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Notes on Revelation

THE Donkey

17 Shevat, 5762
January 30, 2002

So Moses took his wife and sons, mounted them on the donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt... (Exodus 4:20, Stone Chumash)
In Hebrew, the definite article ha, the, in the passage above indicates that there is something special about this donkey. According to Rashi, this is the same donkey that Abraham saddled at the binding of Isaac (Gen 22:3), and the same one which the Messiah will use to reveal himself as stated in Zechariah 9:9 (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer 31):
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (KJV)
Messiah Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a special donkey. I say special because this animal wasn't with Jesus or his disciples but was tethered in Bethphage, a little village on the Mount of Olives:
Matthew 21:1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
They find the donkey just where Jesus said it would be and then another unusual event takes place when they are not hindered from taking the animal, again, just as Jesus foretold:
Luke 19:32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him. 35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.
I think this donkey belonged to Jesus and is the self-same one the Sages speak of. The owners were the ones Jesus had put in charge of watching over it (angels?) and when they heard that the true owner needed it they didn't intervene. I come to this conclusion by looking at the words "owners" and "Lord" in verses 33 and 34. They are both the same Greek word, kurioV kurios, and 667 times in the KJV it is rendered Lord, 54 lord, 11 master etc. and its definition either denotes the particular person of God, the messiah or someone who is the possessor/has authority to dispose of something. Taking this into account the two verses above could read: "And as they were loosing the colt, the ones in charge of looking after it said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, the Messiah Jesus Christ hath need of his animal." If this donkey did not belong to Jesus then it seems strange that these men who were watching it didn't challenge the disciples further.

Jesus usually walked wherever he went but when he was in need of a donkey he knew exactly where to find one and this particular animal was used for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This was the time for the Jewish leaders to come and confirm that he was their awaited Messiah, to acknowledge the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 and to usher him in as their King. Unfortunately, the hour passed in spiritual blindness on the most part for all of Israel.

You may dismiss the whole notion of the same donkey carrying Abraham, Moses and the Messiah but if you believe what the Sages say and that Jesus' donkey might be the one, here are a few more things to consider. Why does Jesus house the animal in Bethphage? Why doesn't one of the disciples have care of it? Why doesn't he ride it more often? We come back to the same conclusion we had at the beginning of this discourse—this animal was somehow special.

Let's take a look at Bethphage. The Encyclopaedia Judaica states:

BETHPHAGE, village on the Mount of Olives in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem; it is named for green figs (paggim). In ancient times, it was surrounded by a wall. Bethphage marked the eastern confines of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period (Men. 11:2; Men. 75b). In the New Testament (Matt. 21:1; Mark 11:1) it is mentioned as the place where Jesus found the she-ass on which he entered Jerusalem.
Bethphage (Beth Pagi), the "House of Unripe Figs" was considered the easternmost part of Jerusalem. Here is where the Sanhedrin sat as "elders sitting in the gate of the city." The main seat of the Sanhedrin was in the Temple but certain things could only be determined when they were at Bethphage, outside the walls of Jerusalem (Pesachim 63b): measurements involving finding a dead body, deciding what was pure or defiled/what could enter the city and what could not, death sentences for rebellious leaders, setting limits on the size of the city, the Temple, censuses and from here is where fire signals were sent out to show when the new months started and to keep track of the sacred calendar, etc. This was a very important place in the days of Jesus and would be the most appropriate place to keep the donkey. This way, he would be starting at the easternmost limit of Jerusalem and riding in through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem proper. This is also the direction that the Jew's believe their Messiah will travel when he comes, that he will enter through the Eastern Gate.

I'm going to throw this in here but I don't know how it's explained by the Sages although it makes perfect sense to Christians who have read the book of Revelation (1:7). Why do they speak of him coming in the clouds for Zechariah 9:9 states he will come on an ass, denoting that they don't merit his coming? Are they talking of two separate comings here?

... if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass. (Sanhedrin 98a)
Messiah is to enter Jerusalem from the east riding a donkey. How is he to be recognized? Apparently the only criteria that is insisted upon is that the Messiah restore the kingdom (for Jesus fulfilled 99% of everything else that the Messiah was to do but they just were interested in that one aspect that wasn't fulfilled at his first coming?). Where is Abraham/Moses' donkey located? Probably at the gates of the city ready for the Messiah whenever he comes. Where are the gates of the city today? One of the scariest bits of information I found while studying this whole subject was that my Hastings' Dictionary stated that modern-day Bethphage is considered equivalent to Abu Dis. Abu Dis!! When Messiah comes the first thing he's going to have to do is to pass Yasser Arafat in his PLO headquarters at Abu Dis (for it is purported to have at least one angle of the building specifically in Jerusalem proper so that Arafat can state that it is officially Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine so it's right at the edge of the city limits). Arafat and his henchmen are the elders sitting at the eastern gate to the holy city and as of this writing, Israel is even considering repartitioning Jerusalem (deciding new measurements for the city in Bethphage?) that would divide Eastern and Western Jerusalem even further. There's no way for the Messiah to come in through the Eastern gate without walking through Palestinian controlled territory and what this would do in terms of defilement is something I don't even want to dwell on.

I do, however, want to bring this study back to Jesus and specifically Jacob's prophecy regarding his son Judah (seeing Jesus is a Judahite) in "the last days" (Gen 49:1):

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. He [Judah] will tie his donkey to the vine; to the vine branch his donkey's foal; he will launder his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes. (Genesis 49:10,11, Stone Chumash)
Jesus rules now and forever and at his first and second coming he gathers all of God's people into closer relationship with the Father. At his triumphal entry into the holy city Jerusalem he rode Abraham and Moses' donkey (did Mary also have use of that animal?) conveying his identification with Israel and God's Torah, the root of the true vine whose dead branches were cut away to make room for new growth. Because of him we can all wash our garments in his blood and be pure and undefiled as we approach the King. He did it all and there is no other beside him.
Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe who has sent his son Jesus the Anointed whose blood is the perfect means of cleansing us from all our sins. Without him we die, with him we live forever in your presence. Open our eyes to all truth and may each branch prove ever more fruitful whether it be the original stock or those grafted in.


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