“Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’
Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.'” – Numbers 22:28-29 (NIV)
I think Balaam is one of the most comical folks you’ll find in the Bible. You get the sense if he were around today, he would be on late-night infomercials pitching some product, or doing something else to keep his name in the spotlight. The Better Business Bureau would have had a field day with him. He seemed to love money and fame and making deals. I always chuckle a bit when reading this passage, and try to imagine how ridiculous Balaam must have looked arguing with his donkey. Balaam thought he was going to carry out his own plan for his own gain, but he planned on doing it without truly involving God – actually, he would have involved any god, if it would suit his own purposes. Instead, God stops Balaam in his tracks and embarrasses him with his own animal. And that’s an important message that God is revealing to us in His word in this story, which is also explained in 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV): “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
Balaam probably looked at the path in front of him while riding his donkey and thought he had a clear road ahead. But in trying to ride without full knowledge of God’s plan and His blessing, the road kept getting narrower for Balaam, and eventually, “there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left.” (22:26)
In his book The Message of Numbers, Raymond Brown explains that we should find encouragement in this passage because of what God did through that donkey. Balaam may have had a reputation as a seer and a smooth talker, but he was no match for God’s purposes. Here’s Brown:
“When God makes up his mind to do something he can use anything- ox-goads, a pagan soldier’s dream, trumpets, jars, torches, even donkeys – to further his wise designs. This donkey is our teacher; nobody should be discouraged because of meagre equipment.” (p. 210)
A good reminder for all of us today.