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CHAPTER VII.

Numbers xxii.

21 And Balsam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.

24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.

25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.

26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me; I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.

31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his bead, and fell flat on his face.

32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:

33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.

34 And Balaam, said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.

THE chief point of interest in this parable of Balaam and his ass, is that the latter belonged to the female sex. This animal has been one of the most remarkable characters in literature. Her virtues have been quoted in the stately cathedral, in the courts of justice, in the editorial sanctum, in both tragedy and comedy on the stage, to point a moral and adorn a tale. Some of the fairest of Eve's daughters bear her baptismal name, and she has been immortalized in poetry and prose. Wordsworth sends her with his Peter Bell to enjoy the first flowers of early spring. To express her love of the beautiful "upon the pivot of her skull she turned round her long left ear" while stolid Peter makes no sign--

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"A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more."

The courage and persistence of the ass has made her as famous in war as in literature. She is a marked feature everywhere in military stations, alike in the camp and the field, and her bray always in the minor key, gives a touch of pathos to the music of the band! The ass accompanied Deborah and Barak when they went to fight their great battle, she has gone with pioneers in all their weary wanderings, and has taken an active part in the commerce of the world, bearing the heaviest burdens though poorly fed and sheltered. At one time this animal voted at three successive elections in the state of New York. The property qualification being $250, just the price of a jackass, Ben Franklin facetiously asked "if a man must own a jackass in order to vote, who does the voting, the man or the jackass?" It so happened once that the same animal passed into the hands of three different owners, constituting all the earthly possessions of each at that time and thus by proxy she was represented at the polls. Yet with this world-wide fame, this is the first time the sacred historian has so richly endowed and highly complimented any living thing of the supposed inferior sex. Far wiser than the master who rode her, with a far keener spiritual insight than he possessed, and so intensely earnest and impressible, that to meet the necessities of the occasion, she suddenly exercised the gift of speech. While Balaam was angry, violent, stubborn and unreasonable, the ass calmly manifested all the cardinal virtues. Obedient to the light that was in her, she was patient under abuse, and tried in her mute way to save the life of her tormentor from the sword of the angel. But when all ordinary warnings of danger proved unavailable, she burst into speech and opened the eyes of her stolid master. Scott, who considers this parable a literal fact, says in his commentaries, "The faculty of speech in man is the gift of God and we cannot comprehend how we ourselves articulate. We need not therefore be surprised that the Lord made use of the mouth

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of the ass to rebuke the madness of His prophet, and to shame him by the reproof and example of a brute. Satan spoke to Eve by a subtle male serpent, but the Lord chose to speak to Balaam by a she ass, for He does not use enticing words of man's wisdom, but works by instruments and means that men despise."

Seeing that the Lord has endowed "the daughters of men" also with the gift of speech, and they may have messages from Him to deliver to "the sons of God," it would be wise for the prophets of our day to admit them into their Conferences, Synods and General Assemblies, and give them opportunities for speech.

The appeal of the meek, long suffering ass, to her master, to remember her faithfulness and companionship from his youth up, is quite pathetic and reminds one of woman's appeals and petitions to her law-givers for the last half century. In the same language she might say to her oppressors, to fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, have we not served you with faithfulness; companions from your youth up; watched you through all your infant years; and carried you triumphantly through every danger? When at the midnight hour or the cock crowing, your first born lifted up his voice and wept, lo! we were there, with water for his parched lips; a cool place for his aching head; or patiently for hours to pace with him the chamber floor. In youth and manhood what have we not done to add to your comfort and happiness; ever rejoicing in your triumphs and sympathizing in your defeats?

This waiting and watching for half a century to recover our civil and political rights and yet no redress, makes the struggle seem like a painful dream in which one strives to fly from some impending danger and yet stands still. Balaam, unlike our masters, confessed that he had sinned, but it is evident from his conduct that he felt no special contrition for disobedience to the commands of his Creator, nor for his cruelty to the creature. So merely to save his life he sulkily retraced his steps with a determination still to consider Barak's propositions. {p. 115} Whether he took the same ass on the next journey does not appear.

It must have been peculiarly humiliating to that proud man, who boasted of his eyes being open and seeing the vision of the Almighty, to be reproved and silenced by the mouth of a brute. As the Lord appeared first to the ass and spake by her, he had but little reason to boast that his eyes were opened by the Lord. The keen spiritual insight and the ready power of speech with which the female sex has been specially endowed, are often referred to with ridicule and reproach by stolid, envious observers of the less impressible sex.

E. C. S.

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Next: NUMBERS CHAPTER VIII.