June 12, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXV: Balaam: A Smashed Foot & A Talking Donkey

Balaam was a pagan diviner or “seer” that did not believe in the one true God. Balak the King of Moab sends for him so that he will come and curse Israel because they were too mighty for Balak or too numerous. This is similar to the king of Egypt that enslaved the Hebrews in Exodus 1.

There is a lot of amusing things that occur here. Balaam is approached by God and told not to go to Balak as requested and not to curse the Israelite people because they are actually blessed by God. Balak continues to solicit Balaam’s services but God thwarts him. Balak entices with riches and God thwarts with warnings. Balaam realizes that no matter what he wants to do or what Balak wants him to do, he cannot do anything contrary to the command of the “Lord my God”. So instead of doing what Balak asks Balaam to do, God actually commands him to do only the things God speaks to him. Welcome "The Reverse World of Balaam and Barak".

Here is where it gets quite strange. Balaam saddles his donkey and goes with the leaders of Moab. God is angered Balaam goes and the Angel of the LORD stands in his way. The donkey, seeing the Angel of the Lord detours and makes a B-line into an adjoining field. Balaam not being able to discern the Angel of the Lord whacks the donkey to turn her back on course. Again the Angel blocks the donkey’s way so it presses against the wall smashing Balaam’s foot which again solicits another whack from Balaam. A third time the Angel blocks the donkey, and a third time the donkey takes evasive maneuvers by lying down. Balaam is incensed with anger at this point and proceeds to strike the donkey with a stick. The Lord then opens the mouth of the donkey and asks Balaam through the donkey, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" I don’t know about Balaam but my first reaction wouldn’t be to answer the donkey but I’d wonder why its talking. What is even more amusing is that Balaam answers the animal without thinking twice or hesitating. The Lord then reveals the angel to Balaam and he is grateful that his life has been spared.

We then begin to see in the end of chapter 22 and subsequent chapters the other amusing incident as a series of events concerning the cursing of Israel that Balaam is originally summoned for. Balaam instead of cursing Israel ends up blessing them instead as directed by God. This is again similar to Pharaoh’s stubbornness in Egypt in terms of an enemy working against Israel and God working in their favor. The more that Balak insists on curses the more he gets blessings from Balaam. The harder man works against God the more God works through what was suppose to be the “negative” and turns it into positives for those he loves. Try to push God and not only will He push back in His own time, He will do it from a direction He choses, not from the direction you will be expecting. It is His Creation not yours. It is ironic and directly reminiscent of Joseph’s statement to his brothers in...

Genesis 50:20: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result....”

We really need to view the absurdity of trying to resist God's will as folly. It is humorous to think that a infinitesimally small and finite human would even attempt to resist a sovereign omnipotent (but merciful) God but we see it everyday. We have some of these foolish resistances recorded for spiritual, theological and historical reasons here in the Bible. We should learn an obvious lesson here but sadly, the fact that our arms are to short to box with God will evade many.

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