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.

Sorry–I Believe the Bible

I had occasion yesterday to consult “Biblical scholars.” But as usual, I found their company to be annoying–because most of them seem not to believe hardly a single word the Bible says. They (most of them) would have us believe that virtually the whole Old Testament is fiction, cooked up by Jewish priests looking to wile away the years of captivity in Babylon by spinning tall tales.

I like to think that I know something about writing fiction. I’ve been doing it for almost all my life. And reading a lot of it, too. Not to mention history produced by Greeks and Romans, Britons, Scandinavian peoples, and others.

The great medieval Icelandic historian, Snorri Sturlusson, said he trusted his sources–royal poets, most of them–because, had they praised the kings who employed them with stories and boasts that people knew were not true, they would only win for their kings mockery, not praise. I take that to be always true. People have always laughed at empty boasts.

So not only would those fictioneering Jewish priests have exposed themselves to ridicule–but why would they take their two greatest kings, David and Solomon, and describe how those kings fell into sin and folly, and brought evil on their country? No Roman historian–and Roman historians, like Livy, are always, always accused to making their subjects look much better than they were–would have dreamed of writing such a thing.

The practice of tearing down the great and famous men of the past never came into general use until late in the 19th century. There could have been no reason whatsoever for Biblical chroniclers to show Solomon, wise King Solomon, indulging in foolish behavior that ruined his kingdom.

They would not have written that unless it were true and everyone knew it to be true. Ditto David and some of his more egregious mis-steps.

This, of course, is a vast subject and I have only scraped its surface here. But if scholars are going to accuse the Bible writers of spinning yarns, they would do well to acquire some slight understanding of fiction.