YOKE (מוֹט, H4573, an oxbow, ‘ôl, a yoke, tsemedh, yoke of oxen, an acre, i.e., as much land as a yoke of oxen could plow in a day, Greek zeugos, a team and zygos, yoke). In the literal sense, a bar of wood so constructed as to unite two animals, usually oxen, enabling them to work in the fields. Drawing loads and pulling instruments used in farming, such as the plow, were two chief functions the yoke made possible. Archaeological studies have shown that the yoke was variously constructed in different periods of history. It was commonly used all over the ancient world.
The verb mot means to waver, totter, and the noun describes the tottering motion of one carrying a burden or a heavy yoke. Thus it came to mean the bars of the yoke and the yoke itself (מוֹטָה, H4574). More frequently the term עֹל, H6585, is used for “yoke,” including the curved pieces of wood which are fastened to the crossbeam. The Hebrew צֶ֫מֶד, H7538, refers to a pair or team of animals called a “yoke.”
Biblical Usage and Meaning
The term “yoke” in its literal meaning refers to a heavy wooden frame used to tie two draft animals together for pulling heavy loads such as plows and carts (
Generally, however, the term is used figuratively for slavery and the burdens and hardships people must bear. When Jehovah delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery, he said, “I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect” (
Often in the Old Testament the term “yoke” refers to a “team of oxen.” King Saul warned the people in hot anger when “He took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers” (
Various kinds of draft animals were hitched or yoked together, but generally it was oxen or cattle. It is interesting that the Mosaic law forbade the yoking of an ox and an ass together (