Gospel writer Luke, in the book that bears his name, records Yeshua’s specific instructions to His disciples regarding the location of a certain donkey they were to bring to Him (Luke 19:29-34). Unbeknownst to His devoted followers, the donkey would soon be used for a most noble purpose, to bear the Son of God on His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem on the tenth of Nisan. This regal event is commemorated by Christians today as Palm Sunday. Historically, the sacred day was known as Lamb Selection Day, the day the head of each household chose a perfect lamb as an atonement sacrifice to be offered to God four days later on the Feast of Pesach (Passover).
Imagine the King of Glory riding such a lowly beast just shortly before His crucifixion and glorious resurrection! What was the significance of the lowly donkey, or was the donkey really so lowly? This article will discuss what history recalls about donkeys in the biblical era, but first we will look at the symbolism of the proud, white stallion ridden by jubilant heroes in past days.
The conquering kings of antiquity valiantly entered a recently conquered city mounted on a white horse, a symbol of warfare and victory. In stark contrast, British General Edmund Allenby, a devoted Christian, walked through the Joppa Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem on December 11, 1917, after defeating the Ottoman Turks without firing a single shot. History records that airplanes flying overhead dropped flyers commanding the Turks to surrender immediately. The orders were signed by General Allenby, a name that the enemy perceived to be Allah, the revered Muslim deity. The eternal city of God was divinely protected that day in fulfillment of Bible prophesy, as the Turks fled in fear of what might befall them:
“Like flying birds [airplanes} so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it.” Is 31:5
Why did General Allenby leave his trusted steed outside the city gate? As a man of God, he felt unworthy to enter the Holy City mounted as a king when Yeshua, the King of Kings, entered on a humble donkey. In the following passage, however, we learn that the donkey was not so humble after all. King Solomon rode his father’s mule to the Gihon Spring on the day of his coronation. A mule is the sterile offspring of a male donkey and a female horse:
“38So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. 39Zadok the priest then took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, 'Long live King Solomon!'” 1 Kings 1: 38 -39
According to Dr. Dinah Dye’s highly-recommended, insightful book, The Temple Revealed in the Garden, “The donkey was the traditional mount of honor, so to ride David’s mule was to claim the throne.” WOW! Now we have the Ancient Near-Eastern perspective on the subject of the so-called lowly donkey. Yeshua’s ride on the beast of burden into the city of Jerusalem takes on a different nature. The donkey ride that day long ago was more than an act of humility as perceived by the western mindset. Yeshua, who hailed from the royal tribe of Judah, was claiming His birthright to the throne of David! He was also proclaiming that He came in peace, contrary to the waring kings of antiquity who entered cities on white war-horses:
“30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1:30-33
Yeshua’s donkey ride also fulfilled Bible prophesy as spoken by Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zech 9:9
The day is coming soon, however, when Yeshua and His mighty, heavenly army will ride forth into battle mounted on white war-horses. The donkey of peace will not be present that day:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. Rev 19:11
The story of Yeshua’s royal donkey is but one of countless examples from Scripture where the reader is challenged to probe deeper into the subject matter to discover the unfathomable richness of the sacred text. BibleInteract teachers are trained to assist you in methods of digging deeper into the Word of God. Take advantage of their research and knowledge today by enrolling in ongoing classes. Journeying through the land of the Bible is also an excellent option for learning. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about my upcoming pilgrimage to Israel that will make your Bible become like a pop-up book!