This is a long scripture – but PLEASE take time to read it.
22 The Israelites set out and camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho. 2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were so numerous; Moab was overcome with fear of the Israelites. 4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” Now Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is on the Euphrates,[a] in the land of Amaw,[b] to summon him, saying, “A people has come out of Egypt; they have spread over the face of the earth, and they have settled next to me. 6 Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I; perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed.”
7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand, and they came to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message. 8 He said to them, “Stay here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, just as the Lord speaks to me”; so the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Balaam said to God, “King Balak son of Zippor of Moab has sent me this message: 11 ‘Look, a people has come[c] out of Egypt and has spread over the face of the earth; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’ ” 12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the officials of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the officials of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”
15 Once again Balak sent officials, more numerous and more distinguished than these. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor: Do not let anything hinder you from coming to me, 17 for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do; come, curse this people for me.” 18 But Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 19 You also stay here overnight, so that I may learn what more the Lord may say to me.” 20 That night God came to Balaam and said to him, “If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them, but do only what I tell you to do.” 21 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.
22 God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand, so the donkey turned off the road and went into the field, and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck it again. 26 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. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to 33Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30 But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand, and he bowed down, falling on his face. 32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary because your way is perverse[d] before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.” 35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you to speak.” So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak.
This is one of my favorite donkey stories in the Bible. I have enjoyed it since my teenage years, when I heard it told in the form of a song by a man named Don Francisco.
Since you’ve read this far, you might want to read some of the lyrics to Francisco’s song Balaam:
Then the Angel of the Lord appeared with a flamin’ sword in his hand
Balaam fell down on his face, a very frightened man
The Angel said, “Balaam, you’d be dead if your donkey hadn’t detected
That I was waitin’ there to part your hair when you and my sword connected”
Balaam then repented for his sin
And he promised not to act like that again
And I hope he learned his lesson about God’s reward for greed
But you know it’s that talkin’ donkey that’s really strange indeed
Now that donkey’s just a donkey but she’s still the thing God used
And that’s the point I want you all to see
The Lord’s the one who makes the choice of the instrument He’s usin’
We don’t know the reasons and the plans behind His choosin’
So when the Lord starts usin’ you don’t you pay it any mind
He ‘could have used the dog next door if He’d been so inclined
God of all creation, thank you for speaking to us in ways that will make us listen. And then, use me to share you message with others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.