There once was a Prophet Balaam. He was famous through the Middle East.
When hordes of Israelites fled Egypt and invaded the Middle East like locusts , they destroyed everything in their path. When they pitched their tents in the plains of Moab, King Balak was terrified that he and his people might be next.
King Balak knew that the Prophet Balaam had the power to bless and curse. “Whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.”
So, King Balak sent his princes to Balaam inviting him to come to Moab to curse the Israelites. “Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide against me.” “Come now, I pray thee, curse this people; for they are too mighty for me: that I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land.”
The princes offered Prophet Balaam lucrative “rewards of divination.”
But “God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them: thou shalt not curse the people; for they are blessed.”
Balaam told the king’s messengers, that even “if Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold [hint], I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord.”
“Everyone has their price.” Hoping to get rich, “Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.”
“God’s anger was kindled because [Balaam] went; and the [avenging] angel of the Lord stood in the way against him.” Unfortunately, Balaam did not see the avenging angel.
Fortunately, his “ass” did. But his “ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand.” “And the ass turned aside and went into the field.” So, Balaam “smote his “ass.”
“When the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall.” So, “he smote her again.”
“The angel stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or the left. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.”
Balaam’s poor ass was flustered and collapsed. Balaam started beating his ass with a pole.
Finally, the Lord took pity on Balaam’s ass. He let Balaam’s ass speak out loud in order to verbally defend herself. Balaam’s ass pleaded, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?”
At this point, most of us would have freaked out. “My gosh, my ass is talking to me!” “I didn’t know my ass could talk!” “Who ever heard of a talking ass?” Instead, Prophet Balaam argued with his ass.
He answered his ass, “Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.”
Balaam’s ass pleaded, “Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine?”
“Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head and fell flat on his face.”
Oops! Balaam immediately repented, “I have sinned.” “I will get me back [to Israel] again.”
The angel had other plans for Balaan. “Go with the [princes to Moab], but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shall speak.”
Finally, Prophet Balaam arrived at King Balak’s place. King Balak was relieved.
However, instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam proclaimed that they were blessed and chosen by the Lord himself. Balaam then blessed the Israelites, instead of cursing them.
And, King Balak went berserk.
Moral: “Don’t argue with jackasses!”
P.S. In seminary, I read this story with a straight face using “ass” instead of “donkey.” My students assumed I was clueless about the double meaning of “ass.” They snickered during the entire lesson. But they remembered it.
(Sources: Numbers 22 – 24; “Balaam,” Bible Dictionary.)