Lessons from a talking donkey – Numbers 22-25

Lessons from a donkey - Numbers 22-25If you’ve never read the story of Balaam and his donkey, you need to check it out. It’s a fascinating story of consequences of disobedience, done like a Disney animated feature film (complete with a talking donkey). You’ll find it in the Old Testament in the book of Numbers, chapters 22-25.

I guess what hits me when I read this story is how Balaam, out of his greed, disobeys God, but in the end God is able to accomplish what He wanted, but to an even greater degree.

What I mean is, God did not give Balaam permission to go with King Balak’s men. Balaam, however, entertained the thought of all that reward and each time asked the king’s delegation to stay overnight while he “consults God about it” one more time (notice verse 19).

15 Then Balak tried again. This time he sent a larger number of even more distinguished officials than those he had sent the first time. 16 They went to Balaam and gave him this message: “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Please don’t let anything stop you from coming. 17 I will pay you well and do anything you ask of me. Just come and curse these people for me!” 18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak were to give me a palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD my God. 19 But stay here one more night to see if the LORD has anything else to say to me.”

Balaam knew God did not want him to go because God told him very clearly he was not to. When the king sent even more dignitaries (read: more reward), it was just too much. So, God tells Balaam he can go:

22:20 That night God came to Balaam and told him, “Since these men have come for you, get up and go with them. But be sure to do only what I tell you to do.”

How do I come to the conclusion that God didn’t want him to go? Look at the very next verse:

22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.

If you’re familiar with this story, you probably know the rest. After the little Disney mini-episode with the talking donkey, Balaam goes with the king’s delegation with the disclaimer that he is powerless to say anything other than what God tells him to.

The king expects Balaam to curse the nation of Israel so he’d have a better chance of defeating them. Instead, God tells Balaam to bless them – right in front of the king – not once, but three times! What’s more, Balaam prophesies the destruction of the Moabites and the Kenites.

If Balaam had initially obeyed God and stayed home, the glory for God may not have been so obvious. Out of Balaam’s disobedience, the king was humiliated to his face, and God’s message was personal. And, we wouldn’t have had the wonderful story of the talking donkey (sorry, you’ll just have to read it for yourself!).

Am I condoning the fact that this animal abuser disobeyed God in the first place? Mercy, no. I’m simply pointing out that God’s will WILL be done…even if we choose to disobey. The cül thing is that even when we screw up, He can still turn things around and bring glory to Himself.

I wonder what reward Balaam would have received if he would have been obedient the first time and simply sent the men away.


“Hey I got an idea! I could stay with you! We could stay up late, swap manly stories, and in the morning, I’m making waffles!” – donkey


  1. #1 by Steve on March 18, 2007 - 9:06 pm

    Thanks for this I love the story of Balsam and his donkey.




  2. #2 by Joe Kerr on March 13, 2008 - 11:56 am

    I am constantly being told by Christians that I need to be saved.
    But from what? Saved from people who believe in talking donkeys most likely. I would have believed the story but for the fact that my dog told me it was a load of bull, and my dog would know, he has a masters in astrophysics.

    Regards, Joe

  3. #3 by Jaqua (Jāy 'Quāy) on March 13, 2008 - 5:48 pm

    Not sure what brought you to my blog, but I appreciate your comment. I’m involved in a men’s minstry and I get this question (What do I need to be “saved” from?)occasionally. So, I’ve had time to think about it some. Here’s the best answer I’ve been able to come up with.

    Clearly, the talking donkey story may seem a bit far-fetched…along with the crossing of the red sea by Moses and the children if Israel, the water to wine, the healing of those with leprosy and any number of other miracles that are found in the Holy Bible.

    Furthermore, your seeking may have you questioning the very foundations of the Christian faith – the miracle immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, the fact that He rose from the dead after a terrible death on the cross.

    Perhaps you even question that God has anything to do with the whole earth and believe that we are all here as a result of some “cosmic coincidence.”

