Is there really a talking donkey in the Bible? If so, what is God teaching us through the story of the talking donkey? Let’s take a look at this story in Numbers 22:21-39.
The Israelites were God’s chosen people. At one point, the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and set up camp along the Jordan River, across from the great city of Jericho. The people of Moab were afraid of the Israelites because they saw and heard that the Israelites destroyed the Amorites and took over their land. The Moabites were afraid they were going to be destroyed just like the Amorites.
The King of Moab was named Balak. King Balak sent some of his princes to find a man named Balaam. King Balak wanted Balaam to put a curse on the Israelites so they wouldn’t destroy the Moabites. King Balak even sent some money to give Balaam to try and bribe him to do the curse. When the princes arrived, Balaam tells them to spend the night and he will ask God what he should do.
Now Balaam knew that it was not God’s will for him to get paid a large amount of money to curse God’s people, but he prayed about it anyway. And, no surprise, God told him not to go with the men and curse the Israelites.
The same is true in our lives. There are some things we don’t need to pray about because we already know what God’s answer will be. Here’s an example: We know that the Bible tells us not to lie, so we know it is not God’s will for us to lie. There is no need for us to pray and ask God if we should tell a lie—the answer is always no!
However, King Balak was not willing to take no for an answer! He decides to send more important princes to again ask Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam again says no, but then tells them to wait until morning so he can ask God one more time. This time God tells him to go, but says, “Do only what I tell you.”
The next morning, Balaam gets up and saddles his donkey and goes with the princes of Moab. As they were traveling down the road, God puts an angel in the middle of the path with a sword in hand. Balaam’s donkey sees the angel and turns off the road into a field. Balaam begins to beat the donkey to try to get her back on the road. But the angel moves and blocks their path again, causing the donkey to crush Balaam’s foot against a wall! After a good beating, Balaam gets the donkey moving only to be stopped once again. This time the angel stands in a very narrow place. The donkey has nowhere to turn, so she just lies down. Now Balaam is really mad and begins to beat the donkey again!
This is when things get strange—God opens the donkey’s mouth and the donkey says to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Instead of acting shocked that his donkey just talked to him, Balaam angrily says, “You have made a fool of me!” The donkey replied, “Have I not always been there for you? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” And Balaam honestly replies, “No.”
It’s only after this strange conversation with his donkey that God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel of the Lord in the road.
The angel tells Balaam that he is there to warn him. He says that if not for his donkey, Balaam would have been killed. This was God’s way of getting Balaam’s attention to make sure he knew that God did not want him to obey King Balak and curse the Israelites.
God sometimes uses strange ways to get our attention. This is evidence of His grace in our lives. He could leave us to go our own way, just as he could have let Balaam go, take the money, and curse the Israelites. Instead, He used a talking donkey to get Balaam’s attention.
Ultimately, God is protecting His people. King Balak wanted to use Balaam to curse God’s people. But God always protects His people. He’ll even use an animal like a donkey to show that He loves and cares for His people.