as (chamowr or chamor, compare Arabic chamar, apparently
connected with Arabic root 'achmar, "red," but referred by
some to root hamal, "to carry"; also, but less commonly,
both in Hebrew and in Arabic, 'athon, Arabic 'atan, used in
Arabic only of the females; pereh, or pere', and `aradh, or
`arodh, Arabic 'ard, "wild ass," and also `ayir, Arabic
`air, "a young" or "wild ass").
The name `arodh (Job 39:5) is rare; onos (Mt 21:2).
(1) Chamor is derived from the root which means, in all
probability, "to carry a burden" (see Furst, Handworterbuch,
ch-m-r ii), or "heap up." While no analogies are contained
in the Old Testament this root occurs in New Hebrew. The
Aramaic chamer, means "to make a ruin-heap" (from which the
noun chamor, "a heap," used in Jdg 15:16 in a play of words:
"With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the
jawbone of an ass have I smitten a thousand men"). The root
may also mean "to be red." In this case the nominal form
chamor may have been derived from the reddish-brown skin of
a certain type of the ass.
(2) 'Athon, Assyrian 'atanu and Aramaic 'atana', is derived
from 'atha' "to come," "go," etc. (Furst suggests that it
may be derived from 'athan, Aramaic `adhan, "to be slender,"
"docile," etc.); 'athonoth tsechoroth, "red-white asses"
(Jdg 5:10) designates a better breed...
Ge 12:16; 24:35; 32:5; 34:28; Nu 31:34,45; 1Ch 5:21;
2:67; Ne 7:69
Used for riding
Ge 22:3; Nu 22:21-33; Jos 15:18; Jud 1:14; 5:10; 1Sa
25:23; 2Ch 28:15; Zec 9:9
Mt 21:2,5; Lu 13:15; Joh 12:14,15; Zec 9:9
Ge 42:26; 2Sa 16:1; Isa 30:6
Not to be yoked with an ox
Rest on the Sabbath
Jawbone of, used by Samson with which to kill
FIRSTLINGS OF redeemed
Ex 13:13; 34:20
Job 6:5; 24:5; 39:5; Ps 104:11; Isa 32:14; Jer 2:24;
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...
Five Hebrew names of the genus Asinus occur in the Old
1. Chamor denotes the male domestic ass.
2. Athon, the common domestic she-ass.
3. Air, the name of a wild ass, which occurs Ge
4. Pere, a species of wild ass mentioned Ge 12:16
5. Arod occurs only in Job 39:5 but in what respect
it differs from the Pere is uncertain. The ass in eastern
countries is a very different animal from what he is in
western Europe. The most noble and honorable amongst the
Jews were wont to be mounted on asses. (With us the ass is a
symbol of stubbornness and stupidity, while in the East it
is especially remarkable for its patience, gentleness,
intelligence, meek submission and great power of
endurance."--L. Abbott. The color is usually a reddish
brown, but there are white asses, which are much prized. The
ass was the animal of peace as the horse was the animal of
war; hence the appropriateness of Christ in his triumphal
entry riding on an ass. The wild ass is a beautiful animal.-
-ED.) Mr. Lavard remarks that in fleetness the wild ass
(Asinus hemippus) equals the gazelle and to overtake it is a
feat which only one or two of the most celebrated mares have
been known to accomplish.
frequently mentioned throughout Scripture. Of the
species we read of, (1.) The she ass (Heb. 'athon),
from its slowness (Gen. 12:16; 45:23; Num. 22:23; 1
(2.) The male ass (Heb. hamor), the common working
Western Asia, so called from its red colour.
compared to a strong ass (Gen. 49:14). It was
forbidden to yoke
together an ass and an ox in the plough (Deut.
22:10). (3.) The
ass's colt (Heb. 'air), mentioned Judg. 10:4; 12:14.
rendered "foal" in Gen. 32:15; 49:11. (Comp. Job
30:6.) The ass is an unclean animal, because it does
the cud (Lev. 11:26. Comp. 2 Kings 6:25). Asses
considerable portion of wealth in ancient times
30:43; 1 Chr. 27:30; Job 1:3; 42:12). They were
noted for their
spirit and their attachment to their master (Isa.
1:3). They are
frequently spoken of as having been ridden upon, as
(Gen. 22:3), Balaam (Num. 22:21), the disobedient
Kings 13:23), the family of Abdon the judge, seventy
(Judg. 12:14), Zipporah (Ex. 4:20), the Shunammite
25:30), etc. Zechariah (9:9) predicted our Lord's
entrance into Jerusalem, "riding upon an ass, and
upon a colt,"
etc. (Matt. 21:5, R.V.).