    I can’t convince you of any of this, but I will say that I personally feel it takes less faith to believe that there is a God who created all this than to believe that we “just happened”.

    So – a God who created all this should have no difficulty turning a little water into wine, or healing those He created, or even…a talking donkey.

    Back to your question – “saved from what?”

    The answer is: from eternal separation from God.

    I happen to believe that we’re all created with this “God-shaped hole” inside us that creates the longing and seeking to have a relationship with our Creator. I believe He created us to have a relationship with us.

    But – He wants us to seek Him. How easy would it be to create beings like robots that just automatically love Him? But, how can you call that love? No- He wants us to choose to love Him…to choose to seek and find Him.

    The movie “Bruce Almighty” explores this topic a bit. Jim Carey’s character, Bruce, becomes God for a short stint. The only thing He couldn’t do was to make someone love him.

    So – knowing all this, we are saved from eternal separation from God. God is a holy God and cannot tolerate sin. Sin is what separates us from God. If we live our life trying to live a perfect life (without any sin) – as only Jesus Christ could do successfully – we will fail. That’s the whole point! We can’t do it without God – without the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ gave to “redeem” us from our sins.

    The term “saved” refers to this redemption that Jesus performed by dying on the cross – the perfect lamb or sacrifice. By believing in Him and serving Him – or if you want to look at it this way, by seeking Him and finding Him and thus filling this God-shaped hole in us – we are saved from the wages (or results) of living a sinful life.

    To say it another way, believing and serving Jesus frees us to have a relationship with our Creator in this world, and in the afterlife.

    The alternative – separation from God. Some call this hell, some understand this to be a dark place where we’ll spend eternity. Some believe there will be pain and suffering, “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” This is the result (or punishment?) of us not having simply chosen to believe in Him – in the redemptive power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

    If you want to explore more – I recommend you pick up a Bible and start reading. Start in Romans or in the book of John.

    Or you can visit http://www.needhim.org/ which contains some great information for you to explore.

    I will be praying that God makes Himself known to you and that you seek the answer you’re obviously looking for. Oh, and tell your dog I said hello!

    grace & peace,

  4. #4 by Charles R. on November 15, 2009 - 9:19 am

    Thanks for the blog. I am teaching on this passage this week and I used some of the information from your blog to help me to prepare my lesson. Thanks and Lord bless… Charles

  5. #5 by karani buyabo on July 6, 2011 - 10:42 am


  6. #6 by Anonymous on July 17, 2011 - 12:56 pm

    Joe wrote, “The movie “Bruce Almighty” explores this topic a bit. Jim Carey’s character, Bruce, becomes God for a short stint. The only thing He couldn’t do was to make someone love him.”

    yeah obviously because it was part of the plot for a make believe movie. shouldn’t be surprised though these are typical christian answers that do not answer anything

    • #7 by Monifa Reel-Spain (@2bMoRe) on March 14, 2012 - 10:54 pm

      Joe wrote, “The movie “Bruce Almighty” explores this topic a bit. Jim Carey’s character, Bruce, becomes God for a short stint. The only thing He couldn’t do was to make someone love him.”

      yeah obviously because it was part of the plot for a make believe movie. shouldn’t be surprised though these are typical christian answers that do not answer anything

      Wow…was that the only answer you were able to get from that 15 paragraph response??? That’s very sad and so typical of a non-beliver.

      Hindsight is 20/20.

