If you’ve read the Bible, you’ve probably heard the word “yoke” used. But what is a yoke?
A yoke is a wooden crossbar attached to the neck or head of two animals and attached to a cart.
It allows two animals to share a load and bond. And what does this have to do with our Christian life? In a moment you will know.
Perhaps you have also heard of unequal yokes, especially when you start a relationship or when you have problems. Later we will also explain what this means and what you can do to release a little of the burdens that you carry in your daily life.
What is a yoke?
A yoke was a supposed beast of burden that was placed around the neck of one or more animals, such as an ox, for example.
This accessory was placed around the neck to allow the animal or animals to have the purpose of pulling loads.
It typically consisted of a curved piece of wood with leather straps attached that would allow them to pull a cart or other transportation tool.
Sometimes a yoke symbolized being in captivity or under slavery or servitude as in Leviticus 26:13 when God said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves; I have broken the bars of your yoke.”
Symbolically, a yoke in the Bible may simply suggest hard work ( Lamentations 3:27 ), but more often it indicates slavery or servitude, as we see in the enslavement of the children of Israel in Egypt ( Leviticus 26:13 ).
We all put ourselves under the yoke of slavery to sin ( Lamentations 1:14 ). This word is also used to indicate the union of two ( II Corinthians 6:14 ).
A royal yoke is usually made of wood that has been shaped or carved to fit around the necks of two cows, oxen, or other beasts of burden, allowing them to pull heavy loads, carts, or carts.
Animals are often yoked for plowing as well. Due to their anatomy, cattle are more suitable for working with this element.
Yokes are easy, effective, and inexpensive ways to harness the locomotive power of the ox.
Types of Yoke
There are actually three basic yoke designs, based on how the yoke is used to capture the power of animals.
These variations are called “head yoke”, “neck yoke” and “cross yoke”. The task at hand often determines which yoke is best suited for the animals to maximize its effectiveness. Let’s see:
1. Head yoke
It is equipped to use the hard part of the forehead to pull the load. This yoke provides better animal control and better management of carts or wagons in mountainous terrain.
An interesting feature of the head yoke is that it prevents the bound animals from fighting and biting each other, as it prevents their heads from moving much from side to side.
2. Neck yoke
As the name implies, it fits around the neck, giving animals comfort on rough terrain and more maneuverability in the field or forest, allowing them to push with their shoulders, neck, and chest.
The neck yoke also allows animals to move faster and with more flexibility.
The disadvantage of the neck yoke is that it allows the two animals to fight, and if they are not well-matched, it allows them to separate from each other. It is also not so suitable for mountainous terrain.
3. Cross yoke
It is more suitable for cattle that are humped. The yoke conforms to the withers or hump, keeping the shoulders clear of the staves and thus not interfering with shoulder movement. All around, the yoke of the cross is more flexible.
4. The Iron Yoke
Another type of yoke is the human yoke. These were also made of wood and were strapped to the shoulders so that a person could more easily carry a load. In Deuteronomy 28:48, God warns the Israelites that if they failed to serve him properly, he would allow their enemies to apply an “iron yoke” to them.
Clearly, the iron yoke—a heavy, uncomfortable, inflexible, and restrictive restraint—is an instrument of destruction used by God to punish his people for their sins.
As this passage indicates, people take on this yoke by disobeying God’s law.
If we feel that our yoke is too heavy, we may be using the wrong one. If so, we should examine ourselves ( II Corinthians 13:5 ). Have we brought upon ourselves the yoke of iron? If we do not repent, a heavy yoke of sin will destroy us!
How many times do we blame God for our trials, when in fact, through our ingratitude and worldliness, we have equipped ourselves with an iron yoke! When we refuse to acknowledge our sins or seriously assess our spiritual condition, we fall back into the bondage from which we have been so graciously freed.
Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 1:14: “The yoke of my transgressions was bound, and thrust upon my neck. He made my strength fail; the Lord delivered me into the hands of those whom I cannot resist.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 is a familiar passage where God tells us that He will never give us a trial that is more than we can handle. He will never allow us to be tempted without providing a way out.
In other words, we don’t have to bring the curse of the iron yoke on our necks! The apostle John tells us that keeping God’s commandments is not a burden ( I John 5:3 ). Our “load” is not as heavy as we think; we can always relieve it by doing what God says is right.
Still, it’s not easy. The discipline required to be a disciple of Christ is hard work. Anyone who thinks that the Christian life does not involve work is mistaken. Contrary to popular belief, God never said we shouldn’t have to work.
Our Lord never stated that we would not have to endure it. He never said that the Christian life would be free from pain or weariness, but he did say that it would meet our needs and finish what he started in us.
