Numbers 22:1-6 The children of Israel settled in the plains of Moab at Jericho. King Balak of Moab witnessed what the children of Israel did to the Amorites. The people of Moab were afraid simply by the sheer size of the Israelites. King Moab summoned Balaam to curse the Israelites so the King could defeat the Israelites in battle.
Notes: With their control of Transjordan secured, Israel moved unimpeded to the plains of Moab in preparation for assaulting Canaan. The Moabites were descendants of Lot. Balaam practiced magic and divination. Later Scripture identifies Balaam as a false prophet. A curse was a spoken word that was believed to bring misfortune upon the one it was spoken against. Balak acknowledged that Balaam had the reputation of pronouncing curses that actually worked.
Numbers 22:7-14 The messengers to Balaam had the fees to be paid to get Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam told the messengers to spend the night while he sought the God of Israel on what to do. God came to Balaam and warned him not to curse the Israelites for they were blessed by Him. Balaam told the messengers to go home for the they were blessed by their God and refuses to curse them. The messengers told King Balak that Balaam refuses to come.
Notes: As a pagan prophet, Balaam would anticipate making contact with the gods of any people. Though Balaam used the word “Lord,” the biblical text makes it clear that he did not have a relationship with Israel’s God. Even though God had given Balaam permission to go (v. 20), he knew that his motive was not right.
Numbers 22:15-21 King Balak sent more influential messengers (princes) to Balaam to convince him to come and curse the Israelites for his reward would be great. Balaam responded that for no sizable reward could make him go against the God of Israel. Balaam told the messengers to stay the night and see if the God of Israel again speaks to him. God told Balaam he could go this time, but he must do whatever He tells Balaam to do. The next morning, Balaam went with the messengers to Moab.
Numbers 22:22-30 The Lord was angry that Balaam went to Moab, so he sent the angel of the Lord to stand against him. Balaam’s donkey was the only one that saw the angel with a drawn sword, so the donkey left the path they were on to avoid the angel. Balaam struck the donkey to get her to return to the path. The angel again blocked the path that was narrow and between the vineyards that had a wall on either side. The donkey pushed against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot. Balaam struck the donkey again. The donkey refused to move forward, but lay down on the ground before the angel. Balaam continued to strike the donkey. The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey and she asked Balaam why he was striking her. Balaam said because he was made to look foolish and wished he had a sword so he could kill her. The donkey asked Balaam whether he thought it strange for her to act this way when all her life she had been faithful.
Numbers 22:31-35 The Lord allowed Balaam to see the angel of the Lord with his sword drawn. Balaam fell to the ground on his face. The angel asked Balaam the same question as the donkey as to why he struck her three times. Now, the angel was instructed to oppose Balaam because the Lord read Balaam’s heart that he was corrupt and was only interested in the reward. The angel of the Lord told Balaam that his donkey was trying to save Balaam’s life by turning aside. Balaam admitted his sin and was willing to go back to his home. The angel of the Lord said he could proceed to King Balak, but must change his mind of seeking his own will and do only what the Lord instructs him to do. Balaam then continued with the messengers.
Numbers 22:36-41 When Balaam reached King Balak, the king questioned why he didn’t come when first called. Balaam said that no matter the reason, he was now present and would only act as the God of Israel instructed him to act. King Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep and sent for Balaam and the messengers to attend. In the morning, King Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw just a fraction of the people of Israel.