An ass or donkey is a beast of burden, known for is sturdiness in carrying loads of burden.
An ass or donkey
Ass is frequently mentioned in Scripture as a domesticated beast of burden. An ass is a kind of horse with a long head and ears, a round body, and has short course hair. Eastern asses are bigger than western,
There are several types mentioned:
(1) Hebrew ‘athon – She ass – is named for its slowness (Gen 12:16; 45:3; Num 22:23; 1Sam 9:3).
(2) Hebrew hamor – Male ass – is the common working ass of Western Asia, called for its red color. Issachar is compared to a strong ass (Gen 49:14), and OT law forbid the yoking of an ass and an ox in ploughing (Deu 22:10).
(3) The ass’s colt (Hebrew ‘air) is mentioned in Judg 10:4; 12:14; Gen 32:15 “foal”; Gen 49:11, Job 11:12; Isa 30:6.
The ass is considered an unclean animal because it does not chew the cud (Lev 11:26; 2Ki 6:25). An ass was a great asset in ancient time (Gen 12:16; 30:43; 1Chr 27:30; Job 1:3; 42:12) and were noted for their spirit and attachment to their master (Isa 1:3).
Riding an ass
Abraham (Gen 22:3), Balaam (Num 22:21), disobedient prophet (1Ki 13:23), family of Abdon the judge (Judg 12:14), Zipporah (Exo 4:20), the Shunammite (1Sam 25:30). The Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was upon an ass (Zec 9:9; Mat 21:5) which showed a debased king of Israel. Some pagans accuse Christians of worshipping the ass because of this image of Christ on an ass with the crowd worshipping him.
(Hebrew ‘arod) are mentioned in Job 39:5; Dan 5:21 which are noted for being swift, and (Hebrew pe’re) which is the wild ass of Asia (Job 39:6-8; 6:5; 11:12; Isa 32:14; Jer 2:24; 14:6, etc). These wild asses were renown for their fleetness and extreme shyness, and Ishmael is compared to these in Gen 16:12.
Imagery of an ass.
Asses represent wicked men, which are considered stupid, impudent, inconstant, untamable, disposed to feed on vain imaginations, and who must be redeemed. In olden days the ass was honored as a beast of burden, and an excellent means of transportation.
The Ass. Perhaps you may have seen the ass, though it is not very common in this country. It has some resemblance to a horse, but is not as large, and generally seems rather sleepy and dull. In some countries, such as those where the Bible was written, it is a fine large animal, and the people use it for riding. Some persons mentioned in the Bible owned a great many asses. Abraham had sheep, and oxen, and asses and camels; and Job had at one time five hundred asses, and afterwards he had a thousand. A great many years ago, long before Christ came into the world, the rich men and the judges used to ride upon asses: so we read in the 10th verse of the 5th chapter of Judges, “Speak, ye that ride upon white asses, ye that sit in judgment.” After this time many fine horses were brought into those countries, and the kings and great men liked them for riding: so the ass was used by the poorer people who could not buy a horse. You remember that when our blessed Savior was entering Jerusalem a few days before his death, he rode upon an ass; thus showing his meekness and humility, even while the multitude were shouting his praises, and spreading their garments in the way to do him honor. How shall we be like our Savior, if we let pride stay in our hearts?
The ass is very gentle and patient, and does not seem angry even when he has a very heavy load to carry. I should be very sorry to have him treated unkindly. Though he seems so dull, he loves his master, and will sometimes find him out and run to him even when he is in a crowd of men. God says, in the Bible, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Is it not a sad thing that the dull ass should be more grateful than we are?
Would it not seem to you very wonderful to hear a dog or a horse speak, so that you could understand what he said? It would be a strange thing indeed-a miracle; but you will find in the 22d chapter of Numbers that an ass once spoke to his master. The master’s name was Balaam. He was a wicked man, and he was riding on an ass to a place where he knew God did not wish him to go. As they were journeying an angel with a drawn sword in his hand stood in the way, but Balaam did not see him. The ass saw him, and was so afraid that she turned aside out of the road, and went into a field; then Balaam was angry and tried to drive her back into the way. They had now come to a path of the vineyards, having a wall on each side, and there the ass saw the bright angel again. In trying to avoid the angel, the ass crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; and he was more angry and struck her again. Then the angel went forward a little distance, and stood where the path was so narrow that it was impossible to pass him. The ass was now so much frightened that she would go no farther, and fell down in the road; and Balaam beat her in a great passion. Then the ass spoke to Balaam and said, “What have I done to thee that thou hast smitten me these three times?” And when Balaam exclaimed, “I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now would I kill thee,” she only replied, “Am I not thine ass upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?” Can we not learn, even from the ass, a lesson of meekness and patience?