  7. #8 by Anonymous on September 16, 2012 - 12:09 am


  8. #9 by Marty on October 27, 2012 - 11:50 am

    Thank you for this in depth accounting of Balaam and his talking donkey and for your response to Joe. I think you hit that nail on the head when you said to him “I don’t know what brought you to my blog”. What brought him here and what caused him to draw an honest comment was his conviction by the Holy Spirit.
    You did a wonderful job of explaining your answer of why he needs to be saved. Most would have mouthed off in anger at such sarcastic responses of belittle like his dog, but you didn’t. Instead you showed God’s grace and mercy be staying focused and on track to answer his question. It would be interesting to hear from Joe 5 years later and ask him how he’s doing and if he’s thought anymore about the question.
    Someone else responded anonymously that these are the typical answers of Christians to quote a Bruce almighty movie. Anonymous missed the point of why you would even interject the movie, which is to give them something they are familiar with.
    Finally two other responses here draw my criticism, and they are posts by Monifa and the second Anonymous. Guys, when you answer in such a way to a non-believer you are not going to draw them closer to Christ, but to the devil. You must always show grace to a non-believer when the question why they should believe in God. Did you forget that even behind all of Joe’s sarcasm, there was a real question about why should he be saved? Is that not the goal of this forum, to answer that question for Joe? Why would you respond with condemnation then. As a Christian, you have to be willing to not stereotype or reveal your paradigms, that’s what Satan wants you to do, then he’s won Joe and anonymous 1.
    There is a misconception that we Christians sometimes have, and we tend to look at things in three dimensions. These dimensions are 1) moving closer to Christ, 2) moving closer to the devil 3) no movement, just atheism. This is a misconception.
    In fact there are only two dimensions. 1) move closer to Christ 2) everything else which is walking with the devil. My point in this is when you answer non-believers in such a way that’s not an answer that demonstrates your closer walk with Christ then it coming from somewhere else, perhaps your own greed, from your own convictions and misconceptions, or your own anger that someone is questioning your faith and why you believe the way you do, but it still isn’t an answer that demonstrates God’s love and mercy, it is not and answer that shows you are walking with Christ, and therefore it only points back to the devil and makes people like Joe say “Christians-I told you those people really hate me.”
    And anonymous 2, to Amen such a response is to Amen a response other than from God, which does not bring glory to Him, but only to you.

    Hope no one takes offense, but I felt led to share. Praise God in everything!

  9. #10 by Chris Ratley on December 21, 2012 - 7:48 pm

    Sorry but I would have to point out that if you actually READ the entire scriptural passage, it makes NO sense. Balaam refused to disobey God every time, turning down wealth and fame in favor of obedience to God. Then God tells Balaam to go ahead and go with the men and when Balaam faithfully OBEYS not disobeys and does exactly what he is told to do, God or one of his many personalities gets angry at Balaam. You can’t show me anywhere in that story where Balaam did any sing act of disobedience, he obeyed to the letter of the law, repeatedly in fact but each time God told him to go act and he did, God would get angry with him….Read the story for a change with a non-brainwashed point of view…this story is just proof of our susceptibility to the power of suggestion. Most religions teach that Balaam disobeyed God, but I’ve asked people with doctorates and masters degrees to read me the story bit by bit and tell me where Balaam did anything wrong ever or where he ever disobeyed….you can’t find it because its not there, its not reality…..open your eyes.

    • #11 by Jaqua (Jāy 'Quāy) on January 4, 2013 - 10:33 am

      I’m certainly no Bible scholar, but here’s how I understand this passage.

      The Lord knows our hearts, Chris. God told Balaam not to go with these men, yet he entertained the thought. He invited them to stay with him the night so he could consider a way to go with them, even though God clearly was against this. It makes no sense for God to approve that Balaam go and put a curse on God’s people! But, Balaam was impressed that this king would send such distinguished people to ask for his assistance – and they offered to reward him handsomely! Instead of sending them home right away, Balaam tells them both times to stay the night so he could ask God again.

      I believe if Balaam would have send them away (both times) as he should have, there would have been no need to even mention this story. But, God got angry with Balaam’s pride and arrogance and selfishness. It would be like someone coming to you and asking you to betray a friend, then you going to that friend and asking if it would be okay. The friend would not be your friend much longer.

      I can tell from the tone and accusations in your post that your searching the scriptures has not helped you find God. I am praying that He would open your eyes and heart and you’d find peace, Chris.

  1. A Talking Donkey? | Route 66 - Roadside Assistance

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