Donkeys in the Old and New Testaments

Illustration: Balaam's Donkey
By Rembrandt
Public Domain


This is the text of a script I will be using for a video presentation in about a month’s time dealing with breeding donkeys. It has nothing to do with animal husbandry, but one of the organizers of the event had read one of my articles a few years back and asked me to put together a short talk. Your comments would be most appreciated.......


After a quick look at the names and professions of the majority of the participants in this conference, it became fairly obvious that most of you are involved, in one way or another, with the physical sciences such as veterinary medicine or animal husbandry and not so much in subjects like: “religious studies” or “literature”.

Basically, what I will be attempting to show you here is that when the Old and New Testaments speak about: “donkeys” they are NOT speaking about real live donkeys. These are metaphors which represent something totally different than what you might think. This a very deep subject and it will be impossible for me to explain everything to you in this short format, nevertheless, I do believe it is worthwhile for you to listen, because you will quickly begin to see that many, if not most, of the things you have been taught your whole life about religion simply are not true.

For example: There are approximately three billion Christians in the world and although there are many different types of Christians such as: Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Baptists, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, etc, etc…

All of them agree that Jesus was a carpenter….all of them….and, naturally, that includes everyone watching this video…..

Unfortunately, this is NOT true. Jesus was not a carpenter; he was a plowman.

So let me give you two quick examples:

1)   In the Parable of the Sower Jesus says that: “the sower of the seeds” is: “the Son of Man”; a title Jesus used repeatedly when referring to himself .

So ask yourselves: Who sows seeds in a field? A carpenter? Or: A plowman?


2)   In the Book of Isaiah, we are told that in the Messianic Age men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (i.e. agricultural tools)

So, once again, ask yourselves: If Jesus was the messiah and he was a carpenter, wouldn’t you expect that in messianic times people would beat their swords into saws and their spears into hammers? (i.e. carpentry tools).

What should be clarified here is that in Judaism there are: "messiahs" and there is: "The Messiah". "A messiah" represents an "enlightened human being" who has access to additional information from God and this is symbolized by pouring olive oil on his head, since olive oil was used as the fuel in lamps which provided light in the temple. Thus: "all priests" and: "all kings" can be considered to be: "messiahs" because they are all anointed with olive oil before taking office. And the Hebrew word: "messiah" actually means: "the one who has been anointed".
"The Messiah", however, refers to an enlightened being who is: "to rule Israel at some point in the future" which is described as: "The Messianic Times" or "The Messianic Age".
So, just to make this point clear: Because Aaron: the brother of Moses and, later on, King David were both anointed with olive oil, they can be described as: "messiahs"; however, they
were not: "The Messiah". This is a very important distinction which most people fail to understand.


Therefore, if we accept that Jesus was a plowman and NOT a carpenter, then when we look at one of the laws in the Old Testament which forbids plowing a field with a donkey and a cow yoked together, we can begin to appreciate that there is a lot more going on here than just the comfort of the animals.

Especially, when we remember that Jesus said his body was like bread and the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the word of God. Thus, if: "bread" equals: "the word of God", then: "wheat" represents: "the knowledge which is contained in the bread" and "a field" would represent: "the classroom" in which this knowledge was developed.

Thus, it begins to make sense that we are told: "Jesus: the word of God", was born in: "Bethlehem" which is a Hebrew name which means: “House of Bread” (It also begins to explain why Jesus was described as being born in a manger with: "the animals".....).

Just to reinforce this connection between Jesus, bread and the word of God, it should be noted that Jewish scholars have for centuries taught that “the word of God is the bread of life”...

So, we have a contrast being drawn in this Old Testament law about the donkey and the cow:

“A cow” represents: “a type of intellectual strength” which enables one to develop “the seeds” of an idea in a school

And “a donkey” represents: “a completely different source of intellectual strength”.

This is not too difficult for us to accept because even in the 21st century you can hear people say:

“The earth is a school”

Furthermore, in every university around the world people ask:

“What is your field of study?”

And finally, when speaking about the need to study very difficult material, people use the metaphor:

“Plowing thru a book”, Or: “Plowing thru the material”

Okay, but: Where do we find all this in the Bible?

In the Book of Judges, Samson asks a riddle of the guests at his wedding and makes a large wager they cannot solve it.

When the guests force Samson’s wife to reveal to them the answer, Samson then says:

“If you had not been plowing with my cow, you would not know the solution to my riddle”.

Therefore: “A cow” represents: “the intellectual strength needed to develop ideas”; while: “Plowing a field with a cow” would represent: “Knowledge developed by men studying in schools”.

A donkey, however, represents a different type of knowledge.

A donkey carries on its back: messiahs, kings, prophets and bread.

So permit me to give you two examples:

1) King David, King Solomon, Jesus, and all of the prophets are NEVER seen riding a horse, they are ALWAYS described as riding donkeys.

2) All the bread that is brought to King David comes on the backs of donkeys.

In other words: “donkeys” represent: "the base of support by which God’s word reaches the people" either thru his messengers or his written word.

