by Robert Brow ( Kingston, Ontario, October 2006

Donkeys are mostly viewed as a useful but very stupid animal. To be rude we call someone an ass. Even worse is a "brainless donkey." But strangely in the Bible two donkeys are singled out among all the other animals for special attention.

Balaam’s ass saw the angel of the LORD blocking the way, and he refused to move forward. When Balaam beat the animal the donkey spoke, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" Only then did Balaam see the danger ahead (Numbers 22:22-31).

The other donkey was still a foal outside the home of Martha and Mary, where Jesus had often been a guest. It was "unbroken" which meant that it would not allow anyone to ride it. But when Jesus sent for it the animal quietly let Jesus sit on its back. It did not buck or bolt as Jesus rode through the crowds shouting God’s praises as they waved palm branches right into the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:29-38).

There is an important to reference to "livestock" in the fourth of the ten commandments. That would include donkeys and oxen, which are to enjoy a day of rest after six days of work (Exodus 20:8-10). Three thousand years ago Solomon noted that "The righteous know the needs of heir animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).

With the founding of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) a world wide movement of concern to prevent cruelty to animals has taken hold. This does not mean that animals cannot be killed for food, but it is agreed that the death must be instantaneous.

In the New Testament Paul has an intriguing reference to a future life for animals in relation to humans. "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation will itself be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now" (Romans 8:18-22).

This text suggests that when the children of God come into their own the animal creation will also find its proper place with them. What this means and how it will work out in the wisdom of God remains a mystery for us. But at least it suggests that the present suffering of animals on a vast scale throughout the world is like a woman suffering the pains of childbirth with the expectation that her baby will soon be born.

It seems certain that Paul pictured a future for donkeys and other animals in their relation to humans. But to stretch this further to include scorpions and mosquitoes takes us beyond our ability to understand the mind of God.



Robert Brow

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