Balaam and the angel (image)

Hand colored stencil print on momigami by Sadao Watanabe (1972).

Image taken with permission from the SadaoHanga Catalogue where you can find many more images and information about Sadao Watanabe.

For other images of Sadao Watanabe art works in TIPs, see here.

Translation commentary on Numbers 22:30

And the ass said to Balaam: This quote frame introduces the donkey’s response to Balaam’s threat to kill it, so the generic verb said may be rendered “replied” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version).

Am I not your ass, upon which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you?: The donkey asks Balaam two more rhetorical questions. The implied answer to the first one is positive and to the second one negative. In a number of languages rhetorical questions may not be natural at this point; for example, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh renders the first one as a strong statement, saying “Look, I am the ass that you have been riding all along until this day!” All your life long is literally “as long as you have been” (footnote in Alter). Was I ever accustomed to do so to you? is literally “To be accustomed was I accustomed to do to you so?” The Hebrew verb here is repeated for emphasis, first as an infinitive absolute and then as a finite verb. Another way to express this question is “Have I ever at all behaved like this before?”

And he said, “No”: Anyone hearing or reading this passage would agree that the donkey was in the right and his master, Balaam, was clearly in the wrong. Balaam too seems to realize this, for all he can do is simply respond “No” to the second rhetorical question.

Quoted with permission from de Regt, Lénart J. and Wendland, Ernst R. A Handbook on Numbers. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2016. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .