an agricultural term used in two senses.
1. The curved piece of wood upon the neck of draught animals, by which they are fastened to the pole or beam. This well-known implement of husbandry is described in the Hebrew language by the terms mot (מוֹט), motah (מוֹטָה), and 'ol (עֹל), the former two specifically applying to the bows of wood out of which it was constructed, and the last to the application (binding) of the article to the neck of the ox. The expressions are combined in Le 26:13 and Eze 34:27, with the meaning, "bands of the yoke." The Hebrew word 'ol (Nu 19:2; De 21:3; 1Sa 6:7) is often used as the symbol of servitude or slavery (1Ki 12:4-11; Isa 9:4; Isa 10:27; Isa 14:25; Isa 47:6; Jer 5:5), and to break the yoke is to become free (Ge 27:40; Jer 2:20; Jer 5:5; Na 1:13). An iron yoke is the symbol of severe bondage (De 28:48; Jer 28:14). The term "yoke" is also used as the symbol of calamity or suffering (La 1:14; La 3:27). The Hebrew word motah also signifies a yoke as worn chiefly by men; probably such as is still borne by water-
carriers, having a vessel suspended by a rope or chain at each end (Jer 27:2; Jer 28:10,12). The breaking or removal of the yoke is an emblem of freedom (Isa 58:6,9; Le 26:13; Eze 30:18; Eze 34:27; Na 1:13). So, likewise, the corresponding Greek term, ζύγός is used as the emblem of spiritual service (Mt 11:29-30), also of spiritual bondage (Ac 15:10; Ga 5:1).
Among the ancient Egyptians yokes of different kinds were used for several purposes (see Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1:33, 379; 2:15).
(1) In many instances men were employed to carry the water in pails, suspended by a wooden yoke borne upon their shoulders. The same yoke was employed for carrying other things, as boxes, baskets containing game and poultry, or whatever was taken to market; and every trade seems to have used it for this purpose, from the potter and the brick-maker to the carpenter and the shipwright. The wooden bar or yoke was about three feet seven inches in length; and the straps, which were double, and fastened together at the lower as well as at the upper extremity, were of leather, and between fifteen and sixteen inches long. The small thong at the bottom not only served to connect the ends, but was probably intended to fasten a hook, or an additional strap, if required, to attach the burden; and though most of these yokes had two, some were furnished with four or eight straps; and the form, number, or arrangement of them varied according to the purposes for which they were intended.
(2) For ploughing the mode of yoking the beasts was exceedingly simple. Across the extremity of the pole a wooden yoke or cross-bar, about fifty- five inches or five feet in length, was fastened by a strap lashed backwards and forwards over a prominence projecting from the centre of the yoke, which corresponded to a similar peg, or knob, at the end of the pole; and occasionally, in addition to these, was a ring passing over them as in some Greek chariots. At either end of the yoke was a flat or slightly concave projection, of semicircular form, which rested on a pad placed upon the withers of the animal; and through a hole on either side of it passed a thong for suspending the shoulder-pieces which formed the collar. These were two wooden bars, forked at about half their length, padded so as to protect the shoulder from friction, and connected at the lower end by a strong, broad band passing under the throat. Sometimes the draught, instead of being from the withers, was from the head, the yoke being tied to the base of the horns; and in religious ceremonies oxen frequently drew the bier, or the sacred shrine, by a rope fastened to the upper part of the horns, without either yoke or pole. SEE PLOUGH.
(3) For curricles and war-chariots the harness was similar, and the pole in either case was supported on a curved yoke fixed to its extremity by a strong pin, and bound with straps or thongs of leather. The yoke, resting upon a small, well-padded saddle, was firmly fitted into a groove of metal; and the saddle, placed upon the horses' withers, and furnished with girths and a breast-band, was surmounted by an ornamental knob; while in front of it a small hook secured the bearing rein. SEE CHARIOT.
The word "yoke" also signifies a pair of oxen, so termed as being yoked together (1Sa 11:7; 1Ki 19:19,21). The Hebrew term, tsemed (צֶמֶד), is also applied to asses (Jg 19:10) and mules (2Ki 5:17), and even to a couple of riders (Isa 21:7). The term tsemed is also applied to a certain amount of land, equivalent to that which a couple of oxen could plough in a day (Isa 5:10; A.V. "acre"), corresponding to the Latin jugum (Varro, R.R. 1:10). The term stands in this sense in 1Sa 14:14 (A.V. "yoke"); but the text is doubtful, and the rendering of the Sept. suggests that the true reading would refer to the instruments (ἐνκόλαξι) wherewith the slaughter was effected. SEE OX.