Christ’s Donkey

Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Matt 21:1-11), and most commentators have interpreted this as a sign of humility, the contrast between the warhorse of the conqueror Messiah expected by some and the spiritual conqueror that the real Messiah was.  This view is authorized by Zechariah 9:9, which describes the coming Messiah’s humility linked with the choice of a donkey for a steed.  I accept this interpretation, but I wonder whether there might be another dimension.

In particular, when David’s son Adonijah presumed he was the heir apparent and hosted a banquet to announce his kingship, the prophet Nathan and Solomon’s mother Bath Sheba asked David to appoint Solomon his heir instead.  And the way that he was appointed heir was to ride the king’s mule down to the Gihon spring outside the city and back (1 Kings 1:33, 38).  Now, a mule (Hebrew pirdah) is not a donkey (Hebrew ḥamor), but they’re related, and both event required riding into Jerusalem on a non-horse (although Solomon’s also required riding out of the city first).  So I wonder whether, in addition to the humility meaning, there is also a link to Davidic kingship in the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.

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One comment

  1. Good point! I think your case is also strengthened by Zechariah 9:9 itself, as although it describes a king ‘humble and riding on a donkey’, it is most definitely a king being described – i.e.; the true nature of kingship is found in humility.

    The rest of this passage in Zechariah (vv.9-10) is definitely future-oriented and therefore Messianic, and as we know, 1st Century Jewish conceptions of the Messiah were deeply linked with the restoration of the Davidic line (because God had promised it would always endure). What is really interesting is that, despite passages like the one in Zechariah emphasising the humility of the coming king and his commanding ‘peace to the nations’, the majority of Jews in Jesus’ day still seemed to expect a conquering, sort of Messiah, purely concerned with local issues (i.e.; getting rid of the Romans).

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