Did you know donkeys could talk? Well, at least one donkey spoke, and it wasn’t Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh

In the book of Numbers, Balak, son of Zippor, sent for Balaam, son of Beor, to curse the Israelites. However, Balaam couldn’t curse the Israelites because God wouldn’t let him. In fact, when messengers from Balak first arrived and asked Balaam to go with them, he asked God what to do, and God gave him this reply.

“But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

Numbers 22:12 (NIV)

Thus, Balak’s messengers went home and gave him the bad news. Balaam would not be coming to curse the Israelites. However, Balak wouldn’t be deterred so easily. 

Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first.

Numbers 22:15 (NIV)

Balak sent more distinguished dignitaries than the first time and offered to “handsomely reward” Balaam for helping him. However, instead of refusing to go with Balak’s officials, since God told him not to go, Balaam consults the Lord again. 

That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Numbers 22:20 (NIV)

After Balaam leaves for Moab, something odd happens.

But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.

Numbers 22:22 (NIV)

Balaam’s donkey refused to pass by the Lord’s servant thrice, and Balaam beat it each time. Finally, the donkey had enough.

Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Numbers 22:28 (NIV)

Incredibly, the donkey spoke. However, I find Balaam’s response more surprising. 

Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

Numbers 22:29 (NIV)

Did Balaam answer immediately, or did he take a minute since donkeys don’t talk? After speaking a moment more with the donkey, the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes, and he sees the angel of the Lord. Then, we discover that the donkey saved Balaam’s life.

“The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

Numbers 22:33 (NIV)

Once again, we see something that doesn’t fit the situation.

Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Numbers 22:34-35 (NIV)

After reading Numbers 22, I wonder why the Lord was angry with Balaam when he told him he could go. Then, I wonder why the Lord told him to go on his way when Balaam said he would return. 

Before we address those questions, we must realize something about Balaam. He wasn’t a holy man of God. Later, when Balaam speaks with the Lord, he does so through divination. Although it appears that Balaam will only do what God wants in Numbers 22, he really wants to do what he wants. Balaam wants to get paid, so he returns to God a second time in Numbers 22:20. 

Therefore, when God tells Balaam he can go in Numbers 22:20, it’s more like God said, “All right, you can go, but only do what I tell you to do.” We can surmise from the angel’s appearance that Balaam joyfully left because he thought he would get paid. 

God didn’t want Balaam to go. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have told him not to go. However, Balaam really wanted to go, so God let him. This reminds me of when I was a kid, and I would beg my parents to let me do something after they had already said no, “Please, please, please! Can I go? I promise…” God doesn’t change his mind but allows us to make mistakes.

That’s right. God allows us to do the things we shouldn’t do even when we know we shouldn’t. Sometimes, we might think, “If God doesn’t want me to do _____, he won’t let me.” Such thinking is nonsensical and leads to presumptuous sin. 

Although Balaam doesn’t curse the Israelites, he never has their best interest in mind, so he keeps going to God and seeing if he can curse them. Eventually, Balak doesn’t get what he wants, and Balaam leaves. Again, we mustn’t think Balaam was righteous because he’s not. In fact, we later learn that Balaam still got paid, just not for cursing the Israelites. 

In Numbers 25:1-3, we read about the Israelite men indulging in sexual relations with Moabite women. We learn from Numbers 31:16, 2 Peter 2:15, and Revelation 2:14 that Balaam caused that. 

“They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people.

Numbers 31:16 (NIV)

They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness (emphasis added).

2 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.

Revelation 2:14 (NIV)

2 Peter 2:15 informs us that Balaam got paid, and Revelation 2:14 tells us what he did to get paid. 

We can learn from the story of Balaam that just because God allows us to do things we shouldn’t do, it doesn’t mean he’s pleased when we do them.

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.