People always remember the story about the talking donkey. Balaam’s part in this story is often forgotten and overlooked. It is Balaam who is made a fool of, by the spiritual awareness of the ass, who could see what the “seer” could not see. The donkey was more spiritually discerning than the prophet.
Israel was finally beginning to conquer her enemies before they were to enter and take possession of Canaan. After wandering for so long in the desert, the time was quickly approaching. Balak, the king Moab, was afraid, because the Israelites had just taken the land of the Amorites. They left no survivors. So the king resorted to magic or witchcraft to solve his problem of the Israelites who were beginning to the conquer the adjoining lands around him. He wanted the Israelites cursed.
Balak hired Balaam, knowing full well that he was a diviner. Some commentaries make Balaam out to be a good guy gone bad, but I can’t see how this could have been true. We know Balak knew of Balaam’s powers of divination because messengers were sent with a “divination” fee to hire him to make the trip. Divination was his profession and he was hired to curse the Israelites.
So what is a diviner? It is someone who uses hidden powers to gain secret knowledge about the future. This information does not come from God. It usually comes from Satan. If a method is used to attain the information from the spirit world, then it is occult.
Here is a definition from
DIVINATION, n. L., to foretell1. The act of divining; a foretelling future events, or discovering things secret or obscure, by the aid of superior beings, or by other than human means.

And from Strong’s Concordance

Strong’s H7081

1) divination, withcraft

a) of the nations, Balaam

b) of false prophets

c) in a good sense (king’s lips as oracles)


Balaam’s words are interesting to the messengers when they arrived. Listen to the phrases he used.

Numbers 22:8 “and I will bring you back the answer the Lord gives me.”

Numbers 22:13 “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

Numbers 22:19 “I will find out what else the Lord will tell me.”

If you heard someone speak these phrases, would you think him a follower of the true God?

It seems that when Balaam set out on his journey, something was wrong. God had said to go and only tell the men “the word which I shall say unto thee.” But when he left, God opposed him because the angel obstructed his path three times, but this did not stop him. He even acknowledged he had sinned, but he did not turn back.

So now we get to ask, was Balaam doing God’s will or his own? His words sounded so mighty earlier. What do his actions say about him? Do you follow leaders who are obstructed in their ministries? Do you follow them because of their righteous sounding words and because they say they hear from the Lord?

Have you ever gone ahead with your own plans even though God opposes them? Have you taken your own pathway only to find continuous obstacles? It was as though God said, “Okay… you go Balaam and I will let you make a fool of yourself.” Have you ever asked God over and over again for the same thing? He may allow you to have this thing you so desire but there will be consequences to pay later.

An interesting verse is Numbers 22:28-29 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these times?” Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

Balaam could not see the sword in the angels hand, when the donkey could, and God spared the donkey. Balaam himself died by the sword but could not “see” this part of his future.

We do learn that God would not let Balaam curse the Israelites and would let the diviner speak the words that He, the Lord, gave him, much to Balak’s distress.

Because the diviner would not curse Israel as he was hired to do, Balak took him to three different locations. Different oracles were offered by Balaam but none of them were curses against the people of Israel. God would not allow His people to be cursed. Israel is His chosen and He had a covenant with them. God keeps His promises. Do you keep all of your promises?

Interestingly, Balak was hoping that the three different perspectives or locations would influence Balaam into changing his mind, so he would curse the people. Do you go to different people to find the answer you are looking for? If you do not like one answer, do you go to another, and another, and another person till you find an answer that suits you?

Now Balaam blessed Israel in his oracles, so God amazingly used this diviner, but the story does not end here. This is why we are to read the entire Bible. If one stops here, one may think that indeed Balaam turned out to be a pretty good guy. But this was not the case.

In Numbers 25 we find out that “the men began to indulge in sexually immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.”

So what does this have to do with Balaam? We find out in Numbers 31:15-16. Moses asked why the women were not killed in the war on the Midianites as the Lord commanded.

“Have you allowed all the women to live?”  he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people.”

It was Balaam that enticed and led the people away from God. If he could not curse them, he would find a way to go against God’s will. In verse 8 Balaam is killed by the sword.

What lessons can we pull for us today from this story of the diviner. For one thing it is evident that the people were eventually deceived by him. He introduced heresies which led the people astray.

I hear many leaders in the church say today, “The Lord told me.” But we have to examine all teachings today. And the teachers. God has sent us many good preachers and teachers who prophesy God’s Word, and I praise Him mightily for this, but also there are those who are not really followers of Christ. Like Balaam. He was actually used by the Lord but truly, he was not a true believer.

In the end, those who listened to Balaam bowed down to other gods and worshiped Baal.



A study of divination and how it has infiltrated the church.