Manners & Customs : Donkeys

Donkey A Symbol of Peace The donkey used as a symbol of peace times. The horse has usually symbolized times of war, but the donkey, times of peace. In Old Testament times this was especially true from the days of King Solomon. This fact helps to explain the words of the prophet about the Messiah that were fulfilled in the triumphant entrance of JESUS into Jerusalem: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Zechariah 9:9; cf. John 12:15). Here the use by JESUS of the donkey was to signify that He was Prince of Peace, rather than Captain of an army, when He entered the Holy City. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Donkey Drivers Drivers sometimes used for donkeys. When women rode on donkeys, it was customary at times to have a driver for the animal. Thus it says concerning the trip made by the woman of Shunem: "Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee" (II Kings 4:24). On the journey made by Moses and his family (Exodus 4:20), his wife and sons were mounted on their donkey while Moses no doubt walked along beside the animal. Because of this arrangement of travel for the journey of Moses and his family, it is believed by many that Mary and the child JESUS rode on the donkey (Matthew 2:13-15), and Joseph walked alongside in their flight into Egypt.25 However, in the Orient, many times husband and wife are seen to ride both of them on the backs of a donkey. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Donkey Saddles Special donkey riding-saddles. Those used in the Orient today are rather large. A cloth of wool folded several times is spread over the animal's back. On this is placed a thick pad of straw which is covered with carpet. It is flat on top instead of being rounded. The pommel is quite high, and a cloth or carpet of bright color is often thrown over the saddle. This usually has fringed edges and tassels. It is quite likely that the saddle of Bible times was much simpler than this arrangement. It was probably a simple covering of cloth or skin which was used for the convenience of the rider, and especially to protect the animal from chafing. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Donkeys and Burdens The donkey as the Oriental pack animal. He has been the beast of burden from time immemorial. The packsaddle used with this animal differed somewhat according to the load being carried. When firewood was carried, a crosstree was used as a saddle. No doubt Abraham loaded his donkey in this way with wood for the sacrifice he was to make (Genesis 22:3). When sheaves of grain were carried by the donkey, a kind of cradle was either suspended to the crosstree or to the flat saddle. This saddle had as its under layer thick felt, and as its upper layer haircloth, with a padding of straw or sedges between. When sacks of grain or cut straw are carried, they are thrown over this saddle and tied with a rope going under the beast's breast. The sons of Jacob probably packed their donkeys in this way (Genesis 42:26,27). Large baskets are used for carrying bread and other provisions. If fruit is being taken, two boxes are slung in a similar way. Jesse and Abigail doubtless packed their donkeys in such a way when they sent their presents (I Samuel 16:20; I Samuel 25:18). Children are often carried in larger boxes on the donkeys. Sacks of grain are sometimes slung across the bare back of the donkey. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Donkeys and Humility Riding the donkey not considered a mark of humility. Rich people and important people rode on this animal. Of Abraham Scripture records that he "rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass" (Genesis 22:3). Concerning one of the judges it was said, "And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years. And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities" (Judges 10:3, 4). Also Achsah, the daughter of Caleb (Judges 1:14), and Abigail, the wife of wealthy Nabal (I Samuel 25:23), each rode on an ass. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Donkeys for Grinding Grain The donkey sometimes used for grinding grain. Here again, the usual method of grinding the grain is for the women to use smaller stones for their mills. The larger mill is elevated so that a singletree becomes suitable for the work. A camel may be used in place of a donkey. It was this type of a mill that the Philistines required Samson to pull (Judges 16:21). JESUS referred to this larger type of millstone when he said: "But whoso shall offend [cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble], . . . it were better for him that a millstone [turned by an ass] were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). The size and weight of this stone made its illustrative use by JESUS very forceful. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Donkeys for Ploughing The donkey sometimes utilized for ploughing. The ox has been more generally used for this purpose, but occasionally the donkey becomes the animal to pull the Oriental plough. The prophet Isaiah speaks of both the ox and the donkey being used thus: "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass" (Isaiah 32:20). The law of Moses forbade the mixed yoke, i.e., ploughing with an ox and a donkey together, or any other combination (cf. Deuteronomy 22:10). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Modes of Travel Methods of travel. Traveling is sometimes done on foot, but more often on the backs of horses, mules, or donkeys, and when traveling in the desert, camels are mostly used. In order to avoid the intense heat, and to escape detection by robber tribes, traveling is often done by night. The guide will get his direction from the stars. Summer is the usual time for traveling in order to avoid the many inconveniences connected with the winter months. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Oxen ANIMALS USED IN PLOUGHING Use of oxen. In Bible times oxen were used almost exclusively for ploughing. For this reason the expression "a yoke" was used by the Hebrews to mean the measure of land which a yoke of oxen could plough in a day (cf. I Samuel 14:14, and Isaiah 5:10). "Oxen" as the Hebrews used the term, meant both sexes of the animal, cows being used as well as bulls for purposes of draught, but the latter were castrated. This explains the reason for the law specifying concerning a heifer to be used for sacrificial purposes, that it be one "upon which never came yoke" (Numbers 19:2). The law of Moses forbade ploughing with an ox and an ass yoked together (Deuteronomy 22:10). The Apostle Paul spoke of "the unequal yoke" in connection with partnership between believers and unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14). Today, the Arabs usually make use of oxen in ploughing, but sometimes utilize camels, and occasionally yoke together an ox and a donkey, or a camel and a donkey. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Riding Donkeys The donkey used for riding. Before the tenth century B. C. it was used more than any other animal for this purpose. At that time, the mule came into use, especially among the rich, but the donkey has continued to be in use by many through the years. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

White Donkeys White donkeys used by persons of high rank. "Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way" (Judges 5:10). These white donkeys are used today in many places in the East by people of high social standing. They are usually larger animals and are supposed to be swifter. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]