Friday, February 10, 2006

Balaam and the Donkey

Numbers 22

The Israelites had to fight their way to the Promised land, and God led them to victory in battle that the nations around were afraid of them.

Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, both came out with armies against them. The Israelites overcame them, and took possession of their territories.

The victorious army pitched their tents in the plains of Moab. Balak, king of that country, fearing he and his people would also be destroyed, sent for Balaam, who was a prophet (that is, one to whom God shows things that are going to happen), to come and pronounce a curse upon the Israelites, which might prevent their taking his kingdom from him.

Balaam at first refused to curse the Israelites because he knew that God had blessed them. But Balak bribed him, promising him power and riches and at last Balaam consented.

The next morning, he saddled his donkey and went with them. But God was angry with him for desiring Balak's riches and power and sent an angel to stand in the way to stop him.

God, who can do whatever He will, caused the donkey that Balaam rode, to see the Angel. The donkey moved aside to avoid him. For this her master struck her. Again the angel stood before him in a path where there was a wall on each side. The donkey, seeing him tried to move aside as before but crushed Balaam's foot against the wall.

Balaam struck her again. A little farther on the angel stood before them a third time. The donkey seeing him fell down under Balaam, who angrily struck her with his staff. God now wonderfully caused the donkey to speak and she asked Balaam why he had beaten her. Imagine how shocked Balaam would have been, a talking donkey!

Then God made the Angel visible to Balaam, standing with his drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed down before him to the ground. The angel corrected Balaam for striking his donkey, telling him that because he had wished to do what God did not will, God had sent His angel to oppose him in the way. If the donkey did not step aside he would have been killed.

Balaam confessed that he had done wrong, and offered to go back. The Angel told him go on to Balak, but to be careful to speak only what God would tell him say.

Balaam continued on. When he saw the camp of the children of Israel stretching far before him, by God's command he blessed the people whom Balak had sent for him to curse.

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