From Balaam’s Donkey to The Brooke: Thinking about Working Donkeys During This Holiday Season

Photo of The Brooke’s suggested donkey crafts. Taken from http://www.thebrooke.org/knitandcraft

Both as a Christian believer and an animal enthusiast, I am drawn to the numerous mentions of donkeys in the Bible. Whenever I hear the words “working donkey,” the story of Balaam’s donkey often pops into my head.

The passages including Balaam’s donkey are found in the book of Numbers. Numbers is the fourth of the five books of the Jewish Torah and recognized by Christians as part of the Old Testament. Even if you are not of the Jewish or Christian faiths, you might still find the passage as intriguing as I do.

On a related note, I want to take a moment to say that I hope for a Hanukkah filled with peace and light for my Jewish readers celebrating this week. Happy Hanukkah!

If you’d like to read this particular donkey narrative and don’t have a Bible handy, you can go to https://biblehub.com/niv/numbers/22.htm and head down to verses 21 to 33.

As with most texts, religious or secular, there are numerous varied interpretations. There is also a lot of context involved. Balaam’s history of his involvement with the Jewish people, specifically his attempt to curse the Israelites, goes far beyond this one narrative. It definitely surpasses the scope of this post.

But my personal take away from this passage is that God worked through an animal to surprise, humble and redirect Balaam. And I find that idea fascinating.

I know in my own life that I continually learn about myself and absorb life lessons through and in relationship to animals. Sometimes I like what I see and learn about my myself. Sometimes I don’t.

I also see that Balaam’s reaction to his donkey’s behavior revealed this man’s flawed heart. Perhaps in a way that only an animal could. Balaam lost his temper and took out his frustration on his donkey.

While I have not had an angel of The Lord stand in my path (as far as I know), I have often heard that still small inner voice. It tells me when I am not reacting well to a particular situation with one of my animals and that I need to change course. I’ve also wondered how many times I misinterpreted an animal’s actions, just as Balaam did.

Whatever you may make of this narrative, Balaam’s donkey fits the description of a working donkey. But the text describing this pair may likely be less familiar to most people than all the working donkey images appearing around Christmas. Donkeys being ridden, packed and driven.

Interestingly, there is no mention of a donkey in the Bible passages involving the birth of Jesus. Some of our Christmas imagery and traditions are not technically scriptural. But considering all the working donkeys of that age, it is not much of a stretch to think there was a donkey hanging out nearby during the time of Christ’s birth.

In any case, all that leads me to the current Christian season of Advent, with Christmas being the most famous day therein. When I found out that the organization the Brooke was offering an interesting way to bring attention to donkeys during this season, I couldn’t help but smile.

Readers may have noticed that I mentioned Brooke USA as part of my Giving Tuesday post. The Brooke in the UK and Brooke USA work to support the millions of working animals worldwide and the families that rely on them for their very survival. If there is a prominent face of working animals, both in current and Biblical times, the donkey must be at or near the top of the list.

The Brooke is currently offering a free, 32 page download of donkey crafts. The download includes a list of needed materials, instructions and pictures. The crafts range from simple to more complex. They look like so much fun!

The Brooke is hoping that as folks makes these crafts that they will share the story of working donkeys in an effort to raise awareness of issues surrounding working animals and their people. What a neat idea!

To get your free download, go to

https://www.thebrooke.org/get-involved/fundraise/your-christmas-craft-pack/

You will notice that while the download is free, The Brooke asks that you consider making a donation. Because The Brooke is UK based, it asks for donations in British Pounds. I wasn’t sure about credit card charges for currency exchange and the like so I declined to donate (and still got my free download).

Instead, I headed over to Brooke USA website and made a donation to them. In the notes section of their donation page, I told them that I was making this donation because I received the free download from their mother organization. Just suggesting this as a possible option for readers who would also like to donate, but to donate in US dollars, not British pounds. Go to

https://www.brookeusa.org/

If you do end up making a donkey craft, The Brooke hopes you will share your creations on social media with links to the Brooke so more people can learn about working animals and their families. A creative way to help donkeys get their due. I’d like to think that Balaam’s donkey would approve.

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