Hebrew athon; from athan, 'short in step".
1. The domestic she ass, named so from its slowness.
2. The chamor, the he ass, whether domesticated or not, distinguished from the athon; Genesis 45:23. From chamar, "red," as the Spaniards call the donkey "burro," from its red color. Used in riding and plowing. Not held in contempt for stupidity, as with us. Issachar is compared to an "ass, strong boned, crouching down between the hurdles (Genesis 49:14): he saw that rest was a good and the land pleasant; so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became servant unto tribute;" ease at the cost of liberty would be his characteristic. Robust, and with a prime agricultural inheritance, his people would strive after material good, rather than political rule. The prohibition of horses rendered the donkey the more esteemed in Israel. In the E. it is a far superior animal to ours.
The bearing of the Arab donkey is erect, the limbs well formed and muscular, and the gait graceful. It is spirited, and withal docile. The upper classes, judges, (as Jair's 30 sons, and Abdon's 40 sons and 30 nephews,) and kings, (as David and Solomon,) rode upon donkeys or mules (Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14; 1 Kings 1:33). The white ass, combining symmetry with color, is especially esteemed. The ass, by its long hollow sharp-edged hoofs, is more sure footed than the flat hoofed horse; it suffers little from thirst, and is satisfied with prickly herbs, scarcely sweats at all, and so is best suited for the arid hilly regions of western Asia. It is lowly as compared with the horse; it symbolizes peace, as the horse does war, and as such bore the meek and lowly yet divinely royal Savior, the Prince of peace, in His triumphal entrance into His own capital (Zechariah 9:9); the young untamed colt bearing Him quietly marks His universal dominion over nature as well as spirit.
It was not to be yoked with the ox (Deuteronomy 22:10); for the distinctions which God has fixed in nature are to be observed; humanity would forbid animals of such different size and strength being yoked together. Spiritually see 2 Corinthians 6:14; Leviticus 19:19. As it did not chew the end (Leviticus 11:26), it was unclean; hence is marked the extremity of the famine in Samaria (2 Kings 6:25), when "an ass' head (an unclean beast from which they would ordinarily shrink) was sold for fourscore pieces of silver." "Balsam was rebuked for his iniquity, the voiceless beast of burden (ass) speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet" (2 Peter 2:16). It turned aside at the sight of the angel; but he, after God's express prohibition, wished to go for gain, a dumb beast forbidding an inspired prophet! The brute's instinctive obedience rebukes the gifted seer's self willed disobedience. Hosea (Hosea 8:9) compares Israel to a wild ass: "they are gone up to Assyria, (whereas he ought to dwell) a wild donkey alone by himself" (Numbers 23:9).
The stubborn wild donkey is wiser than Ephraim, for it avoids intercourse with others through love of freedom, whereas Ephraim courts alliances fatal to his freedom. (Maurer.) In Jeremiah 2:24 headstrong, undisciplinable obstinacy, and untamable perversity, and lust after the male, answering to Israel's spiritual lust after idols and alliances with pagan, are the point (Hosea 2:6-7): "all they (the males) that seek her will not (have no need to) weary themselves in searching for her, in her month (the season when sexual impulse is strongest), they shall find her" putting herself in their way, and not needing to be sought cut by the males.
3. The arod, the khur of Persia; light red, gray beneath, without stripe or cross; or the wild mule of Mongolia, superior to the wild donkey in beauty, strength and swiftness, called so either from the sound of the word resembling neighing, or from the Arabic arad, "flee."
4. 'Air, from 'ir, to be fervent, lustful; so the chamor, perhaps from chamar, "fervent in lust" (Ezekiel 23:20). "Young asses; ... donkey colts" (Isaiah 30:6; Isaiah 30:24).
5. Pere, the wild donkey of Asia; the ghoorkhur, mouse brown, with a broad dorsal stripe, but no cross on the shoulders, the Latin onager (Genesis 16:12): Ishmael "shall be a wild donkey man;" from paro, "to run swiftly "; compare Job 39:5; "who hath sent out the wild donkey (pereh) free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild donkey (arod)?" Doubtless some of the most useful animals to man were created to be, from man's first being, his domestic attendants. Possibly some of the wild species have sprung from those originally tame. The wild asses' characteristics noticed in holy writ are their love of unrestrained freedom, self will in pursuit of lust (Jeremiah 2:24), fondness for solitary places (Hosea 8:9), standing on high places when athirst (Jeremiah 14:6; when even the pere, usually so inured to want of water, suffers, the drought must be terrible indeed).