Summary of passage: The Israelites are headed to the Promised Land and camped along the Jordan River across from Jericho. Balak, the king of the Moabites, was scared of the Israelites so he asked Balaam to curse the Israelites. God came to Balaam and warned him not to curse the Israelites for they are blessed. So Balaam refused to curse the Israelites. Balak sent more messengers to try and convince Balaam to curse the Israelites, offering him a handsome reward. Still, Balaam refused but promised to speak to God again for them. This time God said to go with the men and do only what He commands.
So Balaam starts his journey with the princes of Moab. However, God is angry so He sends and angel who stands in the road to block their path. The donkey sees the angel and turns off the road. Balaam beats the donkey for disobedience. Again, the angel blocks their path; again the donkey is beaten. Again, the donkey sees the angel; again the donkey is beaten.
God made the donkey chastise Balaam for beating her three times. Finally, the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel. The angel says the donkey saved his life because she turned away. Balaam repented and God told him once again to go with the men to Balak.
3a) “Terrified because there were so many people”; “filled with dread because of the Israelites”. “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” “Come and put a curse on these people because they are too powerful for me.”
b) If Balaam cursed the Israelites, then they could be defeated and driven out of his country.
c) Sent ambassadors to see what the Israelites wanted. Prayed to the One, True God about it.
d) Kill them (Shiities killing the Sunnis and vice versa, various African tribes killing each other (Darfur region), Muslims killing Christians, terrorists indiscriminately killing). Hostility, discrimination, etc.
4a) Balaam obviously knew of the One, True God since he spoke to Him and feared Him. Does that make him a believer? No. Joshua tells us he practiced divination. In Deuteronomy, we see the Lord would not listen to Balaam and God listens to His children.
Numbers 22:7 speaks volumes here: Balaam was working for a “divination fee”. No true prophet of God is out for himself. If any thing, being a prophet is more of a burden than a reward in terms of money here on earth.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Don’t jump to conclusions. As the donkey pointed out, the donkey’s behavior was way out of the ordinary, but Balaam did not take the time to figure out why. Do not court temptation for in the end it will get you. Some people will go against God’s will and nothing can stop them (not even Jesus himself) their hearts are so twisted. People will do anything for money.
c) Personal Question. My answer: Have patience when things are out of the ordinary. Pray for God to be with me more. Listen for God’s voice and not man’s voice. Run from temptation.
Conclusions: Could have done without personal questions. I would hope most of us don’t beat our animals when they disobey. They are after all lower animals and God charges us to care for them as such. I would also hope if Jesus appears before us we won’t ask him for permission to sin. If God says go one way, we go His way, not ours. I love how God uses a beast of burden to tell Balaam he’s an idiot. How humbling!
End Notes: Balak had no need to fear the Israelites. If he had known God’s word, God had commanded the Israelites to not harm the Moabites as their land was not part of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 2:9).
This is the first time in the Bible we meet Balaam and we are given no background on him as to how he’s a prophet or comes to be held in such high regard by Balak.
Balak wants the people cursed so he knows enough about the Israelites to know they follow a powerful god. And Balaam he believes is the man for the job.
Taking the divination fee was the first sin. The second sin was even asking God when his heart was not right and knew the men were evil. God, out of mercy, spoke with Balaam–for Balaam’s sake–in order to try and turn his heart to Him.
From Balaam’s answer to the elders, it is clear he wants to go but ‘mean, ol’ God’ won’t let him. Hence, Balak tries again, this time promising more riches, which is what Balaam wants. Even though Balaam knows God’s will, he refuses to put away his sin. He allows temptation in once more.
God does not change His mind when he allows Balaam to go with the men; He is setting Balaam up for judgment.
God is angry at Balaam’s rejection of His word.
Note how the donkey is more spiritual than Balaam, seeing a representative of its Creator and rightfully being fearful. The donkey is a representative of all followers of God and Jesus: he obeys and because he obeys he annoys the unbelievers and is punished by them and often killed.
Balaam should have known by the donkey’s reaction that something was wrong with this trip. When the donkey speaks, Balaam’s heart is so twisted by his own desire and sin he doesn’t bat an eye at this miracle.
Scholars believe the angel is Jesus because he accuses Balaam of sinning against him personally (verse 32).
Balaam still wants to go and asks so. God gives him over to judgment by allowing him to go.
With these actions, Balaam earns himself a place as a lover of money in the Bible and is held up as an example of what NOT to do: 2 Peter 2:15-16 & Jude 11.
Map Showing where Israelites are Encamped: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/images/EglonAndAmmon2.jpg
Clear Delineation of Negev and Moab: http://www.bibletrack.org/notes/image/Israel_to_Moab.jpg
Fun fact: The donkey is the only Biblical account of an animal speaking. And an angel (Jesus) praised the donkey, proof God loves all His creations.