Hans Ausloos


Balaam counts among the most enigmatic characters within the Old Testament. Not everyone has the privilege of meeting an angel, and being addressed by a donkey. Moreover, the Biblical Balaam, as he is presented in Num. 22-24, has given rise to multiple interpretations: did the biblical authors want to narrate about a pagan diviner, who intended to curse the Israelites, but who was manipulated – against his will – by God in order to bless them, or was he rather considered to be a real prophet like Elijah or Isaiah? Anyway, that is at least the way he has been perceived by a segment of Christianity, considering him as one of the prophets who announced Jesus as the Christ.?

In the first section of this contribution, which I warmheartedly dedicate to Professor Hendrik ‘Bossie’ Bosman – we first met precisely twenty years ago during a research stay at Stellenbosch University in August 1997- I will present the ambiguous presentation of Balaam that is given in Numbers 22-24 concisely. Secondly, I will concentrate on Balaam’s presentation in the other books of the Bible. Being aware of the fact that the reception history of the Pentateuch is one of Bossie’s fields of interest, in the last section I will show how the bifocal Biblical presentation of Balaam has left its traces on the reception of this personage in Christian arts.


Balaam; Numbers 22-24; Prophets; Reception History; Bible and Arts

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/116-2-1311


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