You open your Bible, intrigued by the idea that a donkey actually spoke in the scriptures. As you flip through the pages, you wonder – just how many times did a donkey speak in the Bible? This peculiar miracle evokes curiosity about the supernatural events recorded in God’s word.
The short answer is: a donkey spoke only twice in the entire Bible. Surprisingly, this unique occurrence happened in two different books of the Bible – Numbers and 2 Peter.
Let’s explore the context, meaning, and significance of these two fascinating accounts of a donkey miraculously speaking with a human voice. As we study these stories, we can gain insight into God’s power and the importance of listening to His messengers, whether human or animal.
The First Time a Donkey Spoke – Balaam’s Donkey
The first time a donkey spoke in the Bible is recorded in Numbers 22. This event took place as the prophet Balaam was riding on his donkey to meet Balak, the king of Moab.
King Balak had summoned Balaam to curse the Israelites, who had recently moved near Moab. But God was angry that Balaam had agreed to curse His chosen people. So as Balaam was riding along, God sent an angel with a drawn sword to block his path and turn him back from his wrongful mission.
Here is the account of this astonishing miracle:
Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again. Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” (Numbers 22:23-28 NKJV)
This was the first time in Scripture that God miraculously enabled an animal to speak intelligibly like a human. Balaam was so blinded by his own sinful desire to profit from cursing Israel that he could not see the angel blocking his path. But God allowed the donkey to see the angel and take action to avoid him.
When Balaam ruthlessly beat his donkey for turning aside, the Lord enabled the donkey to open her mouth and speak to Balaam!
Can you imagine how shocked Balaam must have been when his donkey suddenly started talking to him? Yet incredibly, he does not seem overly disturbed by this supernatural event. Instead, he engages in a conversation with the donkey, explaining why he beat her.
And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” And he said, “No.” (Numbers 22:29-30 NKJV)
After this brief exchange, the Lord then opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel standing there ready to kill him for his sin. Balaam immediately repented before the angel of the Lord for his wrong behavior.
This miraculous talking donkey story powerfully illustrates God’s ability to overcome human folly and sin by supernatural means. Though Balaam was determined in his own greed and hatred, God thwarted him through a humble donkey. The donkey recognized the divine messenger and spoke God’s truth, even as Balaam was stubbornly rebelling against God’s will.
Key Takeaways from Balaam’s Donkey
Let’s distill some key truths from this fascinating account of God making a donkey speak:
- God is sovereign – He has power over nature to make the impossible happen, like enabling a donkey to speak intelligently.
- God opposes evil – The angel was ready to kill Balaam for seeking to curse Israel, but the donkey saved his life.
- God’s creatures can perceive spiritual realities – The donkey could see the angel, but Balaam was blinded to spiritual truth.
- God uses the weak to teach the powerful – The donkey’s words rebuked Balaam and turned him to repentance.
- We must submit to God’s messengers – Balaam should have listened and yielded to the donkey’s warning.
This story teaches us vital lessons about humbly obeying God’s voice, whether it comes through a mighty prophet or a lowly donkey. Though the donkey had no power of its own, God worked through it to declare His truth.
The Second Reference to a Speaking Donkey in Scripture – 2 Peter 2
The only other time a donkey spoke in Scripture is found in 2 Peter 2:15-16:
They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet. (2 Peter 2:15-16 NKJV)
Here the apostle Peter references the earlier story from Numbers as a warning against false teachers in the early church. Just as Balaam was obsessed with making money by cursing God’s people, there were also greedy false prophets exploiting believers in Peter’s day.
Peter highlights the irony that Balaam, a renowned prophet, was rebuked by a simple donkey. The donkey exposed his madness and prevented him from continuing towards disaster. This demonstrates that those who rebel against God’s truth can be checked even by humble means.
Though this donkey does not actually speak in 2 Peter, it provides a reminder of the previous miraculous event. The episode remained significant many centuries later as an example of God’s power to make the dumb speak to restrain human wickedness.
Both times a donkey spoke in Scripture, it was to prevent a prophet from rebelling against God’s commands. God overruled nature, allowing the donkey to perceive His angel and speak truth to expose human sin and foolishness.
Why Did God Cause Donkeys to Speak?
You may still be wondering – why did God choose to make donkeys speak on these occasions? Wouldn’t it have been more fitting to send a prophet or heavenly angel to rebuke Balaam and warn him?
