The Theology of Balaam’s Donkey (Revelation 2:14)

The theology of Balaam's Donkey

Submitted by Andy McIlvain.

Revelation 2:14

In the Bible, God’s Holy Word, we find two accounts of animals that spoke human language. The first took place within the Land of Eden, in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3, a Serpent speaking to Eve. Then, in Numbers 20-24, the wicked prophet Balaam was rebuked by his donkey for beating him.

While animals are not capable of speaking, there are powerful beings out there (God, the Angels, Satan, Demons) who can enable animals to speak. It has been accepted that it was the Angel Lucifer (aka Satan) in the Garden of Eden who was speaking through the snake’s vocal chords, not the snake or serpent itself speaking on its own. What manner of serpent could stand is lost to us now. Apparently, it was common place in the Garden. Scripture has shown us that our Sovereign God can and does use any part of his creation to accomplish his purposes. God values his creation, even animals, and he cares for them completely.

The King of Moab (Israel’s enemy) sent for the Prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites. King Balak believed his army would win, if Israel was under a curse. So he asked Balaam to place a curse on Israel. On the journey there God sent the Angel of the Lord to block the way. Balaam’s donkey could see the Angel, but Balaam could not. Three times the donkey refused to pass the Angel, and three times Balaam beat the donkey. God then gave the donkey the ability of speech (in Balaam’s language) to rebuke him for the beating. A brief conversation ensued. God then opened Balaam’s eyes, so that he could see the Angel with a sword blocking the way. Balaam was a wicked prophet; he was not a false prophet as he was used by God. Balaam’s heart wasn’t right with God. His way was greed, his error was compromise, and his doctrine was betrayal and corruption.

The Doctrine of Balaam describes a heart that promotes and teaches compromise, encouraging Christians to forget they are called to be separate and holy. Balaam is mentioned in 8 books and 57 times in the Bible. Jude 11 sites “the error of Balaam,” 2 Peter 2:15 speaks of the “the way of Balaam,” and Revelation 2:14 refers to “the doctrine of Balaam.”

For us the “Error of Balaam” or the “Way of Balaam’ is as prevalent today as it was then. Our “error” is when we use the Word of God for worldly gain.

Do you and I give in to the word and deed of the day, what Robert Taylor calls “The Immanent Frame” with little or no thought to what we are really compromising?

To better handle and understand the “error” today, we must study God’s Holy Word and be aware of the past to avoid the folly of the future.

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