From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

A yoke was a piece of curved wood placed over the neck of an animal to enable it to pull a plough or a cart ( Numbers 19:2). According to a commonly used metaphor, the yoke was a symbol of hardship and bondage ( Genesis 27:40;  1 Kings 12:4;  Isaiah 9:4;  Jeremiah 27:8;  Jeremiah 28:1-16;  1 Timothy 6:1). In this sense Jewish law-keeping was a harsh yoke. It was a burden that the Jewish religious leaders forced upon the people ( Acts 15:10;  Galatians 5:1; cf.  Matthew 23:4).

When people submit to Jesus Christ as their master, they take upon themselves his yoke. Christ’s yoke, however, is not harsh or heavy, but easy and light. Obedience to him does not create weariness, but brings refreshment, joy and meaning to life ( Matthew 11:28-30;  1 John 5:3).

Farmers sometimes yoked animals together to form a pair or a team ( 1 Kings 19:19;  Luke 14:19;  Philippians 4:3); but Israelite law did not allow them to yoke together two animals of a different kind, such as an ox and an ass ( Deuteronomy 22:10). Paul used this to illustrate that a Christian should not enter into a binding relationship (such as marriage) with a non-Christian ( 2 Corinthians 6:14).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

YOKE. —The yoke (ζυγός,  Matthew 11:29 f.) supplied Jesus with one of His agricultural metaphors (cf.  Matthew 13:38,  Luke 12:17;  Luke 15:14,  John 15:1). It was ‘a bar which connects two of a kind usually—as the ox- yoke —fastened by bows on the necks of a pair of oxen and by thongs to the horns or the foreheads of the oxen. It consists generally of a piece of timber hollowed or made curving near each end, and fitted with bows for receiving the necks of the oxen, by which means two are connected for drawing. From a ring or hook in the bow a chain extends to the thing to be drawn’ (Lloyd’s Ency. Dict .). Another use of the word is found in  Luke 14:19 (ζεῦγος, translation ‘pair’ in  Luke 2:24), where it means a pair of draught-oxen. Now, while the facts of farm-life supplied the form for this metaphor of Jesus, it was not there alone that He found the idea of the metaphor. When from the fields His eye turned to the Scriptures to survey the story of His people, on many a page the yoke met His vision. There it is, in prose, poetry, and prophecy; about it have gathered the country’s glory and grief. To itself it has harnessed the people’s experiences. Ideas of opposing character—joy and woe, freedom and slavery, peace and war, plenty and poverty—are symbolized by it ( Deuteronomy 28:48,  Job 1:3;  Job 42:12,  Jeremiah 2:20,  Isaiah 58:6,  1 Kings 12:4,  Lamentations 3:27). Moreover, it is in His treatment of those bitter-sweet memories and realities of life that the teaching of Jesus, under this figure of speech , touches and keeps a lonely sublimity. Only once ( Matthew 11:29 f.) He uses the metaphor. Now it is in everyday use. For He ‘touched nothing that He did not adorn.’ And He so adorned the yoke as to draw after it the whole gospel.

When Jesus turned His gaze from the fields of industrial life, and from the book of remembrance of the past to the book of the life of His own generation, He discovered a nation under the yoke, a race under the harrow. He hit the mark when He spoke of yokes. His audience was made up of those who were wearing yokes of all sorts and sizes, but no man with his own yoke harnessed on exactly as his neighbour’s. On the other hand, that audience was suffering under an intolerable strain. Three yokes were galling and killing them—(1) the yoke of the Law, (2) of Rome, (3) of sin. Their leaders ( Matthew 23:4) bound grievous burdens on the people’s shoulders; nor would they remove them. Of some it was the constant temptation to throw off the yoke of the foreigner. The Zealots ( Luke 6:15) were most restive under Rome. They were the political Nationalists of the day. Again, who of them all was not ‘sold under sin’ ( Romans 7:14)? These were the yokes of the people. The yoke of Jesus was the will of the Father. He wore it always, never worked without it; never against it, always with it ( John 8:29). Once He asked thrice if He might take it off ( Matthew 26:39 ff.) for the road was steep. The yoke of Jesus was the welfare of man. He came to serve ( Mark 10:45). To be Saviour was at once the lowliest, loftiest, and loneliest way of working out the welfare of man. And this yoke was tied on with cords of love ( John 13:1) unto the end. The humanity of Jesus was His yoke. He was, not the angel ( Hebrews 2:9;  Hebrews 2:16), but the man Christ Jesus ( 1 Timothy 2:5); and He did the perfect will of the Father under this yoke, frail but firm—the body of His humiliation.

Literature.—Bishop Thorold’s The Yoke of Christ; Expositor , i. vi. [1877] 142, vii. [1878] 348, xi. [1880] 101; Exp. Times , iii. [1892] 512, vi. [1895] 176; Henry Drummond, Pax Vobiscum , 41; W. A. Butler, Sermons , ii. 320; G. A. Chadwick, Pilate’s Gift , 62; G. Macdonald, Hope of the Gospel , 152.

