Molly Sweeney and the Blind Sociologist: Dilemmas of Discernment



Balaam was a seer and an oracle, a foreigner with a variety of experiences in the visual departments that dealt with matters of heaven and earth. He was the man who did not go to seek for enchantments, ‘but set his face toward the wilderness’, where he lifted up his eyes and ‘saw Israel abiding in his tents …’ Israel had been blessed and the Spirit of the Lord was on him (Num. 24: 1–7). This was a marked change to his previous visual encounters with the Lord. Before this, Balaam had many disputes with the Lord not least over his right to curse the people that God had marked as blessed. In the night, he was called by the Lord to journey to Moab. With two servants, he travelled forth on a donkey. But suddenly, the donkey saw an angel that appeared to block the path. In fright, the donkey thrust herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot. He smote the donkey for mocking him, but then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and he too could see the angel (Num. 22: 20–33).


Visual Dimension Religious Ritual Card Game Visual Culture Symbolic Violence 
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Copyright information

© Kieran Flanagan 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BristolUK

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