Balaam and the Ass

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This is another story which liberals sneer at us for believing: the account of the prophet, Balaam, who was rebuked by his ass (Numbers 22: 23-33).

Modern people think the people of the ancient world were credulous ninnies. Actually, people of Balaam’s time would have known much more about domestic animals than we do. They would have certainly known that an ass doesn’t talk.

Ah! But according to liberal scholars who don’t believe the Bible anyway, this was only a story cooked up by Jewish priests to pass the time while they were held captive in Babylon. At worst it was an idle tale to be imposed upon the gullible. At best it was a metaphor.

The Bible tells us that Balaam was a prophet, a man with the ability to communicate directly with God, a man held in high esteem even by kings and princes. As the children of Israel neared the Promised Land, the king of Moab sought to hire Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam was not eager to do this, but eventually the king’s emissaries soft-soaped him into it. And so Balaam sinned by selling the gift of God.

On his way to the king of Moab, Balaam was confronted by an angel of the Lord’s wrath. Because he had wilfully subjected himself to spiritual blindness, Balaam couldn’t see the angel. But the ass he was riding could: and three times the ass did Balaam an injury while avoiding the angel with the sword. When Balaam, because he totally failed to perceive the cause of what was happening, beat the ass, “the Lord opened the mouth of the ass,” and the ass rebuked Balaam and had to explain the situation to him.

Then Balaam went on to Moab; but instead of cursing israel, was compelled by God to bless him.

I believe this narrative is true–and that it was remembered, and kept in the Bible, because it was a miracle: a thing that could only happen because God made it happen. Balaam was a high and mighty VIP who was rebuked by an ass, the least prestigious of riding animals. I dare you to tell me God doesn’t love to work that way! He uses weak things of the world to overthrow the things that are mighty, foolish things to confound the wisdom of this world, and things that are despised, to take down the things that are held in high esteem (1 Corinthians Chapter 1).

Another thing learned by Balaam, in the course of his humbling experience: God is not a man, that He should lie (Numbers 23:19).

And even Balaam was never such a fool as to mock anyone for believing God.

7 comments on “Balaam and the Ass

  1. “the Lord opened the mouth of the ass,” That’s a good enough explanation for me. If the creator of the universe chooses to make a donkey talk, who am I to argue.

  2. I haven’t read that entire account from end to end for some time now, until today. There’s a lot in there that applies to our day.

    When Yahweh delivered His people from Egypt, the nations of the region were probably quite perplexed. How do a group of slaves defeat the most powerful army on earth and form into a nation? If they wiped out the Egyptian army (with God’s help) what would they do to the smaller nations of the region. I’m certain that they were rightfully concerned.

    The thing that stands out to me, in Numbers 22 & 23, is that this nation formed a cohesive identity and Balaam pointed that out. They weren’t going to mix with other nations, and to this day, the Jewish people remain a distinct culture, no matter where they are found. More amazingly, there are tiny pockets of people in as far flung places as China, India and deep within Africa, that bleed their meat and keep Shabbat. These people are quite possibly the offspring of the ten northern tribes, disperse in BC 722 by Sennacherib.

    But this isn’t about just the Israelites, it’s about God’s ability to uphold His sovereignty. Not only did Balaam not curse the Israelites, he was prevented from doing so under penalty of death. Had he persisted, had he misused his gift from above, he would have been struck dead. That angel didn’t have a sword because he thought it looked cool, he was ready to use it if Balaam didn’t obey.

    And so it is today with God’s purposes. He will prevail and His will is going to happen. These days, the talking asses seem to be speaking against all that is godly, so I guess that Satan is the god that inspires their speech. 🙂

  3. Indeed, satan is behind all of this disgusting action, and in Yah’s good time, it will be ended, just as He tells us in Scripture. Why anyone would find it unbelievable that God could cause a donkey to speak, when it is He who created the entire universe. Oh, that’s right, they don’t believe that either. If one rejects the creation account, everything else is considered false, too. I am working on an article that addresses this very situation.
    Remember that a little later on, Balaam lost his life. It does not pay to
    put money ahead of the love and obedience toward the Almighty.
    I love the verse in Isaiah 45:7 which covers it all.
    Shabbat Shalom

  4. “If one rejects the creation account, everything else is considered false,”

    I heard a story, recently, about a visitor to Russia that paraphrased the creation account as parrot of a conversation with another believer. He noticed that a Russian man was standing nearby and crying. As it turns out, this Russian had never heard the Genesis account before and was moved to tears.

    If everyone was taught the creation account from Genesis, even if many didn’t accept it, there would still be a positive effect, because Genesis is the foundation of civilization itself.

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