Speak, ye that ride on white asses
Though in some countries, as in ours, it is reckoned disgraceful to ride on asses; so Leo Africanus F2 makes mention of a preacher in Africa, who was called the ass rider; because he was continually, sitting on an ass; yet in Judea, where there were no horses, or very few, it was accounted honourable; so it was in the time of our Lord; for his riding on an ass to Jerusalem was not mean and disgraceful, but honourable and glorious: and so it certainly was in those early times of the judges; for we read of the sons of two of them, which were very numerous, that rode on asses' colts, ( Judges 10:4 ) ( 12:14 ) , and it seems that white asses were the most valuable, and chiefly used by great personages. The ass in the Hebrew language has its name from redness, that being the usual colour of them in those parts; and hence they were hateful to the Egyptians, because that their Typhon was of that colour F3; but there were some that were white, as there are wild ones now of that colour. A traveller
F4 in those parts in the beginning of the last century tells us, that on the banks of the Euphrates they beheld every day great droves of wild beasts, as wild asses "all white" The word we translate "white" is "zechorot", and perhaps may describe the same animal the Ethiopians call "zecora", and some "zebra"; said to excel in beauty all four footed creatures in the whole world. It is an animal of the size of a mule, found in the woods beyond Abyssinia, is easily tamed, and is the frequent and chief present of the kings of that country; about its loins is a circle of a black colour, in the form of a girdle, which is followed with more on each side, according to the part of the body, some broader, others narrower, both black and white, or of an ash colour, so neat that they seem to exceed the art of the most eminent painter; its only deformity are its ears, which are long; hence it is called by the Portuguese the wild ass, though wrongly; of what value and esteem it was appears from the large price it has been sold for; one, that was the gift of a king to a Turkish governor, was sold to an Indian for 2,000 pieces of Venetian money, to make a present of to the great Mogor, king of the Indians F5, which was the value of nine hundred pounds. Those that rode on these creatures were the princes and nobles of Israel; though they are generally interpreted by the Jewish commentators of merchants that rode from place to place about business; and these are called upon to speak of the wonderful things God had done for Israel, in freeing them from the bondage of the Canaanites, so that these nobles or merchants might ride about the country without any fear; and to discourse of them to others, and in their meditations give praise to God on account of them:
ye that sit in judgment;
which seems to describe judges upon the bench, sitting to hear and try causes, and pass righteous judgment; these are also exhorted to give thanks to the Lord, that they were now restored to their seats of judgment, from which they were driven; or where they could not peaceably exercise their office, which they now might and did: Cocceius renders the word "on measures", as if these were persons that presided over measures, and took care that they were just and right. Though Kimchi and Ben Melech say, that Middin, which we render "in judgment", is either the name of a city in the book of Joshua, (See Gill on Joshua 15:61), or the name of a way F6 well known, in which they were afraid to go because of the enemy, but now went in it with safety, and therefore had reason to speak well of God, and praise his name; but this is rather intended in the next clause:
and walk by the way;
the common people that travelled from place to place on business, who before were obliged to leave the public roads, and go in byways, ( Judges 5:6 ) but now could travel in the common road without fear, and therefore ought to be thankful.
F2 Descriptio Africae, l. 5. p. 574.
F3 Plutarch. de Iside.
F4 Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 106.
F5 Ludolph. Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. c. 10. Vid. Philostorg. Eccles. Hist. l. 3. c. 11.
F6 Vid. David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 19. 3.