Truth, Understanding, Insight

The King's Donkey

26th September 2011, hej


1) Messiah Comes Riding Upon a Donkey

This article is written as thanks to a reader correcting us on a donkey fact (See Donkey & Mule Dispatch) We were reminded of an article we had wished to write of a man, a donkey and the foal of a donkey. Many people think that Jesus fulfilled entirely the scriptures in Zechariah that speaks of the king coming on an ass (donkey) with a colt. However, two things are to be noted. Firstly though Jesus came as a king to Jerusalem, he was not received into power as a king by the nation and secondly he did not then fully fulfil the context.

A Lowly King

There is a prophecy in Zechariah,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King comes unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

An ass is a donkey. This article will use donkey the more common modern expression for ass. It is recorded that Jesus requisitioned the necessary company of the donkey and donkey foal for his entry into Jerusalem. Perhaps in that era it was already “lowly” to come on a donkey, but it was not as lowly as it might be now.

From the early days of Israel, the leaders rode donkeys, indicating that at that time it was a symbol of status to be able to afford to do so.

Jair, a Gileadite, 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)

Abigail who was wealthy, rode an ass (1Sam 25:23). Nebuchadnezzar when he was mad dwelt with the wild donkeys (Daniel 5:21).

But as the horse became more available in Israel after the time of Solomon (1 Kings 10:29), kings and their commanders ride in chariots . By the time of Jeremiah a donkey's burial was not noble (Jer. 22:19). It is possible that the donkey had become a work animal, and ridden by the more humble people. By the time of Zechariah, a king might come in a horse drawn chariot, but not a donkey.

The reference in Zechariah to' lowly' might refer to the rider's attitude. The word in Hebrew 'aniy translated 'lowly' means afflicted, depressed, being needy or poor. The great saviour king of Israel, who is righteous is described as 'poor'.

But this is not because of the donkey.

The donkey and its colt is not a symbol of poverty. The image of a royal donkey goes back to the very beginning of Israel's history. Zechariah's vision references Jacob's prophecy regarding his sons. One son, Judah, would produce a king's lineage. It was prophesied regarding the king from Judah that,

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: (Gen 49:10-11)

The action of binding the foal of the ass to the vine, is followed by a curious action of washing in the blood of grapes. This is as if he walks a winepress, not one of grapes but of blood. Zechariah says something very similar to Jacob, as after the king's arrival with the royal symbol of the colt of an ass, then Zechariah speaks of a deliverance by the blood of the covenant,

And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. (Zechariah 9:10-11)

There are are two symbols, the colt of the ass and the vine. Both imply literal actions and both symbolically speak of two things the king will do.

The king of Israel of the tribe of Judah leading the colt of the ass has yet to speak peace. Zechariah, like Jacob, connects the coming in victory of the king on a donkey with redemption in, or by, blood.

The donkey and the vine

Moses gives some intriguing details of why their king would come leading a colt. It is a long quote but has a lot of relevant comment,

So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields...and you did drink the pure blood of the grape. But ...They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, ..
O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?.. For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood,...Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. (Deuteronomy 32:12-43)

Picture:Donkey on mount of temptation, travelpod

The colt of the ass is always led and cared for, as Israel had been. The blood of the grape, or the covenant, is associated with the plenty given from God, but they chose the vine of Sodom. They also became a wild ass. Jeremiah links the wild vine to the wild ass,

Your own wickedness shall correct you...know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that you have forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee.. For of old time I have broken your yoke, and burst your bands; and you said, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree you wandered, playing the harlot.
Yet I had planted you a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then are you turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?
'For though you wash thee with nitre, and take you much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before me, says the Lord GOD. How can you say, 'I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim?' see thy way in the valley, know what you have done: you are ...a wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffs up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? (Jeremiah 2:19-24)

This ties together and expands the three themes of Jacob's prophecy of the king from Judah and of Zechariah's king. Israel is a vine planted and made fruitful by God, to which the ass' colt must be tamed by being tied to it. The washing is related to iniquity. There is a 'washing' required by right service to the God of Israel in 'the blood' of the grape, or the covenant he made with his people.

Zechraiah's prophecy links the donkey and foal of the donkey to the coming of a king who obtains world wide dominion, and who conquers all nations. Jacob links the King with the donkey, and the foal of the donkey to washing entirely or making white garments, which is righteousness, in the 'blood of grapes.'

Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: (Gen 49:11)

This is a description of a winepress. There is a prophecy of a ruler who comes as if he has trodden a winepress.

The winepress

There is a startling and remarkable prophecy in Isaiah of Messiah. The winepress is associated with blood, with the covenant, and, with redemption and salvation

Who is this that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treads in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.

And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth. I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he has bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. (Isaiah 63:1-8)

This is how the king, who comes on the donkey, speaks peace to the nations. He contends with the whole world regarding God's covenant with Israel. He tramples those who hate God in anger, and he also speaks of the loving kindness of Yahweh Elohim to those he describes as “my people.”

This has never happened. So there is likely to be a time in the future when the king of Israel will come on a donkey (an ass) leading the colt of donkey (an ass). It is very possible for one reason, and one reason only. Whereas donkeys in much of the world are scarce, they are plentiful in Israel.

Photo of Donkey in Gush Etzion by: Danny Yanai Photographer


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