The wild ass is often mentioned in the Bible, as in Psalm 104:11. “They (the springs) give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst.” They live in desert places, and go about in great companies with one for their leader. You will find these words about them in the 39th chapter of Job: “Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings. He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver. The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.” Travellers who have seen great herds of wild asses say that the beautiful animal agrees exactly with this fine description, written so many years ago.
[Cook, Scripture Alphabet of Animals]
* Ass. — The ass has always enjoyed a marked favour above all other beasts of burden in the bible. This is evidenced by two very simple remarks. While, on the one hand, mention of this animal occurs over a hundred and thirty times in Bible. On the other hand, the Hebrew vocabulary possesses, to designate the ass, according to its colour, sex, age, etc., a supply of words in striking contrast with the ordinary penury of the sacred language. Of these various names the most common is hamôr, “reddish”, the hair of the Eastern ass being generally of that colour. White asses, more rare, were also more appreciated and reserved for the use of the nobles (Judges 5:10). The custom was introduced very early, as it seems, and still prevails, to paint the most shapely and valuable donkeys in stripes of different colours. In the East the ass is much larger and finer than in other countries, and in several places the pedigrees of the best breeds are carefully preserved. Asses have always been an important item in the resources of the Eastern peoples, and we are repeatedly told in the Bible about the herds of these animals owned by the patriarchs (Genesis 12:16; 30:43; 36:24, etc.), and wealthy Israelites (1 Samuel 9:3; 1 Chronicles 27:30, etc.). Hence the several regulations brought forth by Israel’s lawgiver on this subject: the neighbour’s ass should not be coveted (Exodus 20:17); moreover, should the neighbour’s stray ass be found, it should be taken care of, and its owner assisted in tending this part of his herd (Deuteronomy 22:3, 4).
The ass serves in the East for many purposes. Its even gait and surefootedness, so well suited to the rough paths of the Holy Land, made it at all times the most popular of all the animals for riding in those hilly regions (Genesis 22:3; Luke 19:30). Neither was it ridden only by the common people, but also by persons of the highest rank (Judges 5:10; 10:4; 2 Samuel 17:23; 19:26, etc.). No wonder therefore that Jesus, about to come triumphantly to Jerusalem, commanded His disciples to bring Him an ass and her colt; no lesson of humility, as is sometimes asserted, but the affirmation of the peaceful character of His kingdom should be sought there. Although the Scripture speaks of “saddling” the ass, usually no saddle was used by the rider. A cloth was spread upon the back of the ass and fastened by a strap was all the equipment. Upon this cloth the rider sat with a servant usually walking alongside. Should a family journey, the women and children would ride the asses, attended by the father (Exodus 4:20). This mode of travelling has been popularized by Christian painters, who copied the eastern customs in their representations of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt.
Scores of passages in the Bible allude to asses carrying burdens. The Gospels, at least in the Greek text, speak of millstones run by asses (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:41; Luke 17:2); Josephus and the Egyptian monuments teach us that this animal was used for threshing wheat. Finally, we repeatedly read in the Old Testament of asses hitched to a plough (Deuteronomy 22:10; Isaiah 30:24, etc.), and in reference to this custom, the Law forbade ploughing with an ox and an ass together (Deuteronomy 22:10). From Isa 21:7, confirmed by the statements of Greek writers, we learn that part of the cavalry force in the Persian army rode donkeys. We should perhaps understand from IV K., vii, 7, that the Syrian armies followed the same practice; but no such custom seems to have ever prevailed among the Hebrews. With them the ass was essentially for peaceful use, the emblem of peace, as the horse was the symbol of war. The flesh of the donkey was unclean and forbidden by the Law. In some particular circumstances, however, no law could prevail over necessity, and we read that during Joram’s reign, when Benadad besieged Samaria, the famine was so extreme in this city, that the head of an ass was sold for 120 pieces of silver (IV K., vi, 25).
This is more specially the symbol of peace and meek obedience (John 12:15).
corresponds in the Old Testament to two words, péré’ and ‘arôdh. Whether these two names refer to different species, or are, the one, the genuine Hebrew name, the other, the Aramaic equivalent for the same animal, is uncertain. Both signify one of the wildest and most untamable animals. The wild ass is larger and more shapely than the domestic one, and outruns the fleetest horse. Its untamableness joined to its nimbleness made it a fit symbol for the wild and plunder-loving Ismael (Genesis 16:12). The wild ass, extinct in western Asia, still exists in central Asia and the deserts of Africa.