Eve and Balaam: Conversations with talking animals

talking animals in the Bible: Balamm's donkey or assImagine, if you will… Suppose an animal talked to you. Would you react with shock, or would you answer the animal nonchalantly, engaging it in conversation as if it were an everyday occurrence?

One of the most subtly humorous themes in the Bible that I have noticed so far is the reaction of those lucky few — probably only two individuals (Eve and Balaam) – who actually got to hear animals directly address them by speaking out loud in the local human language (per the Biblical accounts)!!

I suppose many of the most conservative religious fundamentalists might consider the notion of humor in the Bible as blasphemy, even though they have probably endured at least a handful of sermons or Sunday school lessons that mentioned or even celebrated God’s sense of humor. The idea of Bible God possessing comedic qualities ought to be embraced and appreciated by even the most rigid Hard Righters, per the belief that man was literally created in the image of Bible God… Right?

In any case, this post should be viewed in the proper context of wonder, amazement, and critical thought as opposed to any sort of mocking or belittling. The bottom line is, it represents some notable humor (if not hilarity) on some level — doesn’t it? Perhaps the author was going for a laugh… Who knows?

Five-lined skink at Radnor Lake: Nashville, TNPlease imagine the following scenario for a moment…

Ned, a Nashville man, is hiking on the 4.5-mile Mossy Ridge Trail at Percy Warner park on a gorgeous spring day. As he walks – with not another person in sight in front of him or behind him — his thoughts are suddenly interrupted when he hears a clear voice, in very close proximity to him, distinctly ask, “How do you do?” Ned stops and looks around, seeing nothing at first. Then a slight movement catches his eye, now focused on the bark of a large oak tree about four feet to his right. He sees a common five-lined skink with its typical bright blue tail, sunning itself to warm up.

How do you suppose Ned – an everyday Nashville outdoor enthusiast — would react if, during this otherwise uneventful hike, a lizard sunning itself on a nearby tree greeted him with a clear, understandable How do you do as he strolled by? The obvious answer is complete and total shock, almost certainly to the point of disbelief — quite likely inducing Ned to momentarily question his sanity.

talking donkey in the Bible: Balaam story in Numbers Old TestamentNow let’s see what might have happened in this situation if it occurred in ancient Bible times. If Ned’s response were anything like that of Eve or Balaam per the Bible’s fictional teaching stories, then Ned might have responded, "Not too shabby. How are you?" Ned’s retort would be completely devoid of any surprise or excitement, as though speaking reptiles were nothing special. Ned might stroll on, with a "See you later," or, if not on a tight schedule, he might remain to engage in small talk with the skink for a bit.

Need it even be said how incredibly unrealistic any nonchalant response to a spoken comment from an animal would be if it were to occur in reality, and not in a teaching story? Not really.

talking snake in the Bible: Eve, GenesisIn Genesis, Eve’s reaction to the serpent – identified in modern religious dogma as being Satan in disguise, despite the lack of any such identification in the Old Testament account – was normal.

But let’s cut Eve a break. After all, Eve — a brand freaking new human, per the story — had only recently been constructed from dust, a rib, and a bit of deity breath; therefore, this woman totally lacked empirical life experience against which to measure such a conversation.

Balaam, however, shall receive no such pardon; Balaam was not a brand new human devoid of life experience. Shouldn’t Balaam have shat a brick?

Resources: Humor in the Bible – response to talking animals

Eve, the first woman on earth (Genesis, Old Testament)

Balaam, the diviner (Numbers, Old Testament)

Thursday, May 10, 2012