Donkey. A donkey or ass is an animal of scorn or being made fun of in the Bible. While it is a “beast of burden” doing heavy work, it is a lowly animal in comparison to others such as horses which are noble beasts. The donkey is often an insult hurdled from one man to another, insinuating that the objective of scorn is a person without value, without common sense, without morally noble character.
One of the first animals tamed by man, the donkey was a necessity in Bible times. It is mentioned frequently in the Bible. Wild donkeys (referred to as the onager in (Job 39:5), NKJV) also roamed the land. “Like a wild donkey” (Hos. 8:9) described a headstrong, untamed nature. But the domesticated donkey was an obedient servant.
Donkeys stand about 1.3 meters (4 feet) high. They are usually gray, reddish-brown, or white. The long-suffering donkey often won the affection of the household and was decorated with beads and bright ribbons. But his true role was to serve as a work animal. He trampled seed, turned the millstone to grind grain, and pulled the plow.
Donkey caravans were the freight trains and transport trucks of ancient times. These animals could carry great weight in spite of their small size. Since they required only a fraction as much fodder as a horse, they were more economical to own. The donkey was also a safe and comfortable animal to ride. They were ridden by rich and poor alike. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he signaled his peaceful intentions by riding a young donkey rather than a prancing war-horse.
The offspring of a male donkey (jack) and female horse (mare) was a mule. The mule had the surefootedness and endurance of the donkey, coupled with the greater size and strength of the horse.
Crossbreeding like this was outlawed among the Jewish people (Lev. 19:19), but from David’s time mules were imported and increasingly used by the Israelites (2 Sam. 18:9; 1 Kin. 1:33; 18:5). (Ezra 2:66) records that the Israelites brought 245 mules with them when they returned from captivity in Babylon.