Here we have a wonderful story.
In last year’s parsha, we read the story of Balaam arguing with his donkey. The donkey sees an angel of God where Balaam (the prophet!) does not.
Balaam has been traveling to see Balak, a king of Moab. Balaam is a prophet and Balak has summoned him to curse the Children of Israel. (In those days it was thought that the curse of a prophet was a very powerful thing.)
“I can’t say anything but what God tells me to say,” Balaam has warned the people who came to fetch him. But God appears to him and tells him to go – but only to say what God tells him to say.
So Balaam gets to Moab and Balak builds a bunch of sacrifice sites. He tells Balaam to go to one of them and curse Israel.
Balaam toddles off to one of the sacrifice sites, but he meets up with God, who puts words into Balaam’s mouth. So when he gets to the sacrifice site, instead of cursing, he says “From the tops of hills, I see the people Israel. Who can measure their dust?”
“What have you done to me?” yells Balak. But Balaam says “Look. I can only say what God puts in my mouth.”
“Well let’s try another place,” says Balak. So he builds seven sacrifice sites and tells Balaam “Go try and hook up with God there.” This time, Balaam’s blessing is even longer. “God is with them. Look, a people springs up like a king of beasts. Like a lion it lifts itself up.”
Balak says to Balaam: “Well if you can’t curse them, just don’t bless them!” So they go to a different sacrifice site. Balaam tries, but he just can’t stop himself from blessing the people of Israel! “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, Israel. Like gardens beside a river planted by God”
Balak gets furious at Balaam. Balaam responds by pointing out all the victories the Israelites have had against Edom and Amalek and the Kenites, which must have scared the heck out of Balak.
And then Balaam leaves (we assume with his talking donkey.)
Food for Thought
Balaam was basically telling a king to go pound sand. How do you think Balaam felt?