Numbers Chapter 22

The journeyings of the Israelites took them to to the lands of Arnon and Bashan, in the area of Moab, where the Lord helped them to kill and drive out the people. They were getting closer to obtaining the land of promise. I am sure the people of the lands near there, were getting worried about the coming of Israel towards them. Chapter 22 of the book of Numbers, begins as follows:

1 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.

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The Israelites were in the land of Moab near to the Jordan River, across the river from Jericho.

2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me:
6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.
7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.
8 And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.
9 And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee?
10 And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying,
11 Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out.
12 And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.
13 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you.
14 And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us.

Balak, the king of the Moabites, was one of those in the lands nearby, and after learning what they had done to the Amorites, he was worried. The Israelites were a great army host in their midst. The people of Moab, went to the rulers of Midian, with their concerns. Balak sent messengers of the rulers to Balaam, along with things of value and tools for divination. They were to tell Balaam of the Israelites, the threat they posed, and to enlist his help in stopping them. It seems that Balaam was one who they saw as favored, because whomever he cursed, was cursed. They felt that if they could get help from him, the Israelites would be removed from their land. The messengers of Balak stayed with Balaam, while he sought to know what to do. God visited Balaam, asked who the men were that were with him. Balaam answered and asked God if he would curse the Israelites, so they could be driven out of the land. God then told Balaam that he was not to go with these men. He told Balaam that the Israelites were a blessed people. When Balaam told the elders of Balak to leave without his help, they returned to their land and reported back to Balak.

15 And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they.
16 And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me:
17 For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.
18 And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.
19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more.
20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

Balak sent more men again, but this time there were men of greater honor. They pleaded with Balaam to join them against the Israelites, offering to do all that Balaam wanted of them in return, even giving him greater honor. Balaam said that even if he was given a house full of treasure, he could not go against the words of the Lord. He offered to have them stay, so that he could ask God again. I’m not sure why he wanted to ask again, except that possibly the offering of greater honor was tempting to Balaam. The Lord told Balaam to do what he wanted to do, which was to go with the men, but to speak what the Lord told him. He had already received the answer not to go with the men, but the Lord gave him the answer he was wanting the second time. Balaam woke and went with the princes the next day.

22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
23 And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
24 But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.
25 And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.
26 And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
27 And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?
29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.
30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
32 And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:
33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.
34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.
35 And the angel of the Lord said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

Balaam was rebelling against the first answer from the Lord. So, an angel of the Lord stood in the way of Balaam and his servants as they journeyed. His donkey saw the angel and turned off the path. I am guessing that Balaam and the servants could not see the angel, because their eyes were not open to seeing such a spiritual manifestation in that moment. Balaam forced the animal back onto the path by hitting her, but the angel of the Lord stood in the way again. The donkey, seeing the angel, threw herself into the nearby wall, crushing Balaam’s foot. Balaam hit her again, getting her back on the path. The angel blocked a part of the path that was even more narrow. When the donkey saw the angel, she stopped and fell down, so that Balaam could not go further on her. Balaam got very angry and beat the animal. The Lord caused the donkey to speak to him, asking why he hit her three times for doing nothing. Balaam, in his anger, said he would kill her if only he had a sword in his hand. The donkey reminded Balaam that she was the donkey he had ridden for a long time and had always been there for him, never doing anything like this before. Then, probably because Balaam recognized the truth in these words, the Lord caused that Balaam could see the angel, and he fell on his face. The angel told him that he had beaten the animal, when she had seen him as he blocked the way. The angel had blocked the path because it was the wrong path for Balaam to take, and Balaam was being stubborn or stiff-necked. The angel said that if the donkey had not turned, Balaam would have been slain, but the animal spared. Balaam realized his sin in not recognizing the presence of the angel, and he said he would return if that is what the angel wanted him to do. The angel told Balaam to continue on, but only speak the words the angel told him to say. Balaam continued to go with the men of Balak.

It seems strange to me to hear a story in the bible, of an animal that speaks. It seems an impossible thing and does not make much sense to me. In the manual I am using along with this study, it points out a few verses of scripture. First, Luke 1:37 reads, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” If God wanted the animal to speak, He would have the power to make her speak. Second, Revelation 5:13-14 which says the following:

13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

This teaches us that all creatures of heaven spoke praise of the Lord and four animals specifically said Amen. This may seem like one of those symbolic parts of scripture, which are not to be taken literally. However, Joseph Fielding Smith, a prophet of this current dispensation, clarified when he said, “[animals in the hereafter] will not then be the dumb creatures that we suppose them to be while in this mortal life” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:69). I cannot quite imagine how that will be, but I believe the words of the prophets are true, and so I trust that this story of Balaam and his donkey, happened just as it says.

It is also interesting to note that the animal spoke without much work on the part of the Lord. Balaam, on the other hand, took convincing and coaxing before he was willing to open his eyes to see the angel. The natural man inside us, is stubborn and not willing to listen or be taught. We need to work to overcome that, and to be more willing to listen to the promptings and answers given to us.

36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast.
37 And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?
38 And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.
39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjath-huzoth.
40 And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.
41 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.

Balak went to meet Balaam, asking him why he had not hurried to come to him, when he was willing to give him great honors. Balaam told him that he was there, ready to speak the words that were given him from the Lord. They went to a place called Kirjath-huzoth, where an offering of oxen and sheep was given. Balak took Balaam to a high place where he could look out over the greater part of the people.

Sometimes we can be blinded by the honors of men in our own lives. It seems as though Balaam was generally a good man, who, as a servant of the Lord, was willing to go to the Lord and follow the instruction he was given. However, he was bribed with things of the world and in that moment, he trusted men more then God. Because of this, he was not able to see the angel who stood right in front of him. It is not bad to have things such as riches and honors, but if they take priority over following the commandments and instruction from the Lord, they become corrupted. We can sometimes fall prey to the temptation to beg with God for answer we want, instead of the answer God gives to us. God will not force us to do His will. I think of Joseph Smith asking the Lord if he could give pages of translation to Martin Harris, and being told no. He asked multiple times and finally, God said yes. Joseph wanted to please his friend, and in doing so, the pages were lost and Joseph had to repent before he was able to translate again. I don’t think that tempting the Lord to do things our way, instead of according to His will, ever works out the way we think it will. This is one of the reasons we need to remain worthy of the spirit always. We cannot afford to let our guard down, and like with Balaam, let things of the world influence us to turn away from the Lord. Our know that our lives will be blessed if we learn to trust in the Lord, and not in the world and wisdom of men.

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I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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