Numbers 22:20-22 NIV

That night God came to Balaam and said, "Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you." Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.

God said to Balaam to go with them. But when he went, God became angry with him. Why did God become angry with him?

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    Migrate to Biblical Hermeneutics? Oct 16 '12 at 15:33
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    No, this is as much about doctrine as it is language. This is an excellent question, and one Ive wanted to research for some time... Oct 16 '12 at 16:26

When God said he should go with the men this was the second embassy of men from Balak to request Balaam's help. On the first occasion we see Balaam thinking he was a 'god dealer' trying to manipulate God and Balak, hoping to make the God of Israel give up on the Israelites and entice Him into league with Balak and at the same time get money from Balak for this service. Balaam sees God's working with him as recognition of his 'magic powers' and he is therefore acting as a mediator between God and Balak with the end goal of removing God from His allegiance with Israel. We must remember that in paganism the gods are often motivated by the same kinds of sinful desires that we have and are not omnipotent but influenceable.

Now we see with the first embassy that God gave Balaam a message but Balaam only passed on parts of it, hoping to bring both parties together.

But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” (Numbers 22:12-13, NIV)

We see Balaam purposefully left out most of God's message and had no plans of 'saying what the Lord had told him'. One can't properly imagine the type of perverse mind Balaam had. Balaam's version of God's message implied an ungrounded arbitrariness on the part of God and confirmed Balak to hope for better results under more favorable circumstances. Possibly when God was not so moody, God would reconsider?

It was under these circumstances that a second embassy from Balak came again to ask Balaam 'to curse this people'. Refusing in the first embassy to yield himself willingly to God, he would now be made the unwilling instrument of exalting God. And thus God gave him leave to do that on which he had set his heart. However because of his blinded self-satisfaction, in which the next morning he accompanied the ambassadors of Balak, 'God’s anger was kindled because he went'.

In other words the idea is God gave Balaam over to his lusts in such a way that God would manipulate him, while he thought he was manipulating God. Yet due to the insane contradiction of reality as he should be going in obedience but his actual going was in deluded belief that he was controlling the situation, God lets him know that he was 'dumber than an ass', before sending him fully on his way. 'Yes I send you, but realize you are a dumb ass who knows not what you are doing when you go'.

Balaam's actions were as dumb as Simon Magus when he offered the apostles money to give him the power of imparting the Holy Ghost. Therefore Balaam goes down in history renown for his greed:

They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. (2 Peter 2:15, NIV)

  • If he wants God to side with Balak, what is wrong with that? Don't we want God to be on our side and our friends' side? If that means not fighting the jews or whatever, then God could have just say so.
    – user4951
    Oct 14 '13 at 8:37
  • @JimThio - basically the jews were approaching caanan with a new god, one that was perful to defeat Egypt. A guy like balaam was brought in to deal with this new god and broker a deal so that all the god's would 'get along' . God does not work with a broker and negotiator seeking conscensus from multiple parties, he is the only God around and only seeks submission. balaam had a attitude not appropriate for the introduction of Israel's God into the heathen world. It goes beyond just wanting God to bless our friends.
    – Mike
    Oct 15 '13 at 4:44
  • So if we pray asking for wealth to God, God will hate us?
    – user4951
    Oct 15 '13 at 5:17

When you look further at the story, it becomes clear why God was angry at Balaam: he knew his heart, and he knew that his heart was not in the right place. God did not want Balaam to curse the Israelites or to bring trouble upon them in any way. But when his patron kept asking and insisting, Balaam kept trying to get God to reconsider. And when God wouldn't reconsider, Balaam decided to bring trouble upon them in a different way, by enticing the Israelites to serious sin so that they would lose God's favor of their own initiative instead of having to have someone else curse them.

If you knew someone was going to try and do that to your people, wouldn't you be angry too?


you cannot add words to the Bible. there is a difficult situation to understand with Balaam. yes he is a diviner and all, but the Bible states clearly that our God is talking to him, and more than once. What is God doing talking to this guy? Hard to understand.

people surmise that Balaam has bad motives and that is of course correct but what is up with God saying he could 'go' and then getting mad at balaam for going? people are splitting hairs trying to discern why this is worded this way in Numbers, in the Word of God. it IS hard to understand.

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    Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Also, this doesn't really answer the question. It looks like it should be a comment on another post, but you haven't yet earned enough to leave comments. (Again, see the help page.) Hopefully, soon! Nov 21 '13 at 3:11

Balaam changed his heart/mind overnight. Because having the okay, Balaam got enticed by the the Moabite officials and may have considered their point of view. This is why God was determined to strike Balaam. But the talking donkey made Balaam change his heart right back towards God.

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