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Deeper Commentary


Num 22:1 The children of Israel travelled, and encamped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho-
To describe the Israelite encampment as beyond Jordan implies the author is west of Jordan. Moses' writing here may well have been edited under inspiration later.

Num 22:2 Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites-
"Zippor" is the male form of Zipporah, the wife of Moses, who was also from Midian. It seems Balak was a Midianite who was asked to become king of Moab, who had been left weakened by their conflicts with the Amorites. Balak knew Balaam, and we can deduce that Balaam may have picked up his knowledge of Yahweh from Moses whilst Moses lived in Midian married to Zipporah. Who may even have been Balak's sister.

Num 22:3 Moab was very afraid of the people, because they were many; and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel-
The fear of the tribes surrounding Israel is stressed in the record, yet Israel were so fearful of them. The obstacles to our inheriting the Kingdom aren’t as insurmountable as they appear.

Num 22:4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, Now this multitude will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field-
God had specifically told Moses not to fight with Moab (Dt. 2:9), and I have suggested on :2 that there was some contact between Balak and Moses. When Israel passed along the highways, they had been careful not stray from the route and had not drunk from the wells of those whom they passed through. Moab need have had no fear that Israel would lick up all around. It was only those who came out against Israel in battle who had been defeated, and Balak would have been wiser to learn from this. But God gave them according to their fears by saying He would make Israel like a powerful ox (Num. 23:22). 

Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time-
"Was king of Moab" supports the idea that Balak was a Midianite who was ruling Moab "at that time".   

Num 22:5 He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the River, to the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people who came out from Egypt. Behold, they cover the surface of the earth, and they are staying opposite me-
LXX "to Phathura, which is on a river of the land of the sons of his people". Balak was a Midianite elder who was now appointed king of Moab; see on :2. He sends for Balaam whom he knew from Midian. Moses had also lived in Midian, for 40 years, and his estranged wife was there. So he figures Balaam was the best positioned to curse the people of Moses.  

Num 22:6 Please come now therefore and curse this people for me; for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall prevail, that we may strike them, and that I may drive them out of the land-
The path of Israel was clear- they were not seeking to antagonize anyone, were careful to not stray from the highway, promised not to eat food or drink well water without paying for it; and had only fought with those who attacked them. Balak would have been far better not to let fear so dominate him, but rather to believe that it was Canaan who needed to fear Israel- and not himself. As so often happens, it was fear which led to unwise decisions which were to his damnation.

For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed-
This is so similar in wording to the promise of Yahweh's blessing upon Israel and cursing of those who curse them. It sets up a great standoff- between the word of Yahweh and the word of Balaam. Yahweh says He will curse whoever curses Israel. And Balak wants Balaam to curse Israel- and risk being cursed by Yahweh. That Balaam so earnestly wants to risk doing this reflects the depth of his love of wealth (Jude 11).

Num 22:7 The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards for the divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam, and spoke to him the words of Balak-
The simple lesson is that God’s blessing is one of those things which money can’t buy. The zoom of the Divine cameraman is close up- we see these men leaving with bags of precious stones, gold etc. in their hands. Although LXX "their divining instruments were in their hands".

Num 22:8 He said to them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as Yahweh shall speak to me. The princes of Moab stayed with Balaam-
He should surely have immediately sent them away. He knew that whoever cursed Abraham’s seed would be cursed, and had had experience of this (:6; Gen. 12:3). The longer we keep the possibility of sinning before us, the more likely it is that we shall fall into it. As we read the Biblical narratives, we are invited by the nature of the text to ask questions such as "What should he have said / done at this point?". And this is a clear example.  

Num 22:9 God came to Balaam and said, Who are these men with you?-
God knew. It was a rhetorical question, designed to make Balaam reflect that here in his home he had the enemies of God’s people. To invite someone to stay was an act of fellowship- with those who wanted him to curse Israel. Knowing that whoever cursed Israel would be cursed by Yahweh. God likewise at times makes us stop and think, sometimes making us put into words out loud the situation we are really in.

This is the same question in the same context given to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:14. He failed to see the similarity and learn the lesson. Both men were flattered that a king had sent messengers to him. They valued standing before men more than standing before God. Likewise he failed to see the similarities between himself and Jacob, on the same journey, meeting an Angel etc.

Num 22:10 Balaam said to God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has said to me-
"God" is clearly God's representative in an Angel or prophet. The one who functions as God can be spoken of as God, but this doesn't mean they are God Himself; and of course this applies especially to the Lord Jesus. Failure to understand this has lead to so much misunderstanding of Him, and the false doctrine of the Trinity.

Num 22:11 ‘Behold, the people that has come out of Egypt, it covers the surface of the earth. Now, come curse me them; perhaps I shall be able to fight against them, and shall drive them out’-
Dt. 5 says that Balaam's request for a curse wasn't answered by God because He so loved Israel; and his curse was turned by God into a blessing. But here in Num. 22, Balaam simply states what Balak has told him. He asks for nothing. But we don't need to specifically verbalize requests in order for God to perceive the request. God's answer in :12 reflects how He perceived this apparent statement as in fact a request for permission to go with the men and curse Israel. God reads our attitudes as prayers, and sees the requests implicit in our words. “I, even I only am left" was Elijah's cry to God as he realized the depth of Israel's apostasy (1 Kings 19:10). But this was interpreted by God as a prayer for God to condemn Israel (Rom. 11:2,3). God read what was in Elijah's heart, and counted this as his prayer. Elijah prayed to God against Israel when he told Him that he alone was left faithful- i.e. he was asking God to destroy the nation now. Our essential feelings are read by the Father as prayers.