5. The easy yoke
Jesus, in Matthew 11: 27-30, encourages us to take on his yoke and rest on it when we are tired. Our Savior Jesus Christ fully understands the burdens of this world. He fully understands the burden of sin and the devastation it causes.
Sin has the power to destroy what God is creating, your Family. But Christ has already overcome sin. We don’t have to carry that burden. He did it totally and completely because when God does something, we don’t have to redo it!
When we think of a yoke, we often go to slavery, servitude, or backbreaking work that will sink us into the earth. However, a yoke is nothing more than a tool to do a job, and, as we have seen, if well designed, it allows the user to work with maximum capacity and efficiency.
The most important thing is that our Savior has offered us His yoke. Would any other yoke suit us better? Remember the previously mentioned details of two oxen working together in the yoke, and then consider how closely Jesus is working with each of us.
We need to imagine ourselves sharing the same yoke as Jesus, like a pair of oxen with a load to pull. We must also add to this scene God the Father as the driver. He has given Christ “all things” necessary to do the job. Jesus is by our side in the yoke, working diligently to guide us and lift his part of his burden to ensure we get the job done.
What is our reward? Verse 28 says that He will give us rest, “rest for his souls,” as verse 29 adds. Jesus’ yoke is one of rest, the same rest discussed in Hebrews 3-4: God’s rest! in the kingdom of him!
Then in verse 30 comes Jesus’ encouraging proclamation: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus has already opened the way, so all we have to do is follow his example and we will find rest from all our burdens.
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What to take into account regarding the yoke?
No matter what the task, the most important part is how well the yoke is made to fit the particular animals. Heavy work in the field or on the road will quickly show where the weaknesses are in any yoke system.
A good yoke or harness system is one that minimizes damage to both the animals and the equipment.
A properly fitted yoke will not cause any discomfort or sores but will allow the animal to work to its full potential. Of course, the yoke does not take away the work, but rather helps the animal to accomplish the task.
A yoke binds two animals together and they must work together, or the job won’t get done. Beef cattle are good working animals because they are a natural herd species and usually work well together.
When cattle interact, one will establish dominance over the others, becoming the leader.
A trucker or farmer can have several animal yokes, but there will only be one leader. In 1 Kings 19, when Elijah called Elisha to succeed him as a prophet, the young man was plowing with twelve yokes of oxen.
However, when oxen are joined together, although one animal is dominant, it should not be recognizable when they are working. Each animal has to pull its own weight.
The animals must also be the same size, age, and breed. If they are ” unequally yoked ” ( II Corinthians 6:14 ), the team will have great difficulty getting the job done. For example, an ox and a donkey are good work animals, but they don’t work well together at all. They are different breeds, different sizes, and have different temperaments. When used together, they are unequally yoked.
Take my yoke on you
Jesus once used the word yoke in a very special way saying, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” ( Matt. 11:29 ). Did you mean by this? In the context of this, Jesus had preceded this statement by saying, “Come to me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest” ( Matthew 11:28 ).
He was talking about the fact that only He can cause us to rest from the heavy burdens and pains that this world can sometimes bring. We can rest in the fact that, like a yoke with animals, our load is shared and becomes less burdensome for Him. You may have heard the phrase that a shared joy is doubled, but a shared load is reduced to half.
Paul also wrote about a yoke, but in this case, it was an unequal yoke that has to do with relationships. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, he said, “Do not be yoked with unbelievers. For what do justice and evil have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?
Next, Paul clarifies what he is saying by quoting the Old Testament verse from Isaiah 52:11 but which is also repeated in Revelation 18:5 “Come out from them and turn aside, says the Lord” ( 2 Cor 6, 17 ). First of all, this means that “we should not associate with sexually immoral people.”
The law of the yoke
God commanded a law of mercy in the Old Testament about not uniting animals that were not alike. Our Lord did not support it, because it was inhumane to make different animals pull the same load; one would have to carry most of the weight. This is mentioned in several places in the Old Testament, such as in Deuteronomy 22:10, which says “Do not work with beasts of different kinds, joined together.”
For example, if you had a donkey on one side and an ox on the other, the ox would carry most of the weight. Also, because a donkey is more stubborn, it might try to veer to the right or left or come to a complete stop. Therefore, the ox could end up carrying the entire load and dragging the donkey.
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We hope that there are no doubts about what a yoke is and which one is correct for each occasion. Jesus gives us rest, but apart from Him, there is only work and trouble. We must take on the yoke of Jesus because our burdens are too heavy for us to carry ourselves. On the other hand, it is not recommended to be yoked with an unbeliever, which means we should not marry unbelievers because we are going to go in two different directions.