Lowly, and Riding Upon an Ass
James Scott Trimm
In the book of Zechariah we read the following prophecy:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Tziyon!
Shout, O daughter of Yerushalayim!
Behold, your king comes unto you:
He is triumphant, and victorious, lowly,
and riding upon an ass—
even upon a colt, the foal of an ass.
(Zech. 9:9 HRV)
Both Matthew and Yochanan (John) cite this verse as a Messianic prophecy fulfilled by Yeshua (Matt. 21:1-7; Jn. 12:14-15). Matthew cites the passage as follows:
1 And when they came near to Yerushalayim, and had come to Beit Pagey, to the mount
of Olives, then sent Yeshua two talmidim,
2 And said to them: Go to the enclosure which is before you. And right away you will
find there an ass tied, and a foal by her side: loose and bring [them] to Me.
3 And if any man say anything to you, you will say that, My Master has need of them:
and immediately he will let them go.
4 And this was to establish what was spoken by the prophet, who said,
5 Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold your king comes to you: poor, and riding
upon an ass–even upon a foal, the offspring of an ass. (Zech. 9:9)
6 And the talmidim went, and did as Yeshua commanded them:
7 And brought the ass, and the foal, and they put upon them their garments, and mounted Him thereon.
(Matt. 21:1-7 HRV)
Zech. 9:9 is also cited as a Messianic prophecy in the Talmud:
R. Alexandri said: Rabbi Joshua opposed two verses:
Is is written: And behold, one like the son of man
came with the clouds of heaven. (Dan. 7:13)
Whilst it is written: [behold, your king comes to you…]
lowely, and riding upon an ass! (Zech. 9:9)
As well as in the Midrash Rabba:
AND I HAVE AN OX, AND AN ASS, etc. (Gen. 32:6)….
ASS refers to the royal Messiah, for it says of him,
Lowly, and riding upon an ass (Zech. 9:9);
(Genesis Rabbah LXXXV:6)
The early “Church Father” Justin Martyr recounts the story with some added detail. Since Justin Martyr elsewhere recounts a story with added detail drawn from the Goodnews according to the Hebrews (but without citing that Gospel) (see notes to Mt. 3:16 for example) it has been proposed that the following citation may also have drawn details from the Goodnews according to the Hebrews:
The prophecy, “binding his foal to the vine, and washing his
robe in the blood of the grape” (Gen. 49:11), was a significant
symbol of the things that were to happen to Messiah, and what
he was to do. For the foal of an ass stood bound to a vine at
the entrance of a village, and he ordered his acquaintances to
bring it to him then; and when it was brought, he mounted and
sat upon it, and entered Jerusalem.
(Justin Martyr; Apol. 32)
Notice this account also ties the same account to a fulfillment of “binding his foal to the vine, and washing his robe in the blood of the grape” (Gen. 49:11).
The Midrash Rabbah also ties these same verses (Zech. 9:9 & Gen. 49:11) together as Messianic Prophecy:
BINDING HIS FOAL (‘IRO) UNTO THE VINE (Gen. 49:11)…. R. Nehemiah interpreted: BINDING ‘IRO UNTO THE VINE means: He [God] binds to the vine [sc. Israel] ‘iro, which alludes to, ‘the city (ha-’ir) which I have chosen. AND BENI ATHONO UNTO THE CHOICE VINE means: [morally] strong sons (banim ethanim) will spring from him. The Rabbis interpreted: ‘I,’ [said God], ‘am bound to the vine and the choice vine [Israel]. HIS FOAL AND HIS COLT intimate: when he will come of whom it is written, Lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass (Zech. 9:9). HE WASHETH HIS GARMENTS IN WINE, intimates that he [the Messiah] will compose for them words of Torah; AND HIS VESTURE IN THE BLOOD OF GRAPES-that he will restore to them their errors.
(Genesis Rabbah XCVIII:9)
The Zohar also ties these same verses (Zech. 9:9 & Gen. 49:11) together as Messianic Prophecy:
Binding his foal unto the vine. (Gen. 49:11)
The vine is the community of Israel, so called also in the verse:
“You did remove a vine from Egypt” (Ps. 80:9).
