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The ass (or donkey) is an animal frequently mentioned throughout Scripture. Of the domesticated species we read of:

  1. The she ass (Hebrew: 'athon), so named from its slowness (Genesis 12:16; 45:23; Numbers 22:23; 1 Samuel 9:3).

  2. The male ass (Hebrew: Hamor), the common working ass of Western Asia, so called from its red color.

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

    It was forbidden to yoke together an ass and an ox in the plough (Deuteronomy 22:10).

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

The ass 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 Abraham (Genesis 22:3), Balaam (Numbers 22:21), the disobedient prophet (1 Kings 13:23), the family of Abdon the judge, seventy in number (Judges 12:14), Zipporah (Exodus 4:20), the Shunammite (1 Samuel 25:30), etc.

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 asses, two species are noticed:

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

  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 ass was distinguished for its fleetness and its extreme shyness. In allusion to his mode of life, Ishmael is likened to a wild ass (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”).