Why was Yeshua riding that beast of burden? Obviously the familiar prophecy of the suffering Messiah in Zechariah 9:9 had to be fulfilled:
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey." As I walked along the security fence, viewing the groves of olive trees where the Arab farmers bring their donkeys, during olive harvest, I kept thinking about the "beast" that the Lamb had been riding (ref Matthew 21: 2-9). I recalled the scripture about the firstborn foal of a donkey that had to be redeemed by a lamb: "But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem" (Exodus 13:13). And then the inevitable question popped up: what is the connection between Man and this beast of burden?
In Psalm 73 David identifies himself before YHVH as a beast:
"I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You" (ve. 22).
Psalm 49:12 and 20 declare: "Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish". Then there was Nebuchadnezzar, representing the head of the statue of Man. In his pride the Babylonian monarch worshiped the works of his hands. As a result YHVH changed his heart/nature to that of a beast, and sent him out to eat grass (ref. Daniel 4:16). After a period of time the king recognized that "the Most High is sovereign over all the kingdoms of men" (Daniel 4: 17).
Truly, unredeemed man is like a beast of burden and in need of a lamb who takes away that heavy yoke /guilt of Sin. Yeshua, referring to His role as the sacrificial and redeeming Lamb, said: "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).
The most common word for donkey, or ass, in Hebrew is "chamor" ("ch" pronounced as the "ch" in the Scottish "loch"). It is also the word that appears in the above-mentioned verse in Zechariah 9:9. Interestingly, the root of that noun, ch.m.r, is also the root for "chomer", which is clay. Job prayed: "Oh, remember that you fashioned me from clay! Will you then bring me down to dust again?" (Job 10:9 emphasis added). Isaiah also points out: "Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?" (Isaiah 45:9 emphasis added). "Clay", then, is to the "donkey" what "earth" is to "man" (earth is "adama", and man is "adam"). Thus it should not come as a surprise that the animal, whose firstborn had to be redeemed by a lamb, was the donkey/chamor (ref Exodus 13:13).
The connection between the firstborn of man and the donkey rings loud and clear, as YHVH's Lamb riding the "chamor" portrayed the Lamb for the Sacrifice that the Man of Clay (chomer) - Adam the sinner - had to carry to the Temple (ref. Leviticus 5:6), thus owning up publicly to his fallen state. On the national level, Israel, being YHVH's firstborn nation had (and has) to be redeemed by the Lamb. Thus, Yeshua's entry to Jerusalem was a clear sign of the Almighty's intent to restore His people, His inheritance, to Himself.
During the days of the first waves of immigration to the Land of Israel (beginning of the 20th century), in the wake of the Zionist renewal, one prominent rabbi who supported the movement was criticized for accepting its extremely secular members. His answer to his detractors was that these builders of Zion were the "donkey of Messiah", ushering in His kingdom and rule.
When Yeshua sent his disciples to fetch the donkey and its colt, He told them that if anyone was to ask them why they were taking the animals, they were to say: "the Master has need of them" (Matthew 21:3). At this season let us take to heart the fact that as Messiah's 'redeemed donkey', the King of kings HAS NEED OF US!
Ephraim and Rimona