Intending to curse Israel
Balaam quickly
rising early
saddled his ass.

In a corner of his mind
he privately pictured the reward
Balak had promised.

3 times
threatening with his sword
the angel of the LORD
terrified the ass…

The animal hastily withdrew
into a field. Passing through a vineyard
he crushed Balaam's foot. It here being
impossible to pass or turn
the animal fell flat.

VIOLENTLY on each occasion Balaam
belaboured him...

(Compassionately the LORD
opened the creature's mouth.)

Grinning with pain
- glaring at Balaam
the ass asked:
‘3 times you've hit me.
What have I done to you? ’

Addressing Balaam
(on behalf of the ass)
the angel said:
‘The animal has saved your life!’

stroking him
carefully listened
to Jehovah

& blessed Israel.


There's something odd about Balaam's haste to curse Israel. He apparently rejects the large reward proposed, but hurries to Balak without waiting for Jehovah's instruction.

As in Rembrandt’s painting, the ass is at the centre of the action. Balaam, in this glimpse of him, fails to impress as a prophet & seems less intelligent (as clearly indicated by the angel) than the ass. Rembrandt plainly shows the animal's frustration & anger.