Was there really a talking donkey in the Bible? Or was it just a metaphor?

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The story of Balaam and the talking donkey is recorded in Numbers ch. 22-24. It is a true story and not a metaphor. Balaam the son of Beor was once a prophet of God, but he apostatized, and yielded his soul to covetousness; yet he still professed to be a servant of the Most High (Numbers 22—24). Balak king of Moab, who opposed Israel while traveling to Canaan, sent messengers to Balaam who lived in Mesopotamia that he may come and curse Israel in exchange for rewards. Balaam wanted to do it for he “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15).

But the angel of the Lord came to Balaam with the message, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Numbers 22:12). Then, King Balak sent “other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first” (verse 16). Seeing that Balaam set his heart on going, God said to him, “Go with them, but do only what I tell you” (v. 20).

So, Balaam rode his donkey and set for Moab (Numbers 22:21). On the way, God sent His angel to hinder Balaam. The donkey saw the angel with a sword and three times shifted from his path to avoid the sword. But Balaam, who didn’t see the angel, was very angry at his donkey and beat it. “Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth” (verse 28), and it complained to Balaam saying, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you? And he said, “No” (v. 28-30). Balaam was apparently so upset about the delay that he doesn’t seem shocked at all that the donkey was able to speak, but rather answers it.

Then, the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn (verse 31). And the angel said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.  The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live. And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, “I have sinned…” (v. 32-34).

The apostle Peter confirms the story of the talking donkey and tells us that with, “The dumb ass speaking with man’s voice,” he “forbade the madness of the prophet” (2 Peter 2:16). By shifting his course, the donkey actually spared Balaam’s life. Had Balaam been faithful to God, refusing to be moved by his greed for riches, he would not have erred and eventually lost his path.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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