Luke 19:29-40, part 2: Donkeys in Scripture point to Messiah’s entry to Yerushalayim

JeffThere is so much emphasis in Luke 19:29-40 (cf. Matt. 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:1-19) about Yeshua’s riding into Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) on a donkey that had never carried a burden and about the proclamation, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” That donkey’s first burden was a profound burden, and we see throughout Scripture a number of donkeys carrying important burdens that prophetically point toward that triumphal entry.

“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)

Rabbinic literature, or “sages” who lived up to a few hundred years after the time of Yeshua (Jesus) time on Earth, is replete with commentary asserting that this text is a Messianic prophesy. We see the image of a young donkey, unfamiliar with work, being called up to carry very important and difficult burdens.

The sages also noticed that “the third day” is a messianic reference, that revelation of something profound happened each reference to that time in Scripture.

Prophetic donkeys

Abraham (Gen. 22:1)

The donkey carried the wood for Isaac’s sacrifice. Sages likened that wood to that used to hang a convict, as directed in the Torah (Deut 21:22–23; cf. Gal 3:12–14 [For what is meant by “curse of the Law,” see the study “Galatians 1:10 – chapter 3 — God’s declaring believers righteous determines membership in ‘His people’ rather than observance of His law.”]).

Ya’akov (Gen. 32:5)

Jacob’s 12 female and 10 male donkeys as a gift to Esau as a gift of peace.

Yehudah (Gen. 49:8-12)

Rabbinic commentary ties the prophesy of Gen. 49:11 to Zech.9:9. The sage Rashi commented on the Bereshit Rabbah compilation of sage writings, writing that he saw the Messiah as the donkey bound to the vine, which was Israel. Sages recognized that Scripture talks about the Messiah and even that Messiah would go where God planted His name, i.e., Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).

In the targums (localized translations with commentary), it’s written about Gen. 49:11, “He (the Messiah) shall bring Israel around to his city, the people shall build his temple.”

Moshe (Ex. 4:20)

This donkey took Moses, his wife and children to Egypt after his sojourn in Midian. The Midrash of Ecclesiastes draws a connection between the donkey of Moshe and the one foretold by Zechariah.

We have lots of patriarchs on donkeys, which is fine and good but what is the lesson? The first lesson is that the Messiah is connected with sacrifice of the first son. The lesson from Yehudah is that the Messiah is tied to Israel.

But we have a non-patriarch also riding on a donkey, and the donkey imagry reaches a climax with Baalam.

Balaam (Num. 22:21-35)

Baalam is not just mentioned in this text. His name and his reputation goes into the New Testament and even into Revelation and the last days. Baalam is not apart of Israel, he was a gentile. The story shows us that Baalam struck the donkey three times and it was after the third time the donkey was able to speak for herself.

The donkey rebuked Baalam for the three beatings, and even the Angel rebuked Baalam for beating the donkey. Baalam threatened the kill the donkey, the angel threatened to kill Baalam.

The donkey was the instrument of God’s mercy on someone who didn’t know that he needed His mercy. The donkey protected Baalam from God’s wrath. This is a messianic prophesy of a savior who would protect the “blinded” from God’s wrath. Baalam gave respect to the Angel of the Lord and repented.

By what authority did Yeshua come into Yerushalayim in this triumph? Psalm 118 and Zech. 9:9 foretold that Yeshua’s authority would be the Name of the Lord, i.e., God’s testimony of how the Messiah would arrive.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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