So, before moving on, let's just return to the analogy we mentioned before:
The "plowman", who we identified as: "a messiah", works in: "a field" which we said was a metaphor for: "a classroom". He spreads: "the seeds" which even today is a metaphor for: "ideas" and the field produces "wheat" which represents: "religious knowledge". This wheat is then converted into an organized message which we call "the bread of life" or: "the word of God".
Therefore, when Jesus warns his disciples to: "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees" we can immediately begin to understand that "the yeast" represents: "additional teachings" which are added to the word or God. 
We have already noted that King David always received bread carried on the backs of donkeys, therefore it should be no surprise to see that when Joseph sent his father Jacob sacks of wheat, they were also placed on the backs of donkeys.

Now let us turn to the Book of Numbers; here we have the story of the prophet Balaam riding a donkey thru a vineyard. I am not going into detail here, but I can assure you that, if you recall some of the parables in the Gospels, you will begin to realize that it is no accident the story takes place in a vineyard.

Balaam is a prophet, yet it is ONLY the donkey which sees God’s angel. Furthermore, the donkey speaks and reminds Balaam that it is “he” who has carried Balaam on his back his whole life.

In addition, God’s angel tells Balaam that if it wasn’t for the donkey, he would have killed Balaam. Here we must understand that the Old Testament says that a false prophet should be put to death, thus what the angel is saying is that because Balaam has always allowed the donkey to provide the base foundation of his prophecies, he has not strayed from God's word and continues to live.

Therefore, what we can then see from this story is that “the donkey” represents: “the authority of God’s word”. Meaning, without “the authority” and “base of support” provided by God’s word: A prophet would have no power; a king could not rule and the Bible would just be another book.

So we must remember that Jesus said again and again that he ONLY spoke the words which God told him to speak. If one did not believe that God was his base of support, then Jesus would have no power.

Thus, the image of: "Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey" means: "God supports this man to be the new leader of the people".

Another story which utilizes all these concepts deals with King Saul which can be found in the First Book of Samuel. In short, when we first meet Saul we are told that he is "looking for his father's donkeys". Later, Saul is told that "his father's donkeys have been found". He is then anointed with olive oil, thus becoming a messiah, and afterwards is crowned King of Israel.
So, returning to the law concerning the donkey and the cow not being yoked together in the same field. What we are being told is that in our schools there is no problem studying in: "a school which only teaches the works of men", which is represented by: "plowing a field with a cow".

And there is no problem studying in: "a school which only teaches the word of God" represented by: "plowing a field with a donkey".


What is absolutely forbidden is teaching the word of men together with the word of God in the same classroom, because when you do that you are equating the words of men with the words of God.

Thus we also see the 10th commandment stating:

“……Don’t covet another man’s donkey…..”

Naturally, at first glance, we would assume that the important word is: “covet” and that we should not covet “anything” which belongs to another person. But this is not the case, the donkey is used in this example, specifically, to warn the people against worshiping the gods of other peoples and this is why the donkey is mentioned instead of a cow or a horse.

After all, we are talking about religious matters in “The Bible”, not agricultural issues in “The Farmers Almanac”

Thus, this battle between these two sources of information: “The knowledge of men versus the knowledge of God” is the true theme of the Gospels.

The “donkey” represents: “the authority of our Father in Heaven” (i.e. God)

While "the cow" represents: “the authority of our father on earth” (i.e. a religious scholar).

Furthermore: If Jesus is: “the word of God” and Jesus is also: “the son of God”, then it should not be difficult to grasp that the term: “son” in the Bible is a metaphor for: “word”, hence, Jews who are known around the world as: “The People of the Book” are also referred to in the Book of Exodus as: “The Son of God”.

Accordingly, in the Gospels when Pontus Pilate offers to free one man for the Jewish Holy Day of Passover, what we are really seeing is a struggle between two sources of God's word, except this is not clear to most readers because the text has been deliberately mistranslated.

The man who eventually was set free was NOT named: “Barabbas”!!!

 His real name consists of two words and was: “Bar Abba” which represents: “son of our father on Earth” (i.e. “the word of religious scholars”). Thus in Israel there is a famous school called: "Bar Ilan University"; it is not called: "Barillans University".

Jesus, my contrast, represents: “The Son of our Father in Heaven” (i.e. The word of God).

This is why Jesus warned his disciples to NEVER allow themselves to be addressed as: “father”.

Thus the crowd of Jews standing in front of Pontus Pilate were really being asked:

Who do you want to follow?

The word of God? Or: The word of men?

The Jews decided to follow the word of men and until this very day it is the rabbi who has the final authority in the Jewish community, not the Old Testament.
Nevertheless, the exact same thing has befallen the Christian community. As we discussed in the opening of this talk, despite the clear indications showing that Jesus was a plowman, three billion Christians follow the teachings of their priests and ministers and believe Jesus was a carpenter. And despite the fact that Jesus clearly told his disciples not to allow themselves to be called: "father", almost one billion Roman Catholics refer to their priests in this fashion. 

In conclusion: in this very short talk I hope I have been able to demonstrate to you that both the Old and New Testaments are indeed based on metaphors and that, in particular, “the donkey” symbolizes: “the authority of God’s word”.

So, the next time you come face to face with a donkey:

Show a little respect…..