Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Weird Stuff In The Bible #3 – Balaam And His Talking Donkey

Hey everybody! Welcome to the one story that’s been giving me quite the conniption for the past few weeks. What I thought would be a funny little OT talking animal story devolved into a true hornet’s nest of Why Did God Do That! And, hilariously, that question was NOT sparked by God giving a donkey the momentary gift of speech.

WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN THIS WEIRD TALE?

Balak, who’s the King of Moab; Balaam, a prophet/diviner/shady guy (Balak? Balaam? again with this infernal name alliteration! What the hell? Does God seriously NOT want me to keep names straight around here?); and Balaam's donkey. Donkey, ass, whatever. 

WHERE IS THIS IN THE BIBLE?

Numbers 22: 21-35.

WHAT'S THE BACKSTORY? 

Remember those crazy whiny Israelites? The ones that the Lord delivered out of Egypt and away from Pharaoh, and then they spent 40 years wandering in the desert trying to find the Promised Land and whining about it every step of the way? So Balaam's Talking Donkey is near the end of that time period.

It appears that Israel can whine a bunch AND fight a bunch of nations whose land they're passing through at the same time. As they're trying to find the Promised Land, they go through various territories. And though they ask permission to go through Heshbon, the land of the Amorites, the Amorites decide they're going to try and destroy them instead of letting them pass. Whiny Israel stops their complaining of "Where the hell IS this Promised Land anyway?" long enough to beat the pants off of the Amorites, and destroys them and their King Sihon. Then they sing a song about it, and maybe it went something like this:

I haaaaaaaaaaaate the desert, 
I haaaaaaaaaaaate the desert, 
I haaaaaaaaaaaate the desert, 
And the Lord doesn’t love us…. 

(Hey! Bad guys are coming! Draw your weapons!)

I kill you! I kill you! I kill you all! 
I kill you! I kill you! I kill you all! 
I kill you! I kill you! I kill you all! 

(Bad guys are dead. Take a breath)

I haaaaaaaaaaaate the desert, 
I haaaaaaaaaaaate the desert, 
I haaaaaaaaaaaate the desert, 
And the Lord doesn’t love us…. 

The Israelites continue their whining and their rampaging, destroying the land of King Og and King Og’s people as well. Now the Israelites are continuing their chant of "Are you SURE there's a Promised Land that we're supposed to get to?" through the land of Moab (fun linked fact! Moab is where Ruth is from!) This upsets the Moab king, King Balak, who's heard about Israel destroying King Sihon and King Og, and is rightly worried that he might be next.

AND NOW OUR STORY BEGINS! 

So King Balak sends his messengers and a bunch of money to Balaam, asking him to travel to Moab and curse the Israelites. Apparently, Balaam can curse and bless as directed by The Lord. So he's high in demand. And Balak’s bribe is to make sure Balak’s request gets to the front of the line.

The way that The Lord speaks to Balaam is in dreams, so after Balaam hears Balak’s request, Balaam goes beddy bye and waits to hear what The Lord says.

And The Lord says, "Nope, you're not putting a curse on those Israelites, those are my FAAAVVVVOOORITE people ever (i.e. they're already blessed by Me, even though they whine a bunch.)”

So in the morning, Balaam tells Balak's messengers, sorry but no, and sends them away. King Balak ups the game by arranging a SECOND visit, sending more money and "more distinguished" guests, so I'm guessing it's the OT version of, like, George Clooney or something.

Balaam says, "Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God." (Numbers 22:18)

BUT! Balaam also says, "Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.” (Numbers 22:19) And that night, The Lord tells him, "Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” (Numbers 22:20)

So in the morning. Balaam gets up and goes with the Distinguished Guests back to Moab. But The Lord gets angry.

WHY DID THE LORD CHANGE HIS MIND? WHY DOES THE LORD GET ANGRY WHEN HE TOLD BALAAM TO GO WITH THEM? 

 Welcome to the giant hornet’s nest that’s consumed me for two weeks! And we haven’t even gotten to the donkey! Gaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

Okay, if you want the bland vanilla Happy Chipper Christian answer, it’s that The Lord allowed x to happen so He could display his awesome power by doing y (see last week’s Cursing The Fig Tree story).

I’m never happy with that answer, so I researched and researched and my eyes crossed, and crossed again and I got an unrelated sinus infection that has nothing to do with this, but sure is making me ornery, and finally went to one of the Smartest People I Know – Stella, she of the lovely baby Mirabella and very awesome hubby Wella.

We went through a few emails about Hebrew translations, because some Bibles have Numbers 22:20 as saying "SINCE these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” whereas other Bibles say, "IF these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Regardless if it’s IF or SINCE, it doesn’t really matter because the OT version of George Clooney is already at Balaam’s place, and he HAS asked (Numbers 22: 16-17).

But what Stella drew out is that Balaam’s doing a wink wink nudge nudge to the OT version of George Clooney in verse 19. The Lord’s already told Balaam no, you can’t go. Why would Balaam ask again? Why would Balaam think The Lord would change his mind? Because Balaam’s a shady guy and he basically wants the money that King Balak is offering.

So that’s pissed The Lord off, and his response in verse 20, "Since (or If, depending on your translation) these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you” is easier to understand if you read it as eye rolling sarcasm on The Lord’s part.

As Stella helpfully put it: “In a nutshell, I'd say this comes down to God saying, "Well, okay then. I created free will, so I understand that you need to do what you need to do. And by the way...SO DO I."

