The ass (or donkey) is an animal frequently mentioned throughout Scripture. The name donkey did not enter the vocabulary until the late 1700s. This is a domesticated member of the horse family. Its current scientific name is Equus africanus asinus.

Of the domesticated species we read of…

  1. The female donkey (a jenny) is called in Hebrew 'athon, so named from its slowness (Genesis 12:16; 45:23; Numbers 22:23; 1 Samuel 9:3).

  2. The male donkey (a jack) is called in Hebrew Hamor.

    Issachar is compared to a strong donkey (Genesis 49:14).

    It was forbidden to yoke together a donkey and an ox to pull a plow (Deuteronomy 22:10).

  3. The donkey’s colt is called in Hebrew: 'air and is mentioned in Judges 10:4 and 12:14. It is translated “foal” in Genesis 32:15; 49:11. (Compare Job 11:12; Isaiah 30:6.)

The donkey is listed as an unclean animal, because it does not chew the cud (Leviticus 11:26. Compare 2 Kings 6:25).

Asses constituted a considerable portion of wealth in ancient times (Genesis 12:16; 30:43; 1 Chronicles 27:30; Job 1:3; 42:12). They were noted for their spirit and their attachment to their master (Isaiah 1:3).

They are frequently spoken of as having been ridden upon, as by…

Zechariah (9:9) predicted our Lord’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, “riding upon an ass, and upon a colt,” etc. (Matthew 21:5, Revised King James Version).

Of wild donkeys, two species are noted in the Bible:

  1. that called in Hebrew 'arod, mentioned Job 39:5 and Dan. 5:21, noted for its swiftness

  2. that called pe're, the wild ass of Asia (Job 39:6-8; 6:5; 11:12; Isaiah 32:14; Jeremiah 2:24; 14:6, etc.).

The wild donkey was distinguished for its fleetness and its extreme shyness. In allusion to his mode of life, Ishmael is likened to a wild donkey (Genesis 16:12. Here the word is simply rendered “wild” in the King James Version, but in the Revised King James Version, “wild-ass among men”).

Article Version: December 26, 2018

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