Gallery C

Talking To The Animals
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Balaam And The Talking Donkey

By James Donahue

Balaam is a deceiver and a wicked character in the Old Testament who worked with King Balak to lead the Israelites into transgression. We should not be surprised, then, in the Book of Numbers, when we read how Balaam whipped his donkey three times because it refused to carry him in the direction he wished to travel.

What is surprising is that after the third whipping, the donkey turned its head around and started talking to Balaam. “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” it asked.

Even more surprising is that Balaam didn’t seem surprised that his donkey was talking to him. Instead, he answered: “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand I would kill you right now.”

And to this the donkey asked: “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

The animal argued it’s faithfulness in the past, and suggested that there might be a good reason it was refusing to go where Balaam was attempting to travel.

As it turns out, the donkey was seeing an angel in the road that was blocking the way. But Balaam was apparently unable to see this spiritual being and thus he was unable to understand the animal’s behavior.

Reading on to verse 22:31-32 we are told the angel suddenly makes himself visible to Balaam and reveals that Balaam’s path “is a reckless one. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now (but spared the donkey.)

While fundamental Bible students might want to believe that the donkey actually talked to Balaam, we have to look at this story with an understanding that it was merely a lesson in personal respect for animals and perhaps being aware of the paths we choose in life.
In the years that I have owned and loved various pets, I have been aware of their sensitivity to spiritual entities that share our world. Thus it is no surprise to me that the donkey could see the angel while Balaam, in his haste to get where he was intending to go, was blindly riding into trouble.
It was not until the donkey threw himself to the ground that Balaam saw the angel.
But talking to the donkey was another matter. The writer of the story attributes this miracle to the Lord, who opened the donkey’s mouth and gave him the ability to speak. But if this happened, why was it that Balaam did not seem surprised that his donkey was not only talking to him, but admonishing him for his behavior? Instead Balaam starts to argue with his donkey and even threatens to kill it. Believe me, if I discovered that I owned a donkey that could speak, I would be heading for the nearest circus or television station to make the best of such good fortune. The last thing on my mind would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

We have to write this story off as yet another part of the grand fiction packed into the book the Jews and Christians accept as the true inspired historical record of the Hebrew people.