Bamidbar (Numbers) 22:2–25:9
In our weekly portion one reads the famous account of Balaam and his donkey as they were on their way to Balak, the King of Moav:
So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab. But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. “But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” And Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.” But the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I shall tell you.” So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.”
This is a well-known story in the Bible, which I wrote about in my blog, Out of the Mouth of… a Donkey?!. This time, I would like to share some additional thoughts regarding having the right perspective about ourselves and about various situations we might be in.
Just as a reminder, the scriptures are unclear if Balaam was an actual prophet (with questionable character), or some kind of magician. Regardless, he was known enough that Balak sent for him to come and curse Israel, as Balak believed that he had the power to do so.
Central to this week's parasha is the donkey, which is not one of the smartest animals, but nonetheless, the animal that God chose to fulfill His purposes. And not only that, but God chose to do this in a supernatural way by having a donkey speak!
This made me think about the use of animals in Scripture and how oftentimes, God uses them to give us a proper perspective of ourselves and of situations in our lives. As I mentioned, Balaam was a person of importance, a highly respected soothsayer. Yet, it was a donkey that saw the Angel of the LORD first, and it was the mouth of the donkey that the Angel of the LORD opened to speak and fulfill His purpose.
At times, I feel we consider ourselves much higher than we really are. We approach things from a place of arrogance and power, rather than from a place of humility. We think that we know better and look down at others with a judgmental eye. Yet, here a donkey saw the Angel of the LORD before a man saw Him; a donkey spoke the words that God put in his mouth before the man did.
Isn't it interesting that a man, who has free choice, chose not to obey God? Furthermore, what might it say about us humans when we see God using a donkey to fulfill His purpose? Or when we find that a donkey recognizes the Angel of the LORD, fears the Angel of the LORD and even speaks God's words before we do?
I believe that this account serves to remind us to look at ourselves from the right perspective; it humbles us and helps us to remember, once again, that there is nothing particularly special about us other than the LORD within us, and that, unlike Balaam, we would do well to listen to God and obey Him in the first place.
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
Share this Post