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Balaam and the Ass

Numbers 22

The angel of the Lord stands in the way of Balaam.

THE ISRAELITES HAD to fight their way to the promised land, and God so often gave them victory in battle that the nations around were afraid of them.

       Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, both came out with armies against them; but the Israelites overcame them, and took possession of their territories.

       The victorious army afterward pitched their tents in the plains of Moab; and Balak, king of that country, fearing he and his people should also be destroyed, sent to Balaam, who was a prophet (that is, one to whom God shows things that are going to happen), to come and pronounce a curse upon the Israelites, which might prevent their taking his kingdom from him.

       Balaam at first refused to curse the Israelites, for he knew that God had blessed them. But Balak entreated him, promising him honors and riches; and at last Balaam consented.

       So, in the morning, he saddled his ass and went with them. But God was angry with him for desiring Balak's riches and honors, and sent an angel to stand in the way and oppose him.

       God, who can do whatever He will, enabled the ass, upon which Balaam rode, to see the angel; and she turned aside to avoid him. For this her master struck her. But again the angel stood before him in a path where there was a wall on each side; and the ass, seeing him, and trying to turn aside as before, crushed Balaam's foot against the wall.

       Then Balaam struck her again. But a little farther on the angel stood before them a third time; and the ass, seeing him, fell down under Balaam, who angrily struck her with his staff. God now wonderfully caused the ass to speak; and she asked Balaam why he had beaten her.

       Then God made Balaam himself see the angel standing with his drawn sword in his hand; and Balaam bowed down before him to the very ground. And the angel reproved Balaam for striking his ass, telling him that because he had wished to do what God did not will, God had sent His angel to oppose him in the way; and, had not the ass turned aside, he would have been slain.

       Balaam then confessed that he had done wrong, and offered to go back. The angel, however, bade him go on to Balak, but to be careful to speak only what God should bid him say.

       So Balaam went on; and when he saw all the encampment of the children of Israel stretching far before him, by God's command he blessed the people whom Balak had sent for him to curse.

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