I just read through Numbers 22-26 again, covering Balaam and his attempts to curse Israel for Balak king of Moab. There’s some confusion among people who try to explain this passage because at first Balaam turns down, at the Lord’s command, the money offered by the messengers of Balak. But when they return and offer more money, God tells Balaam to go with them but speak only what God gives him to say. It appears at first glance that Balaam is doing what God says is okay. When on the road, Balaam’s donkey sees the angel of the Lord with a sword in his hand three times, and each time turns aside even though Balaam is beating it. After the third turning, the donkey is given speech by God to ask Balaam the reason for the beatings. Then God allows Balaam to see the angel who tells him he would’ve died if his donkey hadn’t dodged away.

Balaam ends up blessing Israel three times (plus a fourth free of charge) instead of the cursing paid for by Balak . Balak is angry with Balaam, but Balaam reminds the king of Moab that he can only say what God tells him to say. The question is, did God approve the money-making opportunity or not?

My take on it is that Balaam wasn’t much different than the donkey. God gave speech to the donkey, and God gave speech to Balaam. The donkey was able to express itself honestly, but not Balaam. Balaam intended to curse Israel and earn his money, but couldn’t, because God is the one in control. Balaam even says that he couldn’t curse what God blessed, and couldn’t bless what God cursed.

Numbers 23:8 ESV. How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?

So the answer to the question is that Balaam really wanted the money, but God had other plans and caused the donkey, er I mean, Balaam, to speak only what God determined. God used the donkey, and He used Balaam. Later Balaam was killed by Israel in battle with the Midianites, who used Balaam’s advice to try and corrupt Israel with Midianite women and idolatry. Even though Balaam appears to cooperate with God, he was forced to mouth words by the Spirit in line with God’s blessings. His speech wasn’t voluntary. I think the speech of the donkey was an illustration of what was to come with Balaam. God’s will is always done, whether He causes a donkey to speak or a man to speak.

Shalom, Bruce

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