“the burial of a donkey.” The phrase is a harsh irony because donkeys were not buried, they were just dragged away to where they could be eaten by vultures and vermin. Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, and was bound by him to be carried off to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:6), but died before he could be exiled. He was not honored as a king, but instead his dead body was simply thrown outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem as if he were a dead donkey or camel.
Animals and often unwanted or despised humans were not buried in the biblical culture. In fact, that has been the case through the centuries in the Middle East, and still happens today with animals—their dead bodies are left on the ground where they are eaten by the birds and animals. Goliath taunted David by saying he would give David’s body “to the birds of the air and to the animals of the field” and David answered back and said that he would give the dead bodies of the Philistines to the birds and animals (1 Sam. 17:44, 46). The Bible has several references to the unwanted dead bodies of people being left on the ground to be eaten by animals and birds (Jer. 7:33; 16:4; 34:20; Rev. 19:21).
In 1935, Ida Bebbington made a pilgrimage to Israel and wrote in her diary, “At one part in the road lay a dead camel’s carcass, they never bother about removing the dead bodies (so you will gather what a lot of places are like)” (“The Jerusalem Report,” Tamuz 5, 5779 (July 8, 2019), Vol. XXX, No. 13, p.22).