Everyone loves a story about talking animals, especially smart ones. But the account in the Torah reading בָּלָק Balak isn’t just fodder for a fun animated kids’ movie. It’s an important lesson that God wants us to recognize false prophets and not follow them.
Bilam (Balaam) is not a member of God’s covenant and was a foreigner to them, although he was from the land of Aram, the ancestral homeland of Abraham. Yet, God saw fit to give him His words, His visions and to Bilam and use Bilam as God’s instrument among the people.
Skeptics like to poke fun at this story because of the talking donkey. Yet sometimes, our way is so set upon evil that a talking donkey doesn’t even phase us and give us pause to turn away from our direction.
Balaam wasn’t ignorant of the identity of the Creator God. He knew YHWH by name, and Balak, the king of Moab knew of Him too. If he knew that, then he knew that God had the power to make a donkey talk. Balaam didn’t fully understand the error of his way until one of the most powerful angels in God’s hosts, the Angel of the Lord, confronts him with a sword in his hand.