Jehovah's angel now passed by again and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn aside to the right or to the left. When the ass got to see Jehovah's angel she now lay down under Balaam; so that Balaam's anger blazed, and he kept beating the ass with his staff. Finally Jehovah opened the mouth of the ass and she said to Balaam: "What have I done to you so that you have beaten me these three times?"
~ Numbers 22:27-28
Balaam inferred that God was talking to him through his ass. (Wait, that sentence doesn't sound right, does it?)
It therefore must have been an angel that impeded his progess by making his ass stop. (That didn't sound exactly like I meant it, either. Sorry everyone, have patience.)
So Balaam beat his ass mercilessly.
This is funny!
But a few serious points I got from the story of Balaam (chapters 22-24):
1. Animals were considered by the ancients to be more sensitive to the presence of spirits
2. Other tribes around Israel also worshipped Jehovah as their god
3. The origin of prophecy was in diviners who used 'omens', bad or good. They actually walked to a certain location, studied the landscape, and took note of things that conveyed divine messages. This is how God talked to them. The poetry was all the prophet's own.
Next post: Did Balaam put a curse on Israel to make the men lust after the Midianite women?
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke