Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Balaam's Donkey

The other thing I wonder about in this passage is Balaam's interaction with his donkey.

It seems odd that Balaam would reply to his donkey in direct conversation, instead of responding with shock and disbelief. If one of my cats started questioning me, I wouldn't engage her in conversation. I'd back away slowly and keep eye contact until escaping.

Even more curious is verses 32-33:

The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."

Would the angel have spared the donkey because she is not capable of moral choices, or because she was making an acceptable moral choice by following Balaam's command to keep moving?

"I was just following orders" doesn't seem to excuse humans in other situations, so I don't suppose it would apply to the donkey in this set of circumstances, either.

Therefore, donkeys are not capable of moral decision-making, even when they're allowed to speak.

That's no different a conclusion than I would have drawn before reflecting upon this passage. I find it encouraging that even when faced with an odd story, the Bible is internally consistent.

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