MESSIAH-2 /The talking she donkey and her three revelations


© 2018 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner

Bilaam and the Messiah-2/

The Speaking She-Donkey and her Three Revelations

The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Holy Spark that has turned into a huge Holy Flame


1: SATAN, the Angel of MERCY?

You know the story.  The prophet Bilaam refused, at first, to go and curse Israel, but the king kept begging him and promising to compensate him monetarily nicely: he would get a house full of “silver and gold.” The arrogant prophet wishes to have YHVH talking to him, but all he gets is ELKM visiting him at night and warning  him no tto go.  Finally he gets a permission from ELKM, provided he would say only the worlds that  He,  ELKM would place in his mouth. Billam then wakes up enthusiastically  and saddle his she-donkey by himself, eager to go and.curse or “pierce” (nakev) Israel IN YHVH’s EYES.  He knows that this would end Israel’s life. So the verse says:

“And Bilaam woke up in the morning and saddled his female donkey,
and he went with the princes of Moab.

Then ELoKiM’s anger en-kindled because he went.” (Numbers 22: 21-22)

Then the Angel of YHVH stood in the way
As a SATAN against him
And he was riding on his She Donkey and his two servants with him
And the She-Donkey saw the (1) Angel of YHVH standing on the way
and His sword drawn in his hand….”

As he wished, he the Angel of YHVH appeared, but as a SATAN against him. . Moreover, it was the she donkey who was the |angel, rather than the prophet: What a humiliation to the arrogant prophet.

The verse is specific: It was the ‘Angel of YHVH” who stood “as a SATAN” in front of the She Donkey. Who was that Angel? Rashi says: “It was an Angel of MERCY.” .
If so, why it is also called SATAN?

But the Hebrew text is clear and indisputable. The Angel of YHVH, the Angel of MERCY (Rashi) is called SATAN! How come?

In fact, here is the ONLY PLACE in the entire Torah that the word SATAN appears in the text. How can SATAN be an Angel of MERCY?

i write this because in my experience this very point has been the hardest for my Christian students to swallow.  Their tradition says otherwise. It depicts SATAN  as a bad Demon, with independent evil power.

But the Hebrew SATAN comes from “sitna, adversary. here the Angel of YHVH was Bilaam’s adversary. It attempted to hold him back from going to curse Israel. It wanted to send Bilaam three messages.  i twas therefore a good Angel, with white beautiful wings  and a baby face.

So never mix the Hebrew SATAN with the EUROPEAN IMAGINATION OF IT. .

Now the Angel of YHVH appeared to the she-donkey three times, addressing the three basic accusations against Israel, as follows:


3: The three revelations of the She-Donkey

 Remember, the king had hired the prophet to address three claims against Israel

(1) About their origin: they are merely aam, running away slaves, sexually molested for years by their masters.   They are not what they claim to be: the Children of Israel, the descendants of the Patriarchs. They have no right to be here and to conquer the Holy Land.

(2) About their faith: they ‘cover’ God’s eyes, They cheat \him. Their faith is false.

(3) About their society. They are like herds of wild oxen, a cloud of  locust that covers the sky.  They have no decent society. They are not qualified to be counted among the nations.

In addition, the king hoped that the prophet would solve his haunting dream about his daughter ruling over Israel.

The Angel appeared to the she donkey three times. Each time with increasing restrictions. By this, the Angel sent a message  to Bilaam (when he finally saw the Angel) that he would be given three opportunities to examine Israel alongside Balak.  In these three opportunities he would be able to  address the king’s  three accusations against Israel.  On each occasion, he would have to say only words that YHVH would place in his mouth.   Yet he would be free to seek, in his heart  a fault  in Israel in regard to these accusations and possibly  ‘pierce’ their defense in YHVH eyes.

These three opportunities would come with increasing restrictions be as follows    :


The Donkey’s first Revelation

“And the  Angel of YHVH stood in the way as a Satan against him.
And the She-Donkey saw the Angel of YHVH standing in the way,
and his sword drawn in his hand.

And the She-Donkey turned aside out of the way
and went into the field.  So Bilaam hit the she donkey to deviate her back into the road.” (22:23)

In her first revelation, the Angel of YHVH rendered the she donkey much leeway to escape into the field to the right or to the left.
By this, the Angel hinted that in his first revelation in Moab,  examining Israel’s origin, he would have to say only the words that YHVH would place in hisa mouth yet he would be given much leeway to examine Israel and possibly to curse them in YHVH’s eyes.

The She Donkey’s second revelation

“then the  Angel of YHVH  stood in the path of the vineyard

a wall being on this side, and a wall being on that side.

And when the she-donkey saw the  Angel of YHVH she thrust herself to the wall,
and crushed Bilaam’s foot against the wall and he struck her again.

In her second revelation, the she donkey had no leeway to go to the right or left, yet she could go forwards.  When she pressed herself to the wall, she crushed Blaam’s leg.

By this the Angel hinted that Bilaam would be given a second revelation, addressing King Balak’s second accusation against Israel’s faith. In contrast to the first revelation about heir origin, this time he would be given less leeway to go to he right of left, meaning less freedom to curse Israel.  Nevertheless, he would be able to go forward and seek a blemish in Israel’s faith. The Angel also hinted that Bilaam may be damaged by his attempt.  .

The she-donkey’s third revelation

“And the Angel of YHVH went farther and stood in a narrow place
where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

And when the she Donkey saw the  Angel of YHVH
she lay down under Bilaam.

And Bilaam’s anger burned, and he struck the she-donkey with a staff.

In this third revelation, the she donkey was given no leeway to go anywhere. She had to crouch to the ground and not move. by this the Angel of YHVH hinted that Bilaam would be given a third chance, a third revelation to examine Balak’s third accusation against Israel’s  society.   In total contrast to the two former revelations (about Israel origin and faith)  this time he would be given NO LEEWAY of any cursing! His heart and mouth would be the same! .

Note that the title “Angel of YHVH” appears 10 times in the story, invoking the 10 Commandments. Israel would be protected provided they keep Sinai Covenant.

5: They breach Noah’s covenant!

Once the prophet saw the |angel, he repented.  he got the message.  Then he went on to meet King Balak on at the “border of Moab.”   Why the emphasis on ‘Border’?  Moreover, the name of the city they met was Kiyat Huztot, which means “city of multitude streets.” .
The name tells you the story.  The prophet met th eking and invoked the old Noahide Covenant where all nations pledged to recognize each other’s BORDER.  They promised each other that no nation would invade the other nation’s border and steal its land and people.

There the prophet adapted all the claims against Israel and instructed King Balak what to do next. He told the king that

 1) Moab origin is definitely stems from Abraham. No one argues that Moab is the descendant of Lot from his daughter. Whereas the origin of this company across your border is in doubt! You, Moab, is better suited to serve as a leader of the Noahide Nations!

(2) Moab’ faith can be improved, at least for now.  The prophet told the king to abandon his idolatry for now and offer seven oxen to YHVH, invoking the Seven Commandments of Noah.

(3) Moab society was certainly more established than Israel’s.  Moab had never went out its borders to invade  other nations borders and steal their land.  Moab is a better choice to lead the civilized world!

The rabbis pointed out that Bilaam’s advice was very effective. It did improve Moab’s posture in the eyes of the Heavenly Court. All the Angel that represent the seventy Noahide Nations gathered to watch the contest,  the stakes were high.  Would Bilaam be able to find a fault in Israel’s shield and “pierce it” in YHVH eyes?