This blog post is mostly for my family and an open conversation with them. I come from a heritage of Bible-studiers and questioners. This one is specifically regarding my Uncle Bill, who passed last year. He had an issue with the same passage of scripture I did.
For reference, I was attempting to read through the Old Testament in my early 20’s, and when I got to 1 Kings 13, I had no frame of reference to make this understandable. I have more now, but it’s still a thought discovery in process. (And by that, I mean via help of the Holy Spirit.) No one could answer my questions at the time, and I confess my faith waned, not in belief, but in Biblical translation. Plus, I moved away from focusing on what God wanted for me and more, that God would just bless what I was doing.
Flash to today 20+ years later and reading books by many ancient text studying authors, I have a better understanding. As with the current cancel culture, societies thought differently and had different known points of social reference. Simply put, when I make a cultural comparison referencing someone to OJ Simpson, Kim Kardashian, or Covid-19, most people understand. A thousand years from now, people reading our old Tweets will have to ‘study’ to understand that reference. (Twitter really is currently social media’s digital public square – ugh!) An example of this is the Exodus story because each plague directly correlates to a god that the Egyptians worshiped.
My mom shared this Times Square sermon video that opened my eyes to the lion/donkey and the old prophet/young prophet reference. What I realize now is that there are more references when I read.
I’m going through The Bible in One Year with Nicky & Pippa Gumbel, so I’m rereading all of scripture in a new, mature light.
Today was 1 Samuel 28 when King Saul went to the medium. The reference to him eating after seeing a false prophet clicked. (By a false prophet, I mean one sensitive to spiritual things with the ability to foresee via dreams and visions from God but not necessarily anointed by God or has not given their gift over to God – the God of Israel.)
Then I thought clicked to Balaam. What animal talked to Balaam? His donkey.
Remember, in the Hebrew language, words have dual meanings that must have the context to understand. Example: one word is used to reference God and god: Elohim/elohim. You have to gather the meaning by the context around the word as well as who is speaking to know if it is the One true/unique God of Israel or the god of, say…Asherah. This is probably because it was forbidden to speak or even write the Name of God. (J. K. Rowling used a similar ‘name’ concept in her Harry Potter books, reverencing the evil character as, ‘He who must not be named.’)
Now, if we take part of the reference of the donkey and lion from the sermon video about 1 Kings 13, we can put some pieces together.
1 Samuel 28:
Kings Saul – seeking a false prophet
The witch of Endor – the false prophet
A command – It was known that going to a false prophet was going against God.
The lion – A vision of a “god” (the witch’s perspective), which Saul realizes means the prophet, Samuel
The donkey – the words spoken by Samuel.
A meal – Saul had a habit of fasting and wanting everyone to fast with him. This time he broke his fast by eating a meal prepared by the false prophet.
Prince Balak– seeking a false prophet
Balaam – the false prophet
A command – God told Balaam not to go with them, but he went.
The lion – the angel of the LORD ready to kill Balaam for disobedience.
The donkey – Balaam’s talking donkey (the donkey’s words).
A meal – Balaam told them to ‘stay the night.’ It may not be a direct meal reference, but eating had to happen. But, remember, it was customary in those days that you fasted if you wanted something supernatural. Fasting was intense, asking. There is also mention of several animal sacrifices, which is a meal prepared to the LORD. (Balaam asked Balak to do this.)
There is no ending to this post. I don’t have any satisfying answers. I just realize cultural references, and for some reason that excites me.
PS: I’m sure there’s a symbolic reason why Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. Mark 11:1-11)