« Aspersion with Holy Water Ass Ass, Brothers of the »


ASS: The wild ass (Heb. pere, poetic ‘arodh; asinus onager or hemippus) is often mentioned in the Old Testament, and appears to have been found in earlier times more frequently in Syria than is now the case. It is described as dwelling in the wilderness (Isa. xxxii, 14; Jer. ii, 24); and to the poet it is a type of unbridled love of freedom (Job xi, 12, xxxix, 5–8), and a picture of the wandering Bedouin (Gen. xvi, 12; Job xxiv, 6). Hosea (viii, 9) compares Ephraim wilfully running after Assyria, to a wild ass separated from the herd. It feeds on the vegetation of the salt steppe (Job vi, 5; Jer. xiv, 6). The animal is larger and more beautiful and graceful than the common ass; it is famous for its swiftness, and is hard to catch.

The tame ass has been from ancient times one of the most important domestic animals in the East, whence it was introduced into Greece and Italy (cf. V. Hehn, Kulturpflanzen und Haustiere, Berlin, 1894, pp. 130–131). The Oriental ass is larger, quicker, more enduring, and more intelligent than the European. As in older times, the light-gray asses or white asses are still preferred, which the Sleb Bedouins rear in the desert; the usual color is reddish-brown (hence the name ḥamor). All classes used them for riding, for which purpose the females were preferred (Num. xxii, 11; Judges x, 4; II Sam. xvii, 23, xix, 26; I Kings xiii, 13; II Kings iv, 24; cf. Matt. xxi, 2–9). In the time of David, mules were used (II Sam. xiii, 29; xviii. 9; I Kings i, 33). The driver went alongside or behind (Judges xix, 3; II Kings iv, 24). The ass was also used as a beast of burden (Gen. xlii, 26, xlix, 14; I Sam. xxv, 18; Neh. xiii, l5), for plowing (Deut. xxii, 10; Isa. xxx, 24, xxxii, 20), and for grinding. Being an unclean animal, it could not be sacrificed (Ex. xiii, 13, xxxiv, 20), nor could its flesh be eaten (but cf. II Kings vi, 25). With other nations, as the Egyptians, it was sacred, and with this may probably be connected the fable circulated by Greek and Roman writers that the Jews worshiped the ass as God (see Asinarii).

I. Benzinger.

Bibliography: An early treatment still valuable is by B. Bochart, Hierosoicon, i, 148–149, ii, 214–215, London, 1663; C. von Lengerke, Kenaan, i, 140-–141. 146, 165, Königsberg, 1844; J. G. Wood, Wild Animals of the Bible, London, 1887; DB, i. 173–174; EB, i. 343–344.

« Aspersion with Holy Water Ass Ass, Brothers of the »
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