This is a fascinating section of Numbers. Because of this long commentary I’m not going to write extensively on it. It puts the whole story in context, why this leader of other peoples, Balak, is trying to get this diviner, Balaam to curse Israel, something that simply cannot be done. This takes place after the people of Israel have been in the desert for 40 years before they go into Canaan. The passage that many Christians and probably non-Christians would know is Balaam’s talking Donkey. The commentary does an excellent job of explaining the significance of God’s covenant to Abraham to the story. God’s blessing is on Israel, and whoever blesses them will be blessed and whoever curses them will be cursed. Balaam doesn’t quite get this, or want to get this, until it’s almost too late.
What to make of a talking donkey in the Bible. To me, this is again something that seems absurd but rings true. Why would the writer, presumably Moses, put a talking donkey in the story if we all know donkeys cannot talk? Why would you make up something that is on its face absurd? But within the story it makes exquisite sense if in fact it is true, and because it is in God’s Word, I indeed believe it is true and happened as it says. God using a donkey to rebuke a big, bad “holy man” who is pursued by nations to do their bidding. It’s perfect. Then Balaam, despite himself, ends up blessing Israel and not cursing them as Balak wanted. God’s will shall be done.
There is also a verse spoken by Balaam that I memorized long ago, verse 19:
God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
So like the Nav days to memorize a text outside of its context. This entire story fits perfectly within the context of God’s covenant with Israel, which eventually leads to Christ. God doesn’t lie, he will save his people from their sin, from death itself. Some 1500 years(!) after this, we read in Matthew 1:
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
God himself by his Holy Spirit brings into being on earth himself in the form of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, to accomplish what he himself promised Adam and Eve, then Abraham and on throughout Israel’s history. Indeed, God speaks and acts, he promises and fulfills. We can trust his Word.