“Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”
The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” ~ Numbers 22: 28-30
I know that the most obvious thing to spend some time on is the miraculous act of the donkey being able to speak. And then the next would probably be Balaam admitting that he was beating the donkey because he was looking like a fool. I do want to talk about Balaam’s pride a little, but not on it’s own. I think that the donkey’s response is key to a bigger lesson. So let’s unpack this a little.
This is not a new donkey, but one that Balaam has had a long history with. It is his donkey that he always rides. So either Balaam doesn’t have other donkeys, or he prefers this donkey over others. We also know from the question and Balaam’s response, that the donkey normally does not disobey where Balaam is leading him, or appear to just be stubborn and do his own thing. With these in mind, I think there are a few thing to take away.
Pride seriously clouds judgment. Balaam tells the donkey that if he had a sword, he would kill it on the spot because it made him look like a fool. I can relate to having a temper, so I understand losing it. But Balaam is not just expressing some embarrassment but some deep rooted pride that impacts the way he responds. For starters, the donkey is speaking! Think about it. Balaam had just been beating his donkey for not listening and all of a sudden the donkey opens his mouth and asks why it was beaten three times. I would anticipate that the response to this would have been instant shock and then an apology. But instead Balaam presses into his pride even more by elevating his level of anger and wrath. Now Balaam expresses that the beatings weren’t enough but that he would kill the donkey if he had the means. Not only do we see an escalation in his reaction because of his pride, but we also see a lack of logic. The donkey (which for years has been a good donkey) hasn’t been listening to directions, and now Balaam is ready to kill the donkey in response. Balaam is ready to lose his donkey, his main form of transportation because his pride was injured.
I personally see another take away point. Balaam was unaware that the donkey was behaving strangely because of the angel, however as we mentioned earlier, the donkey didn’t normally behave this way. I know that there have been times in my life when something tried and true stops working. And I frequently respond in a similar way as Balaam, where my pride is hurt and so I keep trying to force moving ahead. I think is also just a quick reminder that sometimes the Lord is the one slowing or blocking our path, and when something that normally goes our way doesn’t, maybe there’s a reason.