Numbers 22 records the fear of Moab at the presence of so many foreigners and the king’s desire to have Balaam curse the Jews because “I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed” (22:6). That assurance will lead to a great deal of irony and humour in the coming narrative. It is interesting that when they arrive to engage Balaam’s services he uses the name of the LORD, saying: “Spend the night here and I will report back to you with the answer the LORD gives me” (22:8). God warns him that the Jews are blessed so he refuses to return with the officials and impart the curses. Balak is insistent so he consents to travel to Moab. On the way, history’s most famous donkey encounters the angel of the Lord and refuses to go on. Balaam beats it mercilessly until it speaks! In reply to the donkey’s question as to why he is beating it Balaam replies: “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now” (22:29). If arguing with his donkey hasn’t already made him a fool he will soon discover that it is the angel who has a sword in his hand and who can easily kill Balaam.
Three times Balak tried to get Balaam to curse Israel and three times he blessed them with a word from God. After the third time Balak fired Balaam and told him to leave. Before he left Balaam offered four more messages for free and none of them were good news for Balak and his people. The first of these mentions twice that a ruler will come from Jacob, something which is referenced in Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:2.