Monday, October 26, 2009

51: Talking to His Ass

Numbers 21-22
Ok, this post wins for craziest post yet.

Arad attacks Israel as the Israelites come near them. Of course Israel wins, or we wouldn't be reading this. The Israelites again start complaining about their lack of good food, so God sends poisonous snakes after them. Moses prays for God to stop. God tells Moses to carve a bronze snake and put it on a stick. Whoever looks at the snake stick will not die. Ok, that's pretty crazy, but we haven't gotten to the crazy part yet.

The Israelites ask to go through a few more countries and they are denied every time. If the people of the country come after them, the Israelites happily pillage and destroy them with God's blessing. Because apparently our all knowing God knows nothing about diplomacy.

Numbers 22 is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, we are switching narrators. We are now reading from the point of view of the Moabites. Second, this section is full of crazy. The Moabites see the Israelites coming and know they are going to get destroyed. To prevent this they summon Balaam, who can also somehow talk to God. The Moabites tell Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam goes to God in an attempt to curse the Israelites but God says no, because the Israelites are his favorite.

God, after saying no to Balaam, tells him to go with the Moabites but to only do what he (God) says. Balaam does just as God says, he saddles up a donkey and goes with the Moabites. Two sentences later; however, God is angry with Balaam for going with the Moabites. I'm officially confused. Anyway, God is so angry with Balaam for going that he sends an angel to stand in the road in front of him. Balaam's donkey sees the angel's sword and runs away. Balaam beats the donkey and the angel again goes after them and stands in their path. Twice more the donkey tries to flee and twice more Balaam beats her (the donkey) senseless.

The donkey has had enough. She opens her mouth, and says "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?". Just to reiterate, the donkey is talking. Un-phased, Balaam goes on to have a conversation with a donkey. This nonsense starts at Numbers 22:28 if you think I'm making this up. Someone please try to convince me this isn't completely ridiculous, I dare you. Am I reading this out of context? No. Am I reading this out of the context of it's time? Maybe, but that doesn't excuse talking donkeys. Am I somehow skewing this with a liberal bias? Hell no, it's a talking donkey. Would I understand it better in Hebrew? No. It's a donkey, and it's talking.

God then tells Balaam to go back to the Moabites and tell them to do something. I guess this is to be continued in Numbers 23.


  1. It's like, duuuh, metaphorical, man. By "donkey", the Bible obviously means "marital guidance counsellor".

    And anyway, you can't judge yesterday's donkeys by today's rules.

    Don't you know anything?

  2. Hey just a couple of chapters ago there was a talking snake. Is that really less ridiculous than a talking donkey? We tend to gloss over the ridiculousness of that one, though. Probably because that story is much more famous and we know of dozens of interpretations of it. The story of Baalam's ass is one of the more ridiculous elements of the post-Genesis Bible, though I think God stopping the sun from going down so that the Israelites can have enough daylight finish the slaughter of the Amorites in the Book of Joshua ranks right up there as well.

  3. Oh, I still can't wait until you get to haven't seen crazy yet. Talking snakes, talking donkeys - that's fairly mundane. There's more...lots more crazy where that came from.



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