Balaam and his animal guide

John_Linnell_-_The_Prophet_Balaam_and_the_Angel_-_Google_Art_Project

“The Prophet Balaam and the Angel” by John Linnell

Talk of animal guides is common enough in Pagan traditions, especially Shamanism, but not so much within Christianity or Judaism.  Nevertheless, the story of Balaam and his donkey, found within the Old Testament book of Numbers, provides a striking example of the will of the Creator being communicated to humanity through a creature. Perhaps there’s something we can learn from this? The author narrates the incident as follows:

Balaam’s Donkey

Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of YHWH stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

Then the angel of YHWH stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of YHWH, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

Then the angel of YHWH moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of YHWH, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then YHWH opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

The donkey said to Balaam, “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?”

“No,” he said.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of YHWH standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

The angel of YHWH asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

Balaam said to the angel of YHWH, “I have sinned. I did not realise you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

The angel of  YHWH said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

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