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Balaam and the Talking Donkey

Numbers 22-24; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 438-452


The Message

We worship God when we follow His instructions.

Memory Verse

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23).

Have you ever seen a dog do tricks? Some dogs can roll over and sit up. In our story, a man heard a donkey talk, really talk! Let’s find out what it said.


The Israelites were nearing the Promised Land. But the surrounding nations had tried to stand in their way, forcing the Israelites to go to war with them. But God was on their side, and each victory sent a message.

Balak, the king of Moab, knew he didn’t have any hope against that kind of strength. But then he remembered what he had heard about Balaam. Some said that whatever Balaam blessed was truly blessed. And whatever he cursed was cursed. If Balak could get Balaam to curse the Israelites, his army might have a chance. So he sent some messengers to bring Balaam to him. They took along a lot of gold, the money of their day.

Balaam believed in God. He had once been a prophet. But he had become greedy and no longer served God. Yet, when the messengers came, Balaam asked God for instructions. The answer came back, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because I have blessed them.” *

So Balaam sent the messengers home. But Balak sent more messengers, with even more gold.

Balaam knew that God did not want him to go. So he said, “King Balak could give me his palace full of silver and gold. But I cannot disobey the Lord.”

God knew that Balaam really wanted to go, So that night God said to Balaam, “These men have come to ask you to go with them. Go. But only do what I tell you.” So Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the messengers.

Balaam didn’t see the angel standing in the road to block his way. But his donkey did, and she turned off into a field. Balaam beat the donkey to get her back onto the road.

The angel appeared a second time. And the donkey moved against a wall, smashing Balaam’s foot. Balaam beat her a second time. The third time the angel appeared, there was no place for the donkey to go. So she lay down in the road.

It was after this third beating that the Lord made the donkey speak. “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” she asked Balaam. (See Numbers 22:28-30.)

Balaam was so angry that he answered without thinking. “You’ve made a fool out of me,” he said.

“You have ridden me for years,” the donkey responded. “Have I ever done this to you before?”

And that’s when Balaam saw the angel. “If your donkey hadn’t turned away from me, I would have killed you by now,” the angel said. Balaam’s life had been saved by his donkey!

“I have sinned,” responded Balaam to the angel. “If I am wrong, I will go back.”

The angel said, “Go, but you will only be able to say what the Lord wants you to say.”

When Balaam finally met Balak, he warned Balak. “I can only say what the Lord wants me to say.”

In three different places that day, Balak asked Balaam to curse the Israelites. But every time Balaam opened his mouth, blessings for the Israelites came out.

After the third time, Balak was angry. “Go home!” he ordered. “I called you here to curse my enemies. But you have blessed them three times!”

“Didn’t I tell you I couldn’t do anything against the command of the Lord?” Balaam answered. “Before I leave, I will tell you what these people will do to your people.” Then Balaam prophesied truly. “A ruler will rise from Israel. He will defeat the Moabites. . . . The Israelites will destroy the city.”

God taught Balaam that worship involves everything you do. It is living a life that is pleasing to God. Worship is listening to God’s voice and following His commands. It is using our voices, our speech, and our actions to honor God.

*Much of the dialogue in this story is from Numbers 22-24, ICB.