“And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.” (Numbers 22:27)
“And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” (Numbers 22:28)
The story we have presented to us in this chapter is one that has been subjected to much comment, supposition, interpretation, and explanation. The novelty of the story of Balaam’s talking donkey – and the fact of a talking donkey! – have caused many critics to dismiss the tale as a momentary flight of fantasy, without any factual basis, the sole purpose of which is as an allegory or metaphor.
Let it be clear to the reader that I believe the Bible accurately records an actual historic account in which God actually spoke through the mouth of a donkey. For many, my belief in talking donkeys would be a cause to dismiss anything else I have to say. But the absurdity of my belief in the Word of God serves to underscore the absurdity of my critics’ unbelief in the Word of God.
Think about it: the Bible tells us that God parted the Red Sea by Moses. Despite the obvious evidence of the Israelites’ passage, many have tried to explain away this miraculous event. And we must not forget that God had earlier spoken to Moses from a burning bush, or that He later spoke from a cloudy pillar. Why then do the critics insist on anything less than the literal, actual event of God speaking by the mouth of a donkey?
The fact is that the Bible is full of instances in which God has done miraculous things – so many that we all agree that God is a Miracle-Worker. And yet it seems that modern critics continue to deny the Power of God to do the impossible; the matter of Balaam’s talking donkey is but a single instance of such apparent skepticism. Sadly, many of these skeptics are self-professed Christians, who stumble along in unbelief of the Word of God.
So yes, I believe that Balaam had a conversation with his donkey. But my belief in this event does not in any way diminish the awesome nature of the occasion. After all, it isn’t every day that we hear a donkey speak! Such a thing is noteworthy, and it behooves the listener to give heed to any warnings given by such a miraculous oracle. But we see something completely different taking place in our text.
Balak, king of the Moabites, had sought the services of Balaam in order to place a curse on the children of Israel. The story unfolds with Balaam as he is headed to meet Balak. We are told that “God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him” (Numbers 22:22). Seeing the danger, Balaam’s donkey refused to lead her master down the path to destruction. When Balaam angrily began to beat the donkey, the Lord opened its mouth to forbid the madness of the prophet (2 Peter 2:16).
Even stranger than the Lord speaking through a donkey is the fact that Balaam began to argue with his donkey (Numbers 22:29-30)! Apparently, Balaam failed to see the miraculous nature of this event. Nor did he consider the undeniable wisdom of his donkey. In fact, Balaam’s madness seemed to have prevented him from realizing that he was talking to a donkey!
Are we any better than the mad prophet? How do we often respond to the Word of God? Do we immediately accept reproof and correction; or do we become argumentative, as we fail to recognize the Word of God, because it’s not coming from an ‘acceptable’ source, such as a pastor or big-name televangelist?
Let our ears be open to hear the Word of God when He speaks from unlikely sources to lead, guide, and correct us.