Saturday, 8 February 2020
… but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet. 2 Peter 2:16
Peter now finishes the thought of Balaam which he began in the previous verse. But his words are a continuation of the whole thought so far presented concerning false teachers. In the case of Balaam “who loved the wages of unrighteousness,” Peter now says that “he was rebuked for his iniquity.”
The Greek reads, “he had a rebuke for his transgression.” The word signifies a violation of a law. The Lord gave Balaam a directive, but Balaam went through with his actions intending to violate that directive. Thus, it was a violation of what the Lord had spoken, and the Lord rebuked him as such. In this, the rebuke came through “a dumb donkey.”
Here the idea of a donkey would only be known if one had read the story. The Greek simply says, “a beast of burden.” The Lord took a mute beast and used it to overthrow the supposed wisdom of this soothsayer. In doing so, it was considered a significant rebuke. This is especially so because it was “speaking with a man’s voice.”
There are times that animals make sounds that we may perceive as a known word or set of words. One can teach a dog to say, “aww wuv you.” From there, we think the dog is saying, “I love you,” but it is with the voice of a dog. Even donkeys may bray in a way which shows some hint of supposed intelligence, but the voice, or sound, is always that of a donkey. But this animal spoke with the voice of a man. In this, it “restrained the madness of the prophet.”
The Greek noun, translated as “madness,” is only found here in the New Testament. It comes from two words signifying “beside” and “the mind.” It has a kindred verb, also found only once when used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:23. There Paul says –
“Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself)” … (WEB)
The prophet had lost his senses as he pushed on towards the hope of profit. It consumed him and he had left proper thinking behind. The Lord had spoken to him, and yet he didn’t consider that if the Lord had spoken to him in his own country, that the Lord was not just an isolated “God of the Hebrews,” but the God who knows all and is everywhere. In such a state, disaster loomed. But a brute beast spoke to him in order to bring him back to a state of reason.
Life application: The story of Balaam is not that long and is full of intrigue and special insights into the spiritual realm. If you have never read it, take a few minutes today to look it over. It is found in Numbers 22-24 and is actually a very fun read. From it, countless generations of songs and stories have come about, but it also contains deep truths concerning the sovereign workings of God in the affairs of man. It also reveals God’s eternal love for the people of Israel and how He deals with them and through them. In addition, how God views the nations which come against Israel is also dealt with.
It is important to understand that God’s covenants with Israel are binding and are in effect to this day. When analyzing the different aspects of God’s relationship with Israel, we make a fundamental error when we view the church as having replaced Israel.
Balaam, a diviner, was asked to curse the people of Israel by one of the surrounding nations. At first, he refused, but was eventually given authorization to proceed under certain conditions. On his way, the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. Three times his donkey attempted to avoid the Angel of the Lord who was unseen to Balaam. Each time he beat his donkey for being an obstinate mode of transportation.
Eventually, the Angel of the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey to speak to him. The donkey questioned why he had beaten him. In turn, Balaam stated, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” (Numbers 22:29).
In time, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Balaam’s eyes as well and stated, “The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live” (Numbers 22:33).
Even conservative scholars will attempt to weasel out of belief that the donkey actually spoke. Rather they claim it brayed in a manner which made Balaam understand something was going on. However, the Bible is clear that the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth in order to speak. God created man; God created donkeys; and God made a way that the two were able to communicate. In real speech, the donkey’s intentions and purposes for its actions were made known to Balaam.
Lord, if You can open the mouth of a donkey in order to speak, then surely You can open our mouths to speak to others about Jesus. Give us that ability, and also give us the strong desire to do so. May we never shy away from those around us who need to hear the good news. With You as the inspiration for our words, we know that we can effectively communicate what they need to hear. Amen.