Of wild asses two species are noticed, (1) that
Hebrew _'arod_, mentioned Job 39:5 and Dan. 5:21,
noted for its
swiftness; and (2) that called _pe're_, the wild ass
(Job 39:6-8; 6:5; 11:12; Isa. 32:14; Jer. 2:24;
14:6, etc.). The
wild ass was distinguished for its fleetness and its
shyness. In allusion to his mode of life, Ishmael is
a wild ass (Gen. 16:12. Here the word is simply
in the Authorized Version, but in the Revised
And they took away their cattle; of their camels fifty
thousand, and of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of
asses two thousand, and of men an hundred thousand.
And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave
them bread [in exchange] for horses, and for the flocks, and
for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed
them with bread for all their cattle for that year.
For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh [is as] the
flesh of asses, and whose issue [is like] the issue of horses.
The ass has always enjoyed a marked favour above all other beasts of burden in the bible. This is evidenced by two very simple remarks. While, on the one hand, mention of this animal occurs over a hundred and thirty times in Bible. On the other hand, the Hebrew vocabulary possesses, to designate the ass, according to its colour, sex, age, etc., a supply of words in striking contrast with the ordinary penury of the sacred language. Of these various names the most common is hamôr, "reddish", the hair of the Eastern ass being generally of that colour. White asses, more rare, were also more appreciated and reserved for the use of the nobles (Judges 5:10). The custom was introduced very early, as it seems, and still prevails, to paint the most shapely and valuable donkeys in stripes of different colours. In the East the ass is much larger and finer than in other countries, and in several places the pedigrees of the best breeds are carefully preserved. Asses have always been an important item in the resources of the Eastern peoples, and we are repeatedly told in the Bible about the herds of these animals owned by the patriarchs (Genesis 12:16; 30:43; 36:24, etc.), and wealthy Israelites (1 Samuel 9:3; 1 Chronicles 27:30, etc.). Hence the several regulations brought forth by Israel's lawgiver on this subject: the neighbour's ass should not be coveted (Exodus 20:17); moreover, should the neighbour's stray ass be found, it should be taken care of, and its owner assisted in tending this part of his herd (Deuteronomy 22:3, 4). The ass serves in the East for many purposes. Its even gait and surefootedness, so well suited to the rough paths of the Holy Land, made it at all times the most popular of all the animals for riding in those hilly regions (Genesis 22:3; Luke 19:30). Neither was it ridden only by the common people, but also by persons of the highest rank (Judges 5:10; 10:4; 2 Samuel 17:23; 19:26, etc.). No wonder therefore that Jesus, about to come triumphantly to Jerusalem, commanded His disciples to bring Him an ass and her colt; no lesson of humility, as is sometimes asserted, but the affirmation of the peaceful character of His kingdom should be sought there. Although the Scripture speaks of "saddling" the ass, usually no saddle was used by the rider. A cloth was spread upon the back of the ass and fastened by a strap was all the equipment. Upon this cloth the rider sat with a servant usually walking alongside. Should a family journey, the women and children would ride the asses, attended by the father (Exodus 4:20). This mode of travelling has been popularized by Christian painters, who copied the eastern customs in their representations of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt.
Scores of passages in the Bible allude to asses carrying burdens. The Gospels, at least in the Greek text, speak of millstones run by asses (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:41; Luke 17:2); Josephus and the Egyptian monuments teach us that this animal was used for threshing wheat. Finally, we repeatedly read in the Old Testament of asses hitched to a plough (Deuteronomy 22:10; Isaiah 30:24, etc.), and in reference to this custom, the Law forbade ploughing with an ox and an ass together (Deuteronomy 22:10). From Is., xxi, 7, confirmed by the statements of Greek writers, we learn that part of the cavalry force in the Persian army rode donkeys. We should perhaps understand from IV K., vii, 7, that the Syrian armies followed the same practice; but no such custom seems to have ever prevailed among the Hebrews. With them the ass was essentially for peaceful use, the emblem of peace, as the horse was the symbol of war. The flesh of the donkey was unclean and forbidden by the Law. In some particular circumstances, however, no law could prevail over necessity, and we read that during Joram's reign, when Benadad besieged Samaria, the famine was so extreme in this city, that the head of an ass was sold for 120 pieces of silver (IV K., vi, 25).
Corresponds in the Old Testament to two words, péré' and 'arôdh. Whether these two names refer to different species, or are, the one, the genuine Hebrew name, the other, the Aramaic equivalent for the same animal, is uncertain. Both signify one of the wildest and most untamable animals. The wild ass is larger and more shapely than the domestic one, and outruns the fleetest horse. Its untamableness joined to its nimbleness made it a fit symbol for the wild and plunder-loving Ismael (Genesis 16:12). The wild ass, extinct in western Asia, still exists in central Asia and the deserts of Africa.
This is more specially the symbol of peace and meek obedience (John 12:15).