Background of the wild donkey
Many Bible interpreters of Genesis 16:12 point at the ‘wild Arabs.’ However, donkeys are not animals of prey and only eat plants so the picture of wild and aggressive doesn’t fit at all. In fact, donkeys are very valuable beasts of burden. They’re known to be stubborn, but can be trained to follow a course on their own. For that reason they are even utilized to smuggle between countries! Their stubbornness stands out compared to the behavior of sheep and goats, but is nothing in view of the independence of animals of prey.
Wild donkeys have been present in the Middle East for centuries. Even today herds can be found in the Arabian peninsula, for instance in the U.A.E. and Oman, where they freely roam about. They are social animals, living in groups of up to 100 animals. God said to Job, “Who has let the wild donkey go free?” (Job 39:5).
That means the image of the wild donkey is that of freedom and independence, much like the mustangs in North-America, as opposed to being someone’s ownership.
For further study, go to Study Wild Donkey
A wild donkey in action in the U.A.E.