Balaam was a highly respected magician. He was the go-to guy when you wanted someone blessed or cursed.
So when Balak, king of Moab, saw the Children of Israel in all their great numbers, he said “Holy Crickets! We’d better get that hotshot Balaam to come curse those guys!
So Balak sent a bunch of courtiers to fetch Balaam, but God told Balaam in a dream not to go!
The courtiers tried a second time, and this time God told Balaam to go, but to do as God told him.
Here’s the silly part. The Etz Chaim translation of the Torah calls this a comic story, but it’s hard to see how it’s comic when a poor donkey is abused.
So here’s the story: Balaam is riding to Moab when a messenger/angel of God appears before him. Balaam, who is supposed to be a bigshot seer, nevertheless can’t see the angel.
Balaam gets mad at the donkey he’s riding (whose name we are never told), and beats him! This happens two more times until, finally the donkey ups and says “Hey! Why are you hitting me? Can’t you see there’s an angel in the road?”
At this point, God uncovers Balaam’s eyes so that he sees the angel. God says to Balaam “You’re a lucky son of a gun, because if your donkey hadn’t stopped, I’d have killed you and left the donkey alive!”
God’s messenger/angel tells Balaam to go on ahead, but to do what God tells him.
The rest of the story is really for next year, but you probably want to know how it ends.
Well, Balaam opens his mouth to curse the Israelites and instead of a curse, a beautiful poem of blessing flows out!
Food for Thought
How come Balaam couldn’t see God’s messenger/angel when the donkey could?