The Israelites wanted to peacefully pass through the country of the Amorites on the way to Canaan. But the king of the Amorites wouldn’t let them, because God made him stubborn. So to punish the king for what God had made him do, the Israelites murdered all the Amorites, stole all their possessions, and took over their land. When Balak king of Moab found out about this, he was terrified of Israel. So he decided to hire Balaam, a prophet of God, to curse God’s chosen people. Great idea, Balak. /s
Balak sent messengers to Balaam to ask him to come and weaken the Israelites so Moab could defeat them, but God told Balaam not to do that, so the messengers returned to Balak without him. Then Balak sent more messengers to Balaam and offered him a large reward for cursing Israel. For some reason, “God” changed his mind and said Balaam should go with them this time.
So Balaam got on his donkey and started to go with the messengers to see Balak. But when God saw that Balaam was going with them after he had told Balaam he should go with them, God was very angry. So God tried to get Balaam to stop by putting an invisible angel in his way. Balaam’s donkey could see the angel standing in the road with a sword, so the donkey turned away from the road. Balaam beat his donkey to get it to get back on the road.
Then while Balaam was on a narrow path between two walls, the donkey saw the angel again, and it crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. Balaam beat his donkey again, but there was nowhere the donkey could go, so it lay down, and Balaam kept beating it with his staff.
Then God enabled the donkey to talk, so it could tell him that it had a good reason not to keep walking, and that he had no good reason to beat it. God also enabled Balaam to see the angel. The angel told Balaam that he was being reckless by going down the straight and narrow path to meet Balak, and that if his donkey hadn’t turned away, the angel would have killed Balaam, but spared the donkey.
Balaam said he had sinned by going with Balak’s men when God had told him to go with Balak’s men. He was going to go back home, but the angel that had been sent to stop him from going to meet Balak told him to keep going and meet Balak.
Balak showed Balaam the nation he wanted him to curse. But since God hadn’t cursed Israel, his prophet Balaam couldn’t curse them either. So he blessed them instead. Balak didn’t like that, so he took Balaam somewhere else to see if he would curse them from there. Balaam said nothing could change God’s decision, so he blessed them again.
Balak said if Balaam couldn’t curse Israel, he should at least stop blessing them. But Balaam said he had to do whatever God said. So Balak took Balaam somewhere else to see if that would change God’s mind. But Balaam blessed Israel a third time. So Balak angrily told Balaam to go home without payment. But before he left, Balaam prophesied again in favor of Israel and against Moab.
After repeatedly refusing to try to turn God against his people, Balaam also taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin, so God would turn against his people. Later, the Israelites killed God’s prophet Balaam, not for going to work for their enemy or for leading them to sin, but because he practiced “divination”.1
The moral of the story
Don’t obey God, or he might kill you.