Thoughts About What We’re Reading…


As a child I remember a series of films made in the 1950’s centered on the comedic adventures of a talking mule named Francis.  Recently, we were bemused with the talking antics of the donkey in Shrek.

Talking animals in movies are cute, but in scripture it gives us pause.  Satan takes the form of a talking snake in Genesis 3, Jesus sends a legion of demons in a herd of pigs in Matthew 8 and here in Numbers 22-24, we read the story of Balaam and his talking donkey.

Balaam, a pagan diviner and seer is hired by King Balak to curse the nation of Israel.  After a vision or dream from God, Balaam instead blesses the nation to Balak’s dismay.

It may seem surprising that God can use such a corrupt character to deliver His Word, but our Big God can even make a donkey speak! It was the donkey that first recognized the Angel of the Lord, in essence saving the life of Balaam.

God demonstrates that He can use even a pagan wizard to bring blessing to His people.

Though Balaam had been unsuccessful in cursing the people of Israel, he evidently managed to play a role in their seduction by the Baal cult at Peor (Numbers 25:1-4 and 31:16). When Israel was in Shittim, Israelite men engaged in sexual immorality with Moabite women. This was an integral part of the Canaanite fertility rites and was practiced in connection with the regular services of their temples (Num. 25:2).

The physical, carnal aspects of this idolatry tempted the Israelites and led them into the spiritual apostasy of worshiping the false God Baal.

So serious was this breach of covenant, especially when Israel was on the threshold of the land of promise, that the Lord commanded Moses to take serious action– all the guilty individuals involved must die.

Later in Chapter 31:8, we read that Balaam was killed during Israel’s battle with the Midianites.

These accounts are reminders that a holy God demands complete obedience of His servants; on the journey to Moab, Balaam’s donkey was more sensitive to God’s moving than was this renowned seer.

Until next time, keep reading…

Excerpts and references: ESV Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible

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