Numbers 22

Balak Summons Balaam (22:1–20)

21–23 But God was very angry when he went (verse 22). Why was God angry? Balaam was only doing what God had commanded. But God knew Balaam’s motivation; He knew that Balaam intended to curse Israel and receive his full payment from Balak. So God sent His angel to block Balaam’s way.

Balaam, the famous diviner, the seer, didn’t see the angel—but his dumb donkey did! The donkey turned off the road; Balaam then beat her to get her back on the road.

24–30 Twice more the donkey tried to avoid the angel, and twice more Balaam beat her. Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth (verse 28). This should not surprise us: if the Lord can create humans and animals, certainly He can speak through them if He chooses to.

Verses 28–30 record an amusing conversation between Balaam and his donkey. It appears that Balaam was so frustrated and angry that he didn’t fully realize his donkey was actually speaking!

31–35 Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes (verse 31). This may have been a greater miracle than enabling the donkey to speak! Balaam now realized what kind of God he was dealing with. He said, “I have sinned” (verse 34). But later events would show that he did not truly repent.

God told Balaam to proceed on his way to Moab—but to “speak only what I tell you” (verse 35). Herein lies the main point of the story of Balaam: Balaam would not be able to curse Israel as he had planned; instead, much to his surprise, he would end up blessing Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3–6; Joshua 24:9–10). God’s covenant with Israel could not be broken, no matter how much money Balak paid Balaam.

36–41 After mildly complaining about Balaam’s delay in coming, Balak sacrificed point from which he could see part of the animals—probably to Moab’s god Chemosh Israelite encampment. From there Balaam or to the Canaanite god Baal. Then next would be able to curse the Israelites—or so morning he took Balaam up to a high Balak thought!

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