God will USE even a ‘DONKEY’ to SPEAK to US: Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the Lord said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live." (Num 22:31-33)
Balak, the king of the Moabites (v. 4b), set out to hire Balaam a sorcerer from Pethor to curse the Israelites, who had set up camp close to their land border (vv. 2–6). Balaam at first refused to go with Balak’s emissaries (vv. 7–14) being warned by God that Israelites were blessed by God and so could not be cursed (v. 12). However, being lured with more financial inducement, this pagan soothsayer changed his mind and despite the Lord’s warnings, he decided to assist Balak in his evil schemes (vv. 15–34). Upon further request by Balaam, God allowed Balaam to proceed but speak only what God permitted him (v. 20).
However, the “Angel of the Lord” (v. 22) stood on Balaam’s way three times to prevent him from moving forward in his wicked act. The first time the donkey saw the Angel and detoured into a field. For this, the poor animal was struck by Balaam. The second time the Angel stood in a narrow path between the vineyards. The terrified donkey crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall and again was abused. The third time the Angel confronted them in a narrow pass. The frustrated donkey lay down on the ground and received another thrashing from Balaam. Even a donkey, the symbol of stubbornness, knew when to quit but not the stubborn, willful prophet!
The donkey was then given the power to speak to Balaam, and rebuked him for his inhumane treatment (vv. 28–30). Balaam wished for a sword to kill the donkey (v. 29b) not knowing that he was about to see one pointed at him. Then Balaam saw the “Angel of the Lord” with His drawn sword and heard Him explain His mission to hinder Balaam in his disobedience (vv. 31–35). The famous “seer” from Mesopotamia could not see until God opened his eyes, and the great prophet “did not know” (v. 34) until God revealed it. Note that the opening of Balaam’s eyes was as much a miracle as the opening of his donkey’s mouth! (v. 28)
Balaam is best known for this incident with his donkey, which was enabled by God to speak, leading to Balaam’s submission to communicating only God’s messages to Balak. He was a hireling prophet who had finally succumbed to the pressure of greater honor and more money. We should note that “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). Balaam was willing to look at things “from another viewpoint” in hopes he could find a loophole in the revealed will of God. It is a dangerous thing to bargain over the will of God!
Apostle Peter while describing false prophets takes Balaam as an example as he writes these words: "They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet." (2 Peter 2:15-16)
Finally, there are three important lessons that this ‘donkey incident’ teach us:
- As servants/prophets of God, we can always be tempted by the world and the attractions it offers through fame, possessions, riches and popularity, and act against God’s plan.
- We can bend God’s perfect will to adopt our own desires, which God allows as being His permissive will.
- In our path of disobedience, we can be blinded with what even a donkey (literally) can see…and God will even use a donkey to speak to us when we don’t listen otherwise!