John R. Legge.

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) A bar or frame of wood by which two oxen are joined at the heads or necks for working together.

(2): ( n.) A frame or piece resembling a yoke, as in use or shape.

(3): ( n.) A frame worn on the neck of an animal, as a cow, a pig, a goose, to prevent passage through a fence.

(4): ( n.) A frame or convex piece by which a bell is hung for ringing it. See Illust. of Bell.

(5): ( v. i.) To be joined or associated; to be intimately connected; to consort closely; to mate.

(6): ( n.) A bent crosspiece connecting two other parts.

(7): ( n.) A tie securing two timbers together, not used for part of a regular truss, but serving a temporary purpose, as to provide against unusual strain.

(8): ( n.) A band shaped to fit the shoulders or the hips, and joined to the upper full edge of the waist or the skirt.

(9): ( n.) A clamp or similar piece that embraces two other parts to hold or unite them in their respective or relative positions, as a strap connecting a slide valve to the valve stem, or the soft iron block or bar permanently connecting the pole pieces of an electromagnet, as in a dynamo.

(10): ( n.) A crosspiece upon the head of a boat's rudder. To its ends lines are attached which lead forward so that the boat can be steered from amidships.

(11): ( n.) Fig.: That which connects or binds; a chain; a link; a bond connection.

(12): ( n.) A mark of servitude; hence, servitude; slavery; bondage; service.

(13): ( n.) Two animals yoked together; a couple; a pair that work together.

(14): ( n.) A portion of the working day; as, to work two yokes, that is, to work both portions of the day, or morning and afternoon.

(15): ( v. t.) To put a yoke on; to join in or with a yoke; as, to yoke oxen, or pair of oxen.

(16): ( v. t.) To couple; to join with another.

(17): ( v. t.) To enslave; to bring into bondage; to restrain; to confine.

(18): ( n.) A frame of wood fitted to a person's shoulders for carrying pails, etc., suspended on each side; as, a milkmaid's yoke.

(19): ( n.) The quantity of land plowed in a day by a yoke of oxen.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

Mot , the wooden bow (ol) bound to the ox's neck: the two are combined, "bands of the yoke" ( Leviticus 26:13;  Ezekiel 34:27;  Jeremiah 2:20, rather "thou hast broken the yoke and burst the bands which I laid on thee," i.e. My laws, setting them at defiance,  Jeremiah 5:5;  Psalms 2:3). Contrast the world's heavy yoke ( 1 Kings 12:4;  1 Kings 12:9;  1 Kings 12:11;  Isaiah 9:11) with Christ's "easy yoke" ( Matthew 11:29-30). Τsemed , a pair of oxen ( 1 Samuel 11:7), or donkeys ( Judges 19:10); a couple of horsemen ( Isaiah 21:7); also what land a pair of oxen could plow in a day ( Isaiah 5:10, "ten acres," literally, ten yokes; Latin: Jugum , Jugerum ;  1 Samuel 14:14).

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]


1. A well-known implement of husbandry, frequently used metaphorically for Subjection, for example,  1 Kings 12:4;  1 Kings 12:9-11;  Isaiah 9:4;  Jeremiah 5:5, hence, an "iron yoke" represents an unusually galling bondage.  Deuteronomy 28:48;  Jeremiah 28:13.

2. A pair of oxen, so termed as being yoked together.  1 Samuel 11:7;  1 Kings 19:19;  1 Kings 19:21. The Hebrew term is also applied to asses,  Judges 19:10, and mules,  2 Kings 5:17, and even to a couple of riders.  Isaiah 21:7.

3. The term is also applied to a certain amount of land,  1 Samuel 14:14, equivalent to that which a couple of oxen could plough in a day,  Isaiah 5:10, (Authorized Version, "acre"), corresponding to the Latin jugum .

King James Dictionary [6]

YOKE, n. G., L., Gr.

1. A piece of timber, hollowed or made curving near each end, and fitted with bows for receiving the necks of oxen by which means two are connected for drawing. From a ring or hook in the bow, a chain extends to the thing to be drawn, or to the yoke of another pair of oxen behind. 2. A mark of servitude slavery bondage.

Our country sinks beneath the yoke.

3. A chain a link a bond of connection as the yoke of marriage. 4. A couple a pair as a yoke of oxen. 5. Service.

My yoke is easy.  Matthew 11 .


1. To put a yoke on to join in a yoke as, to yoke oxen, or a pair of oxen. 2. To couple to join with another.

Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb.

3. To enslave to bring into bondage. 4. To restrain to confine. Libertines like not to be yoked in marriage.

The words and promises that yoke the conqueror, are quickly broke.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

  • In 1Sam  1 Samuel 19:21 ,  Job 1:3 the word thus translated is Tzemed , Which signifies a pair, two oxen yoked or coupled together, and hence in   1 Samuel 14:14 it represents as much land as a yoke of oxen could plough in a day, like the Latin Jugum . In   Isaiah 5:10 this word in the plural is translated "acres."

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Yoke'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/y/yoke.html. 1897.

  • Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]

    The harness that secures an animal to a cart or plough; and the beam to which two animals are fastened for any purpose of labour; it is also used to denote the number two, as 'a yoke of oxen.'  1 Samuel 11:7 . It is employed as a symbol of servitude and slavery.  Jeremiah 28:2-14;  1 Timothy 6:1 . Also of the grievous bondage of being under the law.  Acts 15:10;  Galatians 5:1 . The Lord Jesus invites the believer to take His yoke upon him, and to learn of Him; that is, giving up self-will, to be in submission to the will of God, content to be in the lowest place; and such will find rest to their souls. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.   Matthew 11:29,30 .

    American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

    A symbol of subjection and servitude,  1 Kings 12:4; an iron yoke, of severe oppression,  Deuteronomy 28:48 . The ceremonial law was a yoke, a burden-some restriction,  Acts 15:10   Galatians 5:1 . The withdrawing or breaking of a yoke denoted a temporary or an unlimited emancipation form bondage,  Isaiah 58:6   Jeremiah 2:20 , and sometimes the disowning of rightful authority,  Jeremiah 5:5 . The iron yoke imposed by our sins, none but God can remove,  Lamentations 1:14; but the yoke of Christ's service is easy and light,  Matthew 11:29,30 .

    People's Dictionary of the Bible [10]

    Yoke. It was much lighter and larger than ours, so that the cattle stood farther apart. It was simply a stick laid upon the necks of the cattle, to which it was held by thongs instead of wooden bows, and in a similar manner it was attached to the plough-beam. In modern Syria wooden pins are sometimes used instead of thongs, the lower ends of which are held by a parallel stick under the necks of the oxen. The yoke was an appropriate emblem of subjection and of slavery, while the removal of it indicated deliverance.  Genesis 27:40;  Jeremiah 2:20;  Matthew 11:29-30. Breaking the yoke also represents the rejection of authority. Nan. 1:13.

    Holman Bible Dictionary [11]

     1 Kings 12:4 Jeremiah 27:8 Matthew 11:29-30 Philippians 4:3

    Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [12]

    YOKE . See Agriculture, 1  ; Weights and Measures, 1 .

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

    yōk  :

    (1) The usual word is עול , ‛ōl Genesis 27:40 , etc.), less commonly the (apparently later) form מוטה , mōṭāh ( Isaiah 58:6 , etc.; in Nab  Isaiah 1:13 מוט , mōṭ ), which the Revised Version (British and American) in Jer 27; 28 translates "bar" (a most needless and obscuring change). The Greek in Apocrypha (Sirach 28:19, etc.) and in the New Testament ( Matthew 11:29 f, etc.) is invariably ζυγός , zugós . Egyptian monuments show a yoke that consisted of a straight bar fastened to the foreheads of the cattle at the root of the horns, and such yokes were no doubt used in Palestine also; but the more usual form was one that rested on the neck ( Genesis 27:40 , etc.). It was provided with straight "bars" ( mōṭōth in  Leviticus 26:13;  Ezekiel 34:27 ) projecting downward, against which the shoulders of the oxen pressed, and it was held in position by thongs or "bonds" ( mōṣērōth in  Jeremiah 2:20;  Jeremiah 5:5;  Jeremiah 27:2;  Jeremiah 30:8; 'ăghuddōth in  Isaiah 58:6 , "bands"), fastened under the animals' throats. Such yokes could of course be of any weight ( 1 Kings 12:4 ff), depending on the nature of the work to be done, but the use of "iron yokes" (  Deuteronomy 28:48;  Jeremiah 28:13 f) must have been very rare, if, indeed, the phrase is anything more than a figure of speech.

    What is meant by "the yoke on their jaws" in  Hosea 11:4 is quite obscure. Possibly a horse's bit is meant; possibly the phrase is a condensed form for "the yoke that prevents their feeding"; possibly the text is corrupt. See Jaw .

    The figurative use of "yoke" in the sense of "servitude" is intensely obvious (compare especially   Jeremiah 27,28 ). Attention needs to be called only to  Lamentations 3:27 , where "disciplining sorrow" is meant, and to  Jeremiah 5:5 , where the phrase is a figure for "the law of God." This last use became popular with the Jews at a later period and it is found, e.g. in Apocrypha Baruch 41:3; Psalter of Solomon 7:9; 17:32; Ab . iii. 7,. and in this sense the phrase is employed. by Christ in  Matthew 11:29 f. "My yoke" here means "the service of God as I teach it" (the common interpretation, "the sorrows that I bear," is utterly irrelevant) and the emphasis is on "my." The contrast is not between "yoke" and "no yoke," but between "my teaching" (light yoke) and "the current scribal teaching'; (heavy yoke).

    (2) "Yoke" in the sense of "a pair of oxen" is צמד , cemedh (  1 Samuel 11:7 , etc.), or ζεῦγος , zeúgos ( Luke 14:19 ).

    See also Unequal; Yoke-Fellow .

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

    Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Yoke'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/y/yoke.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.