Donkeys of the Bible: Balaam's Ass

June 11, 2023

Donkeys of the Bible: Balaam

Then the Lord opened the ass's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?" Numbers 22:28 (The Jewish Study Bible)

In the only miracle of its kind recorded in the Bible, a donkey actually speaks in the story of Balaam's ass in the Hebrew Scriptures. What she has to bray are words countless donkeys would direct at abusive owners if they, too, were able to talk. In this ancient tale touching on animal welfare, the Prophet Balaam is summoned by the enemies of the Children of Israel to deliver a curse against them. On the way, an angel of the Lord seen only by his donkey blocks his path. When the ass refuses to go forward, Balaam strikes it three times, until God gives the animal the power to speak and humble its master.  In these two selections from the Sacred Art Pilgrim Collection, we see the curling lips of the donkey, struggling to form words, in a painted panel from American Visionary Artist Carl Dixon and an etching from American-Jewish Printmaker Ben Zion found on their profile pages. (John Kohan)