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Odete Martins Bigote

God uses interesting symbols to help us understand his powers and our weakness. For example, in most cultures, a donkey is considered a stubborn and stupid animal. In the English language, a donkey is also called an ass.

Around 1050 B.C., Israel had been ruled for centuries by Judges-individuals that prophesied and were in constant communication with the “Spirit of the Lord.” The Jews decided it was time to imitate they neighbors and enemies, The Philistines, and they looked forward to be ruled by a king.

God, being the Ultimate Ruler, choose the most handsome, yet weak and stubborn, young man in Israel – Saul – to be their first king. Samuel, the last Judge of Israel, was given the task of locating Saul and anoint him.

What was Saul doing when Samuel met him? He was searching for his father’s donkeys that had disappeared. Since he could not find them, his servant took him to a prophet for help. That prophet was Samuel who told him that the donkeys had been found, and that he would be the first king of Israel.

“Why are you talking to me like that?” asked Saul,”I’m from the smallest tribe of Israel, and the least important families in the tribe.” He felt
inferior, and without confidence. When Samuel announced to the people of Israel that they had a king, Saul was “hiding among the luggage.” (1 Samuel 10:23.)

In his searching for donkeys, he was really searching for himself. As Saul became king, he was surrounded by far more donkeys than he could imagine. All sorts of “donkeys” came to him disguised as priests, governors, military leaders, and so forth. But he did not understand what was happening around him. He proceeded without faith in God. In the end, he went insane. He wanted to kill everyone. He killed 85 priests, their families and animals, he won some battles but lost many more.


In the Bible, there is another story in which a donkey saved the life of a man. A Philistine king asked a sorcerer, Balaam, to go and curse the Jews. But Balaam did not go far because his donkey saw an angel, and blocked his way three times, and three times Balaam beat him up. Then, God gave the donkey the ability to speak.

“What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.

“You have me look like a fool.” Balaam shouted. (Numbers 22:28-30.)

Then, the angel with a sword – a symbol of power – showed himself up to Balaam, who bowed his head, and fell flat on his face. The angel told him that the donkey had saved his life because he was going to kill him.

If, instead of beating his donkey he had asked for God’s help when he saw the animal blocking his way, God would have helped him understand his relationship with all living things including his donkey. Beating up the donkey was like beating himself up. WE ALL DO THIS TO OURSELVES IN DIFFERENT FORMS.
In the end, Balaam blessed the Jews.

The people of Israel learned a great lesson: kings do not solve nation’s problems. Saul’s death was the death of an ideal. The problem with mankind was, and still is, not in the form of the governments, but in our ways of thinking.


Indeed, we are like donkeys, stubborn and ignorant. Just like Saul, most of us do not have the courage to look within, and recognize our weakness.

Saul faced life as he faced death, without asking for God’s help. He was not able to discern the “stubbornness” within himself, and like most of us, he didn’t even try. He’d rather throw himself on the top of his sword, and end his life, than ask for God’s help. No wonder God choose him to be the first king of Israel, for this is an interesting way to find out that men can be as stubborn as donkeys, but not all donkeys are as stubborn as men, as we saw in the example of Balaam’s donkey:he listened to the angel, was even able to speak and saved Balaam’s life.

Article Written By
Odete Martins Bigote
Copyright April 2005

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