Friday, March 18, 2011

The Industrious Donkey

Even the animals—the donkey and the ox—know their owner and appreciate his care, but not my people Israel. No matter what I do for them, they still do not understand." Isa.1:3 NLT

Along with the horse, its stalwart relative, the donkey (ass, or in a variant breed, burro) has been a long-time friend, companion, hard worker, and passenger conveyer to humanity. Perhaps it is time to recognize it as also a noble creature.

Unlike their sometimes negative reputations, donkeys are friendly, loyal, eager to please, and affectionate. They have been known to warn their human comrades of danger and to rescue their human comrades from dangerous situations. On occasion, a male donkey may mate with a mare and produce a mule, an oddly hybrid creature that seems to exhibit the best characteristics of both animals, excepting perhaps the swiftness of a horse. (Donkeys and mules also seem less inclined than horses to charge into the fray of battle; some might see the horse as more valorous; others might be inclined to accord a degree of higher intelligence to the smaller equine).

However, donkeys and mules are sure-footed animals and can often traverse with confidence terrain that horses would rather shy away from. ... It is not true, as a general rule at least, that donkeys and mules are stubborn. In actuality, in most cases, they are industrious. Once they understand what is being asked of them, they will set about the task with diligence. ... In the biblical text, all of these characteristics are exhibited.

(Schwartz, Donald Ray. 2000. Noah's Ark: An Annotated Encyclopedia of Every Animal Species in the Hebrew Bible. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., pgs 90-91)


  1. I read in one of your posts that the donkey/ass was a noble animal, thus why it carried the mother of Christ and the Savior also. Why have we been led to believe the opposite? Was it just because of our Western ideas of donkeys? Thanks.

  2. Hi Carol,

    Every culture has its own specific associations with their world around them. Our western culture has many associations with donkeys that are related to westerns and hill billies and what disobedient boys turn into-(see Pinocchio.)

    We have to look at the ancient world through the lens of their perspective and it helps us make sense of things.