Consider these reasons why God may have chosen lowly donkeys to miraculously speak His message:
- Humility – By using a donkey, God displayed immense humility in reaching out to stubborn rebels. Jesus later rode a donkey to show his meekness (Zechariah 9:9).
- Foolishness of worldly wisdom – The wise prophet couldn’t discern what an animal perceived about spiritual dangers. God shows that worldly wisdom is foolishness.
- Power over nature – These supernatural events demonstrated God’s complete sovereignty over nature and all creatures. It showed His infinite creative power and ability to make the impossible happen.
- Highlighting spiritual blindness – Talking animals emphasized the blindness of those opposing God, since they couldn’t even see what an animal could.
God’s purpose was to dramatically warn His people of their foolish rebellion, while displaying His complete wisdom, power, and mastery over all creation. Even a beast of burden can become His eloquent prophet!
The awesome power of God to make donkeys speak should remind us that He is able to use any means to communicate truth and accomplish His will.
Applying the Lessons from These Miracles
As we reflect on these two instances of God enabling donkeys to speak, several valuable lessons emerge that we can apply to our lives today:
Be Alert to Spiritual Realities
A donkey could see what Balaam was blind to – the angel blocking their path. This illustrates we should be alert to spiritual realities, rather than focused only on the physical world. Pray for God to open your spiritual eyes!
Submit Humbly to God’s Messengers
Rather than beating his donkey, Balaam should have submitted humbly to her unexpected warning. We too must listen carefully when God sends unlikely messengers to speak truth into our lives.
Repent from Sinful Rebellion
When rebuked by a donkey, Balaam immediately repented. The wayward prophet serves as a reminder to promptly repent when confronted with our own sin.
Remember God Uses the Foolish and Weak
If God could speak through Balaam’s donkey, He can use any person or situation to declare His truth. Be ready for God to teach you through unexpected people and circumstances.
Trust God’s Creative Power
These miracles reveal God’s infinite power and creativity to make donkeys speak with human words. We can trust Him to work powerfully and do the impossible in our lives too!
Exploring Other Passages About Donkeys
While donkeys only spoke twice in Scripture, they are mentioned over 130 times in the Bible. Donkeys were common beasts of burden in biblical lands, used for transportation, farming, and carrying loads.
Several passages use donkeys to illustrate spiritual truths. For example:
- Jesus’ Triumphant Entry – Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11), fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy of a king coming humbly “on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This imagery highlighted the peaceful nature of Christ’s rule.
- Helping the Oppressed – Exodus 23:5 commands God’s people to help even an enemy whose donkey is struggling under its burden. Donkeys exemplified the poor and powerless in society.
- Stubborn Rebellion – The disobedient people of Israel are likened to a stubborn donkey in Hosea 4:16. Donkeys became a picture of persistence in evil.
While actual talking donkeys are infrequent in Scripture, donkeys are woven throughout biblical stories to symbolize service, poverty, meekness and even the folly of sin. This lowly work animal was surprisingly exalted when God allowed it to speak.
A Final Warning from Moses
Near the end of his life, Moses disobeyed God’s command by striking the rock to bring forth water, rather than speaking to it as God required (Numbers 20:2-12). As a result, the Lord told Moses he would not enter the Promised Land.
The one who learned humility from a donkey years earlier became too proud and defiant in his own authority. The message of the miraculous talking donkeys served as a reminder that even great leaders must nurture spiritual humility and obedience.
Conclusion: The Significance of Talking Donkeys
The two accounts of donkeys supernaturally speaking in the Bible provide fascinating glimpses into the spiritual world. These miracles reveal God’s desire to get through to humans when they are stubbornly rebelling against His purposes.
By making a donkey speak, God powerfully proved that He can use any means – whether miraculous or mundane – to expose sin and communicate truth. The talking donkey stories warn us not to harden our hearts, but instead be attentive to God’s voice.
We serve a mighty God who oversees all nature and has infinite wisdom and creative power. Though these two biblical events are certainly peculiar, they provide unforgettable testimony to the supernatural workings of our gracious Lord.
He continues to orchestrate divine encounters to penetrate hardened human pride and turn us to repentance. Will we have the humility and spiritual sight to hear and heed God’s voice, even when it comes through unexpected messengers? Or will we resist like Balaam and need to be rebuked into obedience?
May the miracle of God’s eloquent donkeys encourage us to walk closely with Him, perceiving His spiritual messages in all circumstances. Let’s maintain a heart of humility, ready to obey the wisdom of God and follow Him wherever He leads us!