Balaam's Ass

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Balaam’s Ass


according to Hebrew myth (preserved in the biblical Book of Numbers), the ass on which the soothsayer Balaam rode to Balak, the king of the state of Moab, in order to curse the Israelites, who were waging war against Moab, and guarantee a Moabite victory. According to the myth, Balaam’s ass, after thrice seeing an angel with an unsheathed sword blocking its way, suddenly began to speak, and when Balaam reached Balak, he blessed the Israelites instead of cursing them.

In the figurative sense, “Balaam’s ass” is used to describe a silent, downtrodden person who suddenly says something worthy of attention. Recently the term has been used primarily in an ironic sense in Russian, designating a silent person who begins to speak unexpectedly and says something extremely stupid.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Balaam’s ass

ass which rebukes Balaam who then blesses the Israelites. [O.T.: Numbers 22:22–35]
See: Ass
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.