Pastoral Commentary for Numbers 22
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
Having witnessed the defeat of his northern neighbors at the hands of Israel, Balak, king of Moab sought the help of a soothsayer named Balaam to curse Israel and prevent them from taking his land as they had the Amorites. When first approached, Balaam listened to the Lord and refused to go with Balak's men. The summons was repeated, however, and God gave Balaam permission to go, but to do only what the Lord commanded him to do. When Balaam went, the Lord's anger was kindled against him. This seems like a contradiction, but while we can only see on the outside, God could see what was in Balaam's heart, and knew that his intention was to conform to Balak's wishes. The angel of the Lord came down to block Balaam's path, but only Balaam's donkey could see the angel. When the donkey hesitated, tried to turn around, and finally sat down, then like the Lord's, Balaam's anger was kindled against the animal and he struckit. Balaam must have been shocked when the dumb animal opened its mouth and protested, "What have I done?" The angry Balaam said "you have made a fool of me," without even thinking how foolish he looked holding a conversation with his donkey. The suddenly intelligent beast asked, "Is it my habit to treat you this way?" Humbled, Balaam said, "No" and at that moment his eyes were opened to see the angel of the Lord. The angel rebuked Balaam, but told him to continue on and to speak only what the Lord commanded. When Balaam finally met Balak he said, "The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak." The fate of God's people was in the Lord's hands, not in the hands of any man, either Balak or Balaam.