Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Curious Story of Balaam and His Talking Donkey

 By Naomi Craig

A talking donkey, as odd as it seems, is not so uncommon these days. There is Donkey from the movie Shrek, talking beasts of Narnia, not to mention the influx of fantasy shows and books.

Donkey-06 Wikimedia Commons

What does give pause, is the influence a pagan seer had in the Bible.
Did you know Balaam wasn't Israelite, nor was he documented in any way as coming directly in contact with the members of Israel?

You can find his story in Numbers 22-24, where it is documented that he was a "Curses-for-hire" type of guy. He was hired by King Balak of Moab (twice actually) to curse the vast nation of Israel. 

The one true God actually appears to Balaam and tells him "You shall not go with the men," and then on the king's desperate second plea "You may go with them, but you may only speak the words I put in your mouth." (Numbers 22:21)

Something happened in the timeline that isn't recorded in the Bible, because immediately in verse 22, the anger of God is aroused and He sends an angel to block Balaam's way. A change in Balaam's heart perhaps? The temptation of all the riches promised?
Tissot Balaam and the Ass, wikimedia commons

Now the donkey is the only one who sees the angel of the Lord standing in the path with outstretched sword. Uncharacteristically, the donkey disobeys Balaam's prompts and turns away two times, once even crushing his foot against a rock wall. The third time the angel appears in their way, the donkey has no where to turn to avoid the drawn sword, so she lays down underneath Balaam. 
When Balaam begins striking her with his staff, the Lord opens the donkey's mouth and she asks why he is beating her? Has she ever disobeyed his commands?  Clearly she is saving his life these three times from the angel's sword.

Balaam's eyes are opened to the angelic visitor, and is sent on his way with the assurance that he may only speak what the Lord puts in his mouth.

Balaam then makes his way to the general location of where the Israelites are camping east of the Jordan. 

((This all takes place right before the Israelites cross over the Jordan into Canaan.))

Each time the king demands a curse, Balaam can only bless the nation of Israel abundantly.
The king refuses this outcome and takes Balaam up even higher so he can see the extent of the people "...lick[ing] up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” (Numbers 22:4b)
After his four prophetic blessings, Balaam is sent home with no money and no honor.

Nowhere  does it indicate he interacted with the Israelites.

So how did he get in our Bible?

Numbers 23:13 says Balaam went to the top of Mount Pisgah.

Numbers 21:20 says 'they' (the Israelite leaders?) went to the top of Mount Pisgah.

Could it be possible that their paths intersected? 

Balaam is noted as having two servants, perhaps one of them shared about Balaam's blessings instead of curses?

Very curious how a pagan seer and a talking donkey shared the Lord's blessings with and for the nations!

Equidae Equus africanus asinus, wikimedia

Do you recall the story of Balaam and his talking donkey?

A Pagan Seer.

A Slave Boy.

A Talking Donkey.

Unlikely messengers delivering Yahweh's blessings to the nations.

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Author of Biblical fiction, avid reader, pastor's wife, Naomi loves reading the Bible and imagining how things were at the time. When she’s not serving in various areas at church or trying to stay on top of mountains of dishes, you'll most likely find her enjoying a good book and a cup of coffee. Naomi co-hosts #BehindTheStory on YouTube and helps facilitate Biblical Fiction Aficionados Community on Facebook. When not writing or trying to wrangle social media, Naomi attempts to get her rescue dog to be cute on command for the many pics she takes throughout the day.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post today. I guess I haven't noticed the nuances to the story that you brought out. It's interesting that he acknowledged that God was speaking to him, though.