It is incredible that Balaam even replies to the donkey. If an animal spoke to one of us, would we respond? Perhaps he thought, "Well, I've talked to her enough. She was bound to answer me sometime." This is obviously a miracle—there is only one other place in the Bible (Genesis 3, the serpent to Eve) where an animal speaks—yet Balaam acts as if it happens to him every day! The donkey asks him questions, and he answers!
Balaam is totally, spiritually out of it. He has no thought for God or for spiritual things. He is so self-possessed, so full of self-interest that he cannot think beyond the end of his nose! All he is thinking about is, "What am I going to do when I get to Balak? He's going to pile all this money on me! How am I going to set up the sacrifices? What am I going to do? How am I going to say this? I know God will let me do it because I'm just a wonderful negotiator, and that's just the way it is. All the other gods have done exactly as I've bargained, so I think. . . ." As he travels, he talks to himself like this, thinking only about the wonderful job and the wealth he has ahead of him. He is heedless to anything else.
When these amazing things happen, they fail to faze him. They fail to make him wonder what is going on. He does not even ask why the donkey was treating him in a way she had never had before. She was totally out of character! She speaks, and he answers! It illustrates the depth of his spiritual blindness. He could not see God if He had bit him!
In today's lingo, we would call Balaam totally materialistic. Everything was based on what he could see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. He could not understand beyond that.
He was involved in spiritism, with augury, enchanting, and such, but there is nothing spiritual about him. He had no depth. And this made him thoroughly evil. He bore a nice façade that made him look spiritual, but in reality, there was nothing there. The donkey was more truly spiritual than he was!
He may have had some spiritual knowledge, but it did not work in him properly because he never put it into practice. He may have known about Israel, about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, perhaps even of some of God's instructions to Israel. He certainly knew God was, in all His power and sovereignty, working for them. But none of this knowledge that he may have had did him any good. He even talked to God, and God talked back to him! God was doing all these things in his life, and he was thoroughly blind to all of it.
The incredible thing here is that Balaam acted as if these things happened to him every day. But they did not! These were once-in-a-lifetime events, but he was so self-centered that he shrugged them off, ignoring them as if they did not matter. Here was the great sovereign God saying, "Wake up, Balaam! I'm here! Can't you see Me? Can't you see Me working?" But Balaam is blind to the true reality of Him. The "seer" can see nothing because he is so stuck on the here and now, on what he has in his hand and in his pocket.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Numbers 22:28: