The Israelites had been in the wilderness for almost 40 years. They had conquered many strong cities. Now, as they camped on the plains of Moab east of the Jordan River, it was time for them to enter the Promised Land. Balak, the king of Moab, was scared that he was going to lose his land to them. So he invited a man named Balaam to come to Moab and curse the Israelites.
But Jehovah told Balaam: ‘You must not curse the Israelites.’ So Balaam refused to go. King Balak invited him a second time and promised to give him anything he wanted. Still, Balaam refused. Then God said: ‘You may go, but you may say only what I tell you to say.’
Balaam got on his donkey and headed south to Moab. He planned to curse the Israelites, even though Jehovah had told him not to. Jehovah’s angel appeared on the road three times. Balaam could not see the angel, but Balaam’s donkey could. First the donkey went off the road into a field. Then the donkey moved up against a stone wall, jamming Balaam’s foot against it. Finally the donkey lay down in the middle of the road. Each time, Balaam hit the donkey with a stick.
After the third time, Jehovah made the donkey speak. The donkey asked Balaam: ‘Why do you keep hitting me?’ Balaam said: ‘You made me look stupid. I would kill you if I had a sword.’ The donkey said: ‘You’ve ridden me for years. Have I ever treated you this way before?’
Then Jehovah let Balaam see the angel. The angel said: ‘Jehovah warned you not to curse Israel.’ Balaam said: ‘I did wrong. I will go back home.’ But the angel said: ‘You can go to Moab, but you may say only what Jehovah tells you to say.’
Had Balaam learned his lesson? No. After that, Balaam tried to curse Israel three times, but each time Jehovah made him bless them instead. Eventually, the Israelites attacked Moab, and Balaam was killed. Would it not have been better if Balaam had listened to Jehovah in the first place?
“Guard against every sort of greed, because even when a person has an abundance, his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15