and show us what we otherwise can not see. he not only lawfully lived but he lawfully died as well. He was subsequently accused,tried and punished according the order of political and religious law(Bulls). It is written in the bible. It was forewritten in psalms. It was prewritten in Genesis. These are the written basis coupled with spiritual decernment that only God can give is how and where my undestanding comes from. God Bless You Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 17:02
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    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 18:13

The person that said the bulls of Bashan are demonic entities is correct. Og, king of Bashan, was a giant. And we all know from Genesis 6:4 "There were nephilim (giants) on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown." that giants were the demonic offspring of the fallen angels (demons) and human women. In the book of Enoch, God Almighty relates to the fallen angels the demise of their nephilim (giant) offspring. They were to be killed before the eyes of the fallen angels and their offspring the nephilim (giant)'s spirits were to roam the earth as evil entities. Therefore the bulls of Bashan refer to evil entities (demonic spirits) who were ruling the crowd around Jesus on the Cross. King David was a prophet of God, so he was seeing into the future and speaking from the perspective and voice of Jesus relating to us what He was seeing around Him while He was on the Cross.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
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    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 12:02

The bulls of Bashan may have been the leaders who surrounded Jesus to have him crucified—the elders, Pharisees, high priests, the leaders of the herd/mob.

The rich oppressors of the sacrificial lamb inciting mob violence fulfilled Davids Psalm 22 prophecy. Jesus was surrounded by leadership of strong, politically-connected "bulls". This fulfilled God's will of the last legitimate Levitical offering.


The " Bulls of Bashan" were the remnant the Rephaim. Og ruled the land of Bashan before his death and he was a remnant of the Rephaim, a gigantic force of people. All giants were offspring of fallen angelic beings and human women (Genesis 6). When they were destroyed right before the flood and even after the flood, their disembodied spirits became the unclean spirits and were doomed to roam the earth. They are the spirits that possess human bodies. They go about looking to inhabit humans because since they were half human, they knew what it was like for them to enjoy eating, drinking, feeling emotions etc. They also need a human host to carry out the dirty deeds they did while they were living. They were the main reason God brought the flood for they had corrupted ALL flesh, from humans to animals.

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    – agarza
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 22:25
  • @BH-Thanks for contributing. However since your answer contains a lot of interesting speculation and arguable theory, it is best to mention reasons for your interpretation with legitimate Resources listed. This would provide a surer foundation for accepting your scenario. Keep reading the Bible...it's good for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 20:00

Well, that scripture is a vision David saw of the Christ, between when he was beaten to his crucifixion.

The bulls of Bashan simply refers to the demons that instigated the people against him. While in verse 16, the dogs refer to the Romans, simple as ABC.

When you read contextually with the New Testament during Christ's crucifixion you'll get the picture.

  • Hi Olumide, welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please be sure to take the site tour and read our code of conduct. Thanks! Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 7:07
  • 2
    It would help us (and your answer) if you could provide a biblical basis for this view.
    – Lesley
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 16:07

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