By “his foal” is meant the Messiah, …
Hence it is written of him that he will be
“poor and riding on an ass and on
a young ass’s colt” (Zech. 9:9)
“Colt” and “ass” are two crowns by virtue of which the
Gentiles have dominion….
he rides upon an ass and upon a colt, to overthrow
the strength of the Gentiles…
Anti-missionary Singer insists that the Gospels misinterpret this verse by understanding “an ass— even upon a colt, the foal of an ass” as two animals while Singer insists that they can only be understood as one animal being described twice. However the Zohar clearly understands these as two animals as well saying “‘Colt’ and ‘ass’ are two crowns” (Zohar 1:238a).
The Zohar also ties Gen. 49:11 to “You did remove a vine from Egypt” (Ps. 80:9). This is a reference back to Torah which says:
22 Yosef is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine by a fountain; its branches run over the wall.
23 The archers have dealt bitterly with him, and shot at him, and hated him,
24 But his bow abode firm. And the arms of his hands were made supple by the hands of
the Mighty One of Ya’akov; from there, from the Shepherd–the Stone of Yisra’el.
25 Even by the El of your father who shall help you, and by Shaddai, who shall bless
you with blessings of heaven above: blessings of the deep that couches beneath; blessings of the breasts, and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father are mighty, beyond the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be They shall be on the head of Yosef, and on the crown of the head of the prince, among his brothers.
(Gen. 49:22-26 HRV))
Now just a few verses above this we read:
9 Y’hudah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you are gone up. He stooped down,
he couched as a lion, and as a lioness: who shall rouse him up?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Y’hudah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes. And unto him, shall the obedience of the peoples be.
11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
(Gen. 49:9-12 HRV)
Who is this “Shiloh” that comes in parallel to the former rain?
This Gemara also asks “What is Messiah’s name?” Rabbi Shila offers the answer: “His name is Shiloh, for it is written, ‘until Shiloh comes.” (b.San. 98b)
This Gemara is citing Genesis 49:10:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the staff from between his feet,
until Shiloh comes;
and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
The Targums (Onkelos, Pseudo-Jonathan and Yerushalmi) all have “until Messiah comes” in place of “until Shiloh comes”.
The word “Shiloh” has a gematria (numerical value) of 345 which is the same as the value of “HaShem” (“the name”) and El Shaddai. The phrase “Shiloh comes” has a gematria of 358 which is the same as the gematria for “Messiah and “Moses” (because the Messiah is “the prophet like Moses” (Deut. 18:18). This is because “the name” of Messiah is imbedded in the phrase “until Shiloh comes.”
The Zohar says of Gen. 49:10:
…”the scepter” referring to the Messiah of the House of Judah,
and “the staff” to the Messiah of the House of Joseph.
“Until Shiloh comes”, this is Moses, the gematria of Shiloh
and Moses being the same .
The word Shiloh, here, is spelt with both a yod and a he,
to allude to the holy supernal name, Yah,
by which the Shekinah shall rise…
Thus the Zohar teaches us that in Genesis 49:10 we have the two Messiahs (or the two comings of Messiah) represented as a “scepter” and a “staff” which are one “Shiloh” and that the one “Shiloh” has Yah within him.
Now if we look at the Hebrew of the phrase “…Shiloh comes and…” (in the Hebrew it is literally “…comes Shiloh and…”) the first letter from each word in the Hebrew spells “Yeshu” which is the Aramaic and Galilean pronunciation of “Yeshua” (later Rabbis lampooned this fact by making another acronym from YESHU meaning “may his name be blotted out forever”).
You may notice a parallel between the “scepter” and “staff” of the two Messiah’s and the “two sticks” of the two houses of Israel in Ezekiel 37.
Note the fact that the figure called Shiloh binds his foal upon a vine, clearly the vine is Yosef mentioned just a few verses later that grows over the wall (Gen. 49:22) or as we read in Psalm 80:8, 11, the “sea”:
9 (80:8) You did pluck up a vine out of Egypt, You did drive out the nations, and did
10 (80:9) You did clear a place before it, and it took deep root, and filled the land.
11 (80:10) The mountains were covered with the shadow of it, and the mighty cedars
with the boughs thereof.
12 (80:11) She sent out her branches unto the sea, and her shoots unto the River.
Notice that we have the two primary tribes of the two Houses of Israel here, representing the two comings of Messiah. Here we also have represented the two comings of Messiah, as they parallel the Rabbinic Two Messiah Theory.