“Did Balaam’s donkey really talk to him?”The story of Balaam and his talking donkey is found inNumbers 22. Balaam was a pagan prophet who practiced divination and other magic arts, led Israel into apostasy, and was identified as a false prophet by Peter and Jude
2 Pet. 2:15-1615 They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, (Some manuscripts read Bosor ) who loved to earn money by doing wrong.16 But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice.
Jude 1:11 What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.
Fearing the encroaching Israelites, King Balak of Moab sent for Balaam and enlisted his aid in repelling the Israelites by cursing them. The Lord spoke to Balaam and told him to refuse to go to Balak, although the Lord relented under the condition that Balaam would speak only His words. So Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab back to Balak.But knowing Balaam’s heart, the Lord’s anger burned against Balaam for what He knew was Balaam’s rebelliousness, and He sent an angel with a drawn sword to bar his way. Although Balaam couldn’t see the angel, his donkey could, and she tried to discontinue the journey by going off the path, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall and lying down on the path. Angered by her behavior, Balaam used his staff to beat the donkey three times.
28 Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam. ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’”
Then Balaam and the donkey proceeded to have a conversation about the situation, with Balaam angrily berating the donkey, after which the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel and understand why his journey was stopped.There is no doubt that Balaam’s donkey spoke to him. The question that arises is whether the donkey was suddenly given the power of speech, which would also mean she was given the power to reason because she answered Balaam’s questions, asked some of her own, and carried on a rational conversation. While it is certainly possible that God granted human powers to the donkey, it’s more likely that He opened her mouth and spoke through her. The angel that barred his way is identified as the angel of the Lord, likely a manifestation of the presence of God Himself
Genesis 16:9-16When the angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
11 And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”(Hebrew El-roi.) She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai–roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.
One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,(Moses’ father-in-law went by two names, Jethro and Reuel.) the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai,(Hebrew Horeb, another name for Sinai) the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”“Here I am!” Moses replied.5 “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father(Greek version reads your fathers)—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
After the donkey “spoke” to Balaam, and Balaam’s eyes were opened, the angel proceeded to ask the identical questions that came from the mouth of the donkey, further evidence that God, not the donkey, was actually speaking both times. This is reiterated by Peter, who identifies the donkey as (“a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice NKJV) 2 Pet. 2:1616 But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice.
Whatever the method, the donkey was able to speak by a miraculous working of God’s power.Why was Balaam not shocked into silence by the donkey speaking to him? Surely, it must have come as a surprise to him, and under normal circumstances, the obvious reaction would be for him to at least ask how she came to be speaking. The Bible doesn’t tell us why he didn’t find it odd to be addressed by a donkey, but we do know something about his state of mind. First, he was in rebellion against the Lord, going to Balak for his own purposes and not those of the Lord. Second, the donkey’s refusal to continue down the path enraged him so that he beat her out of anger because she had mocked him and made a fool of him. Anger has a way of curtailing rational thought, and perhaps he was so intent on exerting his dominance over the animal that he lost the ability to think clearly. It wasn’t until the angel opened Balaam’s eyes to see reality that he relented in his anger against the donkey, listened to the angel, and repented. Verse 38 tells us that Balaam went to Balak and told the king, “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth,” which just goes to show that God can use anyone, even a donkey and a rebellious prophet, to do His will and speak His truth.