If Donkeys Could Talk


Numbers 22-24


Before you start this study take a look at this video:  Andy Griffith


Children learn the art of manipulation at a very early age.  At infancy they learn that crying is a very powerful tool.  They can get a diaper changed, a fresh bottle of milk, or even a favorite toy simply by crying.  By the time they are in the 1st grade they have advanced to far more sophisticated methods.  Here are just a few examples.


·         Rule #1: Always go to the parent who is most likely give in.  Knowing which parent is weakest takes exceptional skill and discernment. 

·         Rule #2: Keep asking (whining) until at least one parent surrenders. 

·         Rule #3: Compare yourself to all the other kids in the universe.  Example; “All the other kids in the universe have their own cell phone. Why can’t I?” 

·         Rule #4: Pretend like your world will simply fall apart unless you get your way.  The more drama you use the more likely  parents are to surrender

·         Rule #5: Pretend like you misunderstood.  Go ahead with your plan then ask for forgiveness later.  Sometimes it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. 


These methods are thousands of years old.  They have been passed down from generation to generation.  Yet most young people believe they are breaking new ground in the art of manipulation.  Have you ever tried one of these methods on God?  In the Numbers 22-24 Balak and Balaam did their very best to force God into letting them have their own way.  Let’s review the story and see how well it worked.


·         King Balak of Moab sees that the Israelites are numerous and powerful, so he begins to fear for his kingdom. He sends for a sorcerer named Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. (Num. 22:1–24:25)

·         God forbids Balaam to accept a bribe from King Balak of Moab to curse Israel. However, God does permit the prophet to accompany Balak’s messengers to Moab. (Num. 22:1–21)

·          En route, Balaam’s donkey is frightened by something Balaam cannot see—God’s angel standing in the road with a drawn sword! Unaware of this, the angry prophet beats his seemingly unruly animal. (Num. 22:22–27)

·         Balaam is rebuked by his donkey, who complains about its undeserved beating! Now Balaam sees the angel, who then rebukes him for coming. (Num. 22:28–34)

·         In essence, Balaam is warned to speak only what God tells him to. Upon arriving in Moab, the prophet relates all this to Balak. (Num. 22:35–41)

·          Balaam travels nearly 400 miles for Balak, going from one location to another.  Five times Balaam stands over the people of Israel and is unable to curse them. Each time Balaam returns with a new message from God. (Num. 23:1–24:25)

o    “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?

o   “… No misfortune is in sight for Jacob...”

o   “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob … Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel.”

o    “A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel. It will crush the foreheads of Moab’s people.”

o   Balaam predicts divine judgment on Moab and other pagan nations: “Alas, who can survive when God does this?”[1]


Have your group discuss the following questions:

1.      Compare Numbers 22:12 to 22:20. Why do you think God changed His mind?

2.      Read Numbers 22:32.  If Balaam was really following God’s instructions, why did the angel say his way was perverse? (Literal translation “reckless”)

3.      In this story God used a donkey to get Balaam’s attention.  We don’t usually hear donkeys talk today.  What methods does God use to get our attention?

4.      Why do you think Balak continued to ask the sorcerer to curse Israel?  Why wasn’t God’s first answer good enough?

5.      What may have happened if God granted Balak’s request?

6.      Which of the five rules of manipulation did Balak use?

7.      Which of the five rules did Balaam use? 


Life Application:

The story of Balak and Balaam serves as a reminder that, no matter how many ways we ask or how many prayers we pray, God is not moved by our selfish intentions.  We cannot manipulate Him. 

1.      Have you ever tried one of the five rules on God?

2.      What do the following verses teach us about praying with humility and sincerity?

a.       Psalm 37: 23

b.      Psalm 37:34

c.       Psalm 139:23-24

d.      Proverbs 2:1-5

e.       Isaiah 40:31


3.      How does the story of Balak and Balaam change the way you understand God?


[1]Willmington, H. L.: The Outline Bible. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 1999, S. Nu 20:14-24:25

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