A famous character with a timeless message. Life is not about getting rich, and certainly not about using the weaknesses of others against them. Rather, life about knowing God, and helping others to know Him.
By Mark D. Harris
From the earliest days in Sunday School, children learn about Balaam, a magician whose donkey spoke to him. It is a fun story, acted out in person and with toys countless times in church classrooms across America and the world. The story seems simple, as recorded in Numbers 22-25.
- The Israelites under Moses arrive at the border of Moab on their way to the Promised Land. They had just destroyed the armies of Og and Sihon, powerful local kings.
- Balak, the king of Moab, fears that the Israelites will overwhelm him and his people.
- Balaam is a magician from Pethor, a town near the Euphrates River, who is famous for his power.
- Balak sends a delegation to Balaam to ask him to curse Israel and give him military victory.
- Balaam replies that he cannot curse Israel because God has blessed them. In fact, he cannot even travel with the delegation back to Moab. The delegation returns to Moab.
- King Balak sends another, more distinguished delegation, and offers Balaam more money.
- Balaam agrees to go with the delegation but again refuses to curse the Hebrews.
- On the way to Moab, Balaam’s donkey stops in a narrow road. Balaam whips her to move forward, but the donkey then lies down.
- Balaam beats her more and threatens to kill her.
- Balaam donkey speaks audibly to her master, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
- God allows Balaam to see that an angel with a drawn sword was blocking the path. Had the donkey not turned away, the angel would have killed Balaam.
- Balak sacrifices to his gods.
- Balaam continues to Moab, but despite Balak’s continual encouragements, enticements, and threats, did not curse Israel.
- Instead, Balaam blesses Israel, incurring the wrath of Balak.
- Balaam departs to his home in Pethor.