Sunday, July 11, 2010
Jerry is not familiar with either the term "Balaam's Ass" or the story from the Bible (Numbers Chapter 22-24). I'd guess there are lots of people who aren't familiar with it. The story itself can have as many interpretations as there are readers and religions, and it can probably be interpreted even without a religious bent, though I personally would be hard-pressed to do it.
In a very simplistic explanation, an ass, upon which a man (Balaam) is riding, suddenly stops and won't go any further. The man hits the ass to get it going again - in fact, he has to do this three times - but the ass doesn't move an inch foreward. What the ass sees that the man doesn't is that there is an angel in his path and the angel is brandishing a sword. Finally God gives the ass a voice, and the ass tells Balaam why he can't go any further.
There is lots more to this story on both sides - what brought this all about and how it ends up. In literature there are often allusions to a talking donkey or another bit of imagery that appear in this story, and if one didn't know a little about it, one might miss the implication.
It's perfectly ok not to know it, but anyone who's had a modicum of bible studies in their adult life will certainly know about Balaam's ass and probably will have heard plenty of sermons on it.
But better than the words and the allusions, I think, are the wonderful pictures that artists have rendered of this event. I picked two out that show the wide variation in style. I am particularly fond of the picture at the top of the blog, and if I was at the beginning of my adult life, I might try to do a 28-to-the-inch counted cross-stitch of it.
There is no particular point to this blog today, except that Jerry was working a crossword puzzle and was stumped by "Balaam's _____". He asked, I produced and have been thinking about it since. So now you know where some of my ideas come from.
And did you know that this is one of only two times in the entire bible that an animal talks? The other is that old wily serpent in the garden of Eden.