prophet one who claims to have re-Â ceived divine messages or insights
In the Old Testament of the Bible, Balaam is a prophet sent by King Balak of Moab (an area in what is now Jordan) to curse the Hebrews. Balaam agrees to do so but says that he will only speak words inspired by the Hebrew god Yahweh. As Balaam makes his way to see the Hebrews, Yahweh sends an angel to block the way. The angel is invisible to Balaam but not to his donkey, which sees the angel and refuses to go farther. Balaam beats the donkey for refusing to continue. Eventually, after several beatings, the donkey speaks. It asks why it is being beaten and explains that it stopped only because an angel was in the way. Balaam recognizes, from the miracle of hearing the donkey speak, that he is in Yahweh's presence. Yahweh allows Balaam to continue on his journey but commands him to bless the Hebrews instead of cursing them. This Balaam does, despite pressure from King Balak. During the Middle Ages, many Christians believed that the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem was a direct descendant of Balaam's donkey.
* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.