Donkeys! We got donkeys all up in here! I am going to be nice and good and not call them asses, even though that is an official name for donkeys, as in Equus africanus asinus. Nope, because this post could get all full of asses, and then we're suddenly showing up in naughty search engines, and then I go to hell.
So! Donkeys it is.
Donkeys have been around forever, and in Biblical times,were all around Egypt, and a bunch of them accompanied the Israelites when they got away from Pharaoh and wandered around the dessert for 40 years.
The most obvious role for donkeys would be transportation, as those little hoofers are quite tenacious.
But they're also considered property and Exodus has a slew of rules about donkeys and what you should and should not do with them. Most of it is common sense - if you find your neighbor's lost donkey, take it back to them, help your enemy's fallen donkey, and make sure your donkey gets to rest on the Sabbath, just like you do. (Exodus 23)
Deuteronomy 22:10 commands us "Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together." What was simple agricultural sense (different leg lengths means a wobbly plow, different temperaments and diets means ornery animals) takes a different tone when 2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us not to be yoked with unbelievers, all because they happen to use the same word "yoked."
It was a pack of lost donkeys that brought Saul to meet prophet Samuel so Samuel could tell Saul that God had chosen Saul to rule over his people in 1 Samuel 9 and 10. Saul's reign didn't end so well, but hey, the donkeys were found quite quickly.
Samson struck down 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. How? Well, just take a peek at this clip from 1949's Samson and Delilah. It's not exactly 1,000 men, and Samson uses a few things more in addition to a donkey's jawbone. But consider it artistic license (and the donkey jawbone slaying starts around 2:16)
I've already mentioned Balaam's talking donkey before.
In the New Testament, Luke does not specifically mention that pregnant Mary rode a donkey when she traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem to be counted in the Census, but really to give birth to Jesus in a manger (Luke 2:1-7). However, can a billion Christmas Nativity mangers be wrong?
But it is mentioned in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12 that Jesus rode a donkey (or a colt, the foal of a donkey) into Jerusalem on the last week of his life.
This fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 that the Messiah will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
So it's the workhorse donkey, not a champion stallion, that escorts Christ to his destiny.
(I'm not even going to mention Ezekiel 23:20, where the prophet talks about Jerusalem as a metaphor for a prostitute named Oholibah, who "lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." GROSS GROSS GROSS. Who knew the Bible could be that gross? Yuck, yuck, yuck, we're going on those naughty search engines now for sure. Sheesh.)