This passage is about Balaam, his donkey and the angel. Balaam was a man ready to obey God’s command as long as he could profit from doing so. Although he realized the awesome power of Israel’s God, his heart was occupied with the wealth he could gain in Moab. God let Balaam go with Balak’s messengers, but He was angry about Balaam’s greedy attitude and allowing the love of money to control him (vv 22-30). Balaam claimed that he would not go against God just for money, but his greed for wealth and prestige offered by the king blinded him so that he could not see how God was trying to stop him.
We sometimes use the phrase “dumb animals,” but in this case the animal was smarter than the master. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord holding a sword and blocking the way; it turned aside three times and saved Balaam’s life but made him look foolish in the process (v. 29). He had reached a low state of life when God had to use a beast to speak.
The same God who opened the donkey’s mouth and eyes opened Balaam’s eyes so he could see the angel also (vv. 31-35). Balaam finally fell on his face and said “I have sinned” but there was no evidence of sincere repentance. God cautioned him but allowed him to continue on his journey.
Even though I may know what God wants me to do, it can be easy for me to become blinded by the desire for money, possessions or prestige. I need to avoid Balaam’s mistake by looking past the allurement of fame or fortune to the long range benefits of following God.
But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you." And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?" And he said, "No." Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell 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 oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live." Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back." And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you." So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak. When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, on the border formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the border. And Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?" Balaam said to Balak, "Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak." Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent for Balaam and for the princes who were with him. And in the morning Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth- baal, and from there he saw a fraction of the people.
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Numbers 19:1-22The ashes of a heifer used to purify the unclean
Numbers 20:1-29Death and failure
Numbers 21:1-9A serpent problem solved.
Numbers 21:10-35From Mount Hor to Moab.
Numbers 22:1-21Balak sends for Balaam
Numbers 22:22-41The angel and Balaam’s donkey.
Numbers 23:1-30The prophecies of Balaam.
Numbers 24:1-25Balaam foretells the happiness of Israel
Numbers 25:1-18The idolatry of Israel