And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? and he said, Nay. Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.(Numbers 22:23-32)
Balaam the pagan prophet, was determined to find a way to gain the honors and rewards he was offered by the King of Moab, for the task of cursing Israel. But the LORD had expressly forbade him to go with them on the 400 mile journey from the Euphrates river to the Jordan. The LORD had also revealed to Balaam, that because he had blessed Israel, Balaam should not curse them.
But when the delegation returned with even greater wealth and honors, Balaam prayed again about whether he should go. This time the LORD told him to go with them, but his wrath burnt against the eager and ambitious prophet. But Balaam was oblivious to this fact.
At one point, Balaam’s ass turned off of the path and strayed out into a field. Balaam struck the ass to force it back onto the road. Later, as the delegation passed between the stone walls lining a section of the road, Balaam’s ass veered sharply, grinding Balaam’s foot against the wall, hurting it. This time the act was met with a rain of blows from the peeved Seer. Finally at another narrow pass, the Ass simply laid down on the road, refusing to move. This time Balaam struck the ass in a rage, with his staff.
It was then that the Lord opened the beasts mouth,
And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? and he said, Nay.
Furthermore the LORD who opened the ass’s mouth, also opened the “seer’s” eyes to see the mortal danger he was in, but which the ass delivered him from. Had the Ass passed on down the road, Balaam would have been smitten by the angel, and would have perished forever.
Now Balaam could see what the Ass saw all along. Evidently the “seer” couldn’t really see as well as the Canaanite delegation thought he could. Furthermore, by this incident the LORD showed the Pagan prophet that even an Ass could speak the Word God put in his mouth. This should have been a sign to Balaam, pointing to the sovereignty of the God he was now “dealing with”.
Furthermore, this incident would be a sign to Balak also. As the Prophet tried to cajole, curse and strike the Ass into doing what would prove to be fatal to himself, even so Balak would attempt to bribe, berate and threaten Balaam to do what would prove to be His own undoing.
Finally we can see a powerful spiritual metaphor in this story, for the lowly Ass is like the Messiah, and His prophets. The prophets have always endured scorn, shame, beatings and even death because they see something no one else sees, and warn of it; ie the coming wrath upon the world.
The Messiah is like this lowly Ass also, for He was willing to bear the burden for us willful sinners, and to take the strokes to save us from the judgment we deserve.