ENTER THE TALKING DONKEY!!!!

So now Balaam, his donkey, and the OT version of George Clooney are on the road back to Moab. The Lord sends an Angel of The Lord with a sword to stand in all sorts of places to get Balaam to turn back. On the road, in the vineyards, and finally blocking the entire path.

Balaam keeps beating his donkey to get back on the path, because nobody can see this Angel With The Sword except Balaam's donkey. The donkey, rightfully being scared, finally gives up and lies down on the path, refusing to go farther.

Balaam's beating the donkey, and would probably have done so until the donkey died, "Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” "(Numbers 22:28)

That's right. The Lord loves beaten donkeys so much He'll suddenly give them the gift of speech so they can quite politely inquire as to why their masters are beating them mercilessly.   Such a polite donkey! Now suddenly able to speak, the first thing is not "YO, MORON! STOP BEATING ME! CAN'T YOU SEE THE ANGEL IN THE ROAD WITH THE SWORD, YOU IDIOT! WE'RE GONNA DIE IF WE KEEP GOING FORWARD!"

Balaam immediately replies, "When the hell did you learn to talk?" NO! He says, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” (Numbers 22:29)

WHY ISN'T BALAAM THE LEAST BIT CURIOUS THAT HIS DONKEY IS NOW TALKING? 

Because Balaam's a moron? I mean, this is a guy who's defying The Lord. The smart odds are not in his favor.

But basically, I think The Lord was trying to get Balaam’s attention via the only thing He thought Balaam would pay attention to – a talking ass.

I mean, you have a direct conversation with the Almighty in which He’s told you not to go, you asked again and couldn’t detect the eye rolling somewhat passive aggressive response from The Lord of “Sure, GO AHEAD and Go!” and you went anyway. What’s it gonna take to get through to you, Balaam? Huh?

Anyhow, THEN the Lord “opens Balaam’s eyes” (Numbers 22:31) and Balaam sees the Angel With The Sword (regrettably, nothing is said about what the OT version of George Clooney sees during all of this.)

Angel With The Sword and Balaam have a conversation about how Balaam is stupid (my paraphrase) but the Lord wants Balaam to go ahead and go to Balak anyway, because the Lord is gonna do a nifty cool trick on everyone.

So Balaam gets to King Balak, takes his money, King Balak wants Balaam to curse the Israelites, but every time Balaam opens his mouth, he blesses them instead (hiding behind “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” (Numbers 22:12), because The Lord’s power is coming through Balaam, embarrassing him and infuriating King Balak, who sends him away.

Later on (Numbers 31), Balaam’s an evil weasel who advises the kings of Midianites on how to get the Israelites to curse themselves (so Balaam never had to do it), and he’s finally killed by the Israelites.

But I wonder what happened to Balaam’s poor donkey. His poor beaten donkey, who had the gift of speech for two verses in Number 22. Did she never get to talk again? Did she think, “Finally! I get to say what I always wanted!” only to be silenced once the narrative shifts off of her in verse 36 and beyond?

Reminds me of what the fish must’ve thought during the 40 days and nights of rain when the earth was flooded. Do you wonder if they were thinking, YES! THE WORLD IS OURS AND WE WILL RULE IT ALL! Only to have the rug pulled out from under them on day 41 when land showed up again?

It’s weird, all right.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

man that is so funny i can barely read it.

heres something forget the Christian bible altogether and go to the source. the children of noahs son Sem the Arabs and Jews the semites.

Anonymous said...

start at the beginning a good place to start. Cain killed Abel and was exiled to nod where he married Ramona a local fairy girl. they had Enoch and Enoch married a scary looking genie too.
meanwhile back on mount hermon Adam sees these cainite fairies in the valley below are looking more attractive and he fears Seths children will take them as brides. so he begs Seth to make mount hermon an anchorage connected to heaven alone and to stay away from the cainite genie.

Google anchorites and then think,
Thats going a bit far isnt it, i dont think the sethites did that. lol

Anonymous said...

in the end the sethites do come down the mountain and take the fairy cainite girls as brides.

noahs ark aka the fairy princess would have been a sight for saw eyes as according to the muzzies all the girls were cainite genies including Mrs noah herself.

so there was one pure sethite noah the blonde, 3 half caste boys or nephilums and 4 downright fairies.
no wonder us kids came out looking so different

Anonymous said...

call me suspicious but i think the Jews believe Cain was a werewolf.

heres the story
one day the cains fairy grandson and his son were out hunting.

in the distance they could see a "horrid wild beast" so the son gave the bow to his blind father who shot the arrow and killed the beast. i think they mean rlthe angels guided the arrow. or God shot Cain.

when they arrived at the corpse it had turned back into Cain

Anonymous said...

ham in Hebrew means burnt it seems poor ham grew up to be a common garden variety neph or a black giant.
ham was married to a fairy and they had Cush and Canaan both grew up to look like dad and with behaved outrageously badly hence why God wanted his chosen people to get their hands dirty and do some work on the ground for him.

Anonymous said...

japheth the son most sethie looking fought Nimrod cushs son and another bloody black giant and he smashed the japhites and sent us packing into Europe, japheth son Gomer became the first king of gaul.

Anonymous said...

correction a sight for sore eyes

just Google nodite + jinn
and wives on noahs ark wiki then scroll down to Muslim belief and all the names and family trees are there.