"The greatest of men are nothing before the wrath of the great God." - Matthew Henry
The "bull" is mentioned several times throughout the Bible. In all instances, it is pictured as a symbol of great strength and power. Nonetheless, in some instances, it is used to illustrate how power is used for evil - in opposition against Christ and the spread of the Gospel.
In Psalm 22:12, we read - "Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round."
This Psalm was written by David, but it can also apply to the Lord Jesus as well as to every believer.
As already mentioned, the "bull" is noted for its great strength. In fact, it is an emblem of brutal strength - in that it gores and tramples down all that stands in its way.
In this instance, David described his enemies as those who - with the fierceness and fury of a bull - insulted, surrounded, and rose up against him. These wicked, violent, and powerful foes longed to gore him to death with their insidious plots and schemes. They were not a few - but "many." They were likened unto the "strong bulls of Bashan" - those who were fat and fed to the full.
It is interesting to note that the country of Bashan - situated on the east of the Jordan River and north of Gilead - was a rich, fertile, pasture land that yielded the "rams of the breed of Bashan" (Deuteronomy 32:14)...the "oaks of Bashan" (Isaiah 2:13)...and the "kine of Bashan" (Amos 4:1). These "strong bulls of Bashan" were the largest and fattest in the country - remarkable for their size, strength, and fierceness.
They came to represent any and all men who were fierce and furious - pushing at others with their "horns" and authority. Like bellowing wild cattle, these savage and violent assembly of the wicked would plot, scheme, enclose, and eventually kill their innocent "victim." This is seen in the instance of Absalom and Ahithophel rising up in rebellion against David as well as in the example where the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees gathered together at the foot of the Cross to kill Jesus.
Again, we see the same idea of a formidable, terrible enemy acting like a wild beast - pictured in Psalm 68:30 where David prays - "Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter Thou the people that delight in war."
David had in mind the "wild beasts of the reeds" - the lion in the thickets of Jordan as well as the hippopotamus or crocodile that lay under the covert of the reeds. These strong beasts typified all strong, antichrist nations which took pleasure in opposing Christ and making war with His saints.
He prayed - "Rebuke the company of spearmen." In other words, restrain. chastise, or destroy these treacherous and cruel ones whose weapons are spears - likened to reeds. They are "the company of spearmen" who refuse to be ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ...oppose Christianity on all sides...and persecute God's servants. Confound their devices, O Lord...decrease their malice...and wipe out their pride.
They are "the multitude of bulls" who dash against the Church of the Living God. These leaders are fierce, warlike, proud, headstrong, and "fat" with wealth and power. And they have the poor and common people - "the calves of the people" - influenced to oppose Christianity as well. They are "the people that delight in war."
David understood that it only took one - "Thus saith the Lord God" - to stop them in their wild pursuits. And the Almighty would respond by - not only treading them under foot and causing them to prostrate themselves before Him - but He would also cause them to finance His kingdom work - "till every one submit himself with pieces of silver."
The Prophet Isaiah mentioned the "bull" in Isaiah 34:7 when he said - "And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness." Here he was using three particular names of oxen to describe the lords of Edom. The "unicorn" - also pictured as the rhinoceros with its single thirty-six (36) inch horn - with its strength and fierceness - typified the princes and the potentates of Edom. These leaders were to be smitten by the sword, be slain, or fall down along with the less powerful Edomites - "come down with them" - typified by the lambs, goats, and rams. "The bullocks with the bulls" - representing the young and old Edomites - would also be slain. Together, their blood would fertilize and make rich the land where their bodies lay slain under the sword.
In all three verses of Scripture mentioned above, we saw how the "bull" was pictured as a fierce enemy.
However, in Deuteronomy 33:17, we find a reference to Joseph's descendents - Ephraim in particular - who was likened unto a "bull" in a more positive light - "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim; and they are the thousands of Manasseh."
Here we see Ephraim - raised to the honor of firstborn by Jacob - likened to "the firstling" of Jacob's oxen. The "bullock" was considered as a favorite among the Jews because of its usefulness in their sacrifices as well as in agriculture. In appearance, it was considered to be a noble, dignified, and stately creature. Its "horn" - "like the horns of unicorns" - was an emblem of strength, glory, and sovereignty. With its "horns," this tribe "pushed," drove away, overcame, and destroyed all its enemies - the Canaanites - who stood in their way of conquest Through Joshua - who was of the tribe of Ephraim - Israel smote the thirty-one (31) kings of the surrounding country - and conquered their land. Like a "bullock," this renowned tribe lived up to its reputation as a warlike tribe - noted for its strength, courage, triumph, and power over its foes.
God desires that His church's "glory" be "like the firstling of His bullock." He desires that she would be warlike and with "the horns of unicorns" "push the people together to the ends of the earth." In other words, that she would "invade" this world with the Gospel.
There is one last note that we must consider as a warning. In Psalm 78:9, it is recorded in the Holy Scriptures that - "The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle."
How could this be? How could this tribe which was so warlike and fierce against its enemies become so weak and defenseless?
The answer is found in the next two verses - "They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law; And forgot His works, and His wonders that He had shown them."
Through disobedience and unbelief, Ephraim lost its power and influence among the nations. The church - though its calling is for triumph and the greatest display of supernatural power - will also appear weak and defenseless before her enemies if she follows the same pattern of sin.
May the church's glory be "like the firstling of His bullock."
May she - with "the horns of unicorns" - "push the people together to the ends of the earth."
Be strong in the Lord, Saints!
Go forth today and conquer!
May God give each of us "thousands" and "ten thousands" of souls.
For His glory, honor, and praise!