"Christ's Entry into Jerusalem" by Hippolyte Flandrin (1842)
Text: Judges 5:10  "Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way."

This verse, found in "The song of Deborah and Barak" is a difficult to translate because it contains Hebrew words the have dropped out of use.

There are two differnt thoughts as to the overall meaning of the verse, as well as different meanings for each phrase of the text. 

Ye that ride on white asses: 

One translation indicates that the "white" was actually a richly woven tapestry thrown over the backs of asses or any riding animal, while the second translation understands it to be literally the color of the animal.  

The Vulgate translates the phrase as "shinning asses", meaning a sleek or well-fed animal.

In Ancient Persia,  men of the law were allowed or afforded white asses to ride, thus showing their elevated place in society. The whiteness of the ass was an indication of their sterling character that had allowed them to obtain such a coveted position.

From Lady Isabel Burton: "My husband always give me the entire command of the stable. I bought a camel, a snow-white donkey, which is the most honourable mount grand visiting. ("The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land" (from my private Journal) Volume 1, p. 136. Published 1876, London.)

From James Morier: "The Mollahs, or men of the law, are generally to be seen riding about on mules, and they also account it a dignity, and suited to their character, to ride on white asses." ("Second Journey through Persia, Armenia and Asia Minor", p.136.  Published 1818.)

Also, in the ancient world, men of wealth and influence were easily recognized by their choice of mounts and the manner in which they rode. Since white donkeys were rare and costly ( imported mainly from Arabia) and tapestries made the finest of seats, then it stands to reason that only the very rich or very important could afford to ride on a "white ass".

Ye that sit in judgment: This can mean literally "men of the law who are chosen to judge the common", or an indication of the manner in which on is riding, an erect posture.

Walk by the way: Most agree that this means the common person. However, there is also the thought that this might mean those who travel from place to place.

From Young's Literal Translation of the Bible: "Riders on white asses--Sitters on a long robe--And walkers by the way--meditate!"

While one group of scholares believes that this verse is describing three ranks of people --the rich, the magistrates, and the common man--,   the more popular understanding is that this verse is addressing the lawgivers of Isreal, those who are ordained and blessed to be riding sleek fine animals in comfort while traveling about the land, they should be spreading (speak) the praises of God.

Copyright by Ancient Bible History - Eden Games Inc.


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