Hello and welcome to my third blog post in the series following Fr. Mike Schmitz’ “Bible in a Year” podcast. Today, we read Numbers chapter 21, and I’d like to take a moment to meditate on verses 26-33, in which a man has an argument with a talking donkey, and the talking donkey wins the argument:
Then the angel of the LORD went ahead , and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either tothe right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made sport of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, upon which you have ridden all your lifelong to this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come forth to withstand you, because your way is perverse before me; and the donkey saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have slain you and let her live.”Numbers 23: 26-33
Why do we never hear these readings on Sunday? It’s a talking donkey! I think my favorite part in all of this is how when the donkey first starts talking, Balaam is just mad at the donkey and tells her off. I’d probably have started with something like, “Wow!!! A talking donkey???” but Balaam is ready to throw down, doesn’t miss a beat, and gives the donkey a piece of his mind.
The saga of Balaam and his donkey is immediately followed, in the Bible in a Year program, with this:
He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.
No bastard shall enter the assembly of the LORD…Deuteronomy 23: 1-2and-a-half
If there is among you any man who is not clean by reason of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp, he shall not come within the camp; but when evening comes on, he shall bathe himself in water, and when the sun is down, he may come withing the camp.
You shall have a place outside the camp and you shall go out to it; and you shall have a stick with your weapons; and when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover up your excrement.Deuteronomy 23: 10-13
We are getting into some real good “stuff” in the Old Testament now! There are some fun words in there that I would love to hear coming from the ambo on Sunday. The people need to hear it, and I’m very grateful to The Bible in a Year for bringing it to us. You should listen to the podcast, Day 70, for a sensible explanation of it. Or you can just walk away with my absurd, out-of-context excerpts. Either way, I’m really proud of you for reading my blog today!