Balaam alters Balak's words to try to make the request not include  cursing. But he shows a pathetic failure to accept that God sees and knows all. Balaam changes Balak's "a people" to "the people" when he tells God what Balak had said. This is a tacit recognition that he understood Israel to be the sole people of Yahweh .

Num 22:12 God said to Balaam, You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people; for they are blessed-
When Balaam was determined to curse Israel, the spirit of God made him speak out a blessing on them instead (Num. 24:1-13 cf. Dt. 23:5). He could not ‘escape from’ God’s word (Num. 22:12 Heb.). Jude says that he intended to write a letter about a totally different theme to the one he ended up writing about, because “I was constrained to write…” (Jude 3 RV)- by the Holy Spirit inspiring him.

Num 22:13 Balaam rose up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, Go to your land; for Yahweh refuses to permit me to go with you-
There’s a hint of resentment against God here; and Balaam should’ve told them direct that he was not going to curse God’s people. It’s rather like us excusing ourselves from doing something  sinful by telling people that our “stupid religion” doesn’t allow it- rather than personally identifying ourselves with the reason why we will not do it.

"To go with you" may have been said by Balaam with the emphasis on "you". Because Balak's response is to send more powerful princes with greater offers of reward. Perhaps Balaam spun the prohibition to go with them into "I cannot go with you" lesser princes. We have an insight here into how many seek to wriggle around God's word, to support what they would like to be true. 

Num 22:14 The princes of Moab rose up, and they went to Balak, and said, Balaam refuses to come with us-
The repetition of "rose up" in :13,14 may be to hint that in fact Balaam and the princes were of one heart together, despite Balaam's negative response.

Num 22:15 Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they-
We see here the desperate power of man's religious need; by absolutely all means, Balak wanted to have a 'man of God' blessing him and cursing his enemies. Deuteronomy says Balaam was called from Mesopotamia- a 400 mile journey each way.

Num 22:16 They came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me-
"Hinder" is the word used in Num. 24:11 for how "Yahweh has kept you back [s.w.] from honour". Repeatedly, God is the one who hinders or keeps back (Gen. 30:2; 1 Sam. 25:26,34; Neh. 9:20 etc.). Balak seems to be effectively saying 'Don't let Yahweh hinder you'. Balak recognizes that it was Yahweh and not Balaam who had hindered, and his words are really a lament that Yahweh had kept back Balaam. He knew that Balaam was eager for it. "Don't let your God / religion stop you..." is the call of temptation which the world makes to God's people of every generation. And heeding it is to go in the way of Balaam.   

Num 22:17 for I will promote you to very great honour, and whatever you say to me I will do. Please come therefore, and curse this people for me’-
But Balaam was aware that he could only do according to what God said (Num. 23:26). Balak says that whatever Balaam says, he will do (Num. 22:17). He is therefore inviting Balaam to play God, to give words of command to be obeyed, to receive the greatest honour / glory, and to be the ultimate source of blessing and cursing for Israel and the nations. This temptation to play God was at the root of the situation in the garden of Eden, and it continues to be at the root of all temptation. 

Num 22:18 Balaam answered the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I can’t go beyond the word of Yahweh my God, to do less or more-

The term Yahweh occurs 13 times in the Balaam story; even Balak uses it in asking Balaam to get Yahweh to curse His people.
"Yahweh my God" indicates that Balaam was a prophet of Yahweh and considered Yahweh his God. His behaviour therefore is all the more reprehensible. But in the very similar statement Balaam makes in Num. 24:13 he omits reference to Yahweh as "my God". Balaam knew that when Divine words of prophecy came to him, he had to speak them out, and could not add to or diminish from them (Num. 22:18) nor add any good or bad to them according to what was in his own mind (Num. 24:13). This is all a helpful insight into what it meant for a prophet to be Divinely inspired. The words they uttered were from God and were not their own opinions at all. For Balaam would dearly loved to have cursed Israel and not to have uttered the words of blessing which he did.

Literally,  I cannot transgress the word. Perhaps he felt that he had no concept nor possibility of personal sin because he was speaking God's word. 

Num 22:19 Now therefore, please wait also here this night, that I may know what Yahweh will speak to me more-
Clearly Balaam wanted to go with them, because he loved the idea of getting the promised wealth (2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11). If he had sent them away immediately, the spiritual crisis would’ve passed. And that is what he should have done. Any idea of cursing God's people, when God had made it clear to Abraham that he would curse whoever cursed them, should have been unthinkable to Balaam. But instead, God confirmed Balaam in the sinful way he wished to go- for He now permitted Balaam to go with them, but to only speak His word (:20). By going with them- and it was a very long journey- Balaam was going deeper into temptation. This is an example of how whilst the process of temptation is internal (James 1:13-15), God can lead sinful people further into situations of temptation if this is what they wish in their hearts. Hence we should pray that God will not lead us into temptation (Mt. 6:13). Hence God was angry with Balaam because he went (:22), even though God told him to go (:20)- God led him further into temptation, but was angered that Balaam went that way. It's rather like the Father giving the prodigal son the things he asked for.

Num 22:20 God came to Balaam at night, and said to him, If the men have come to call you, rise up, go with them; but only the word which I speak to you, that you shall do-
Balak sent a messenger to ask Balaam to come to him. Balaam asked God whether he should go. The answer was that he should not go. Then the messenger came again; and this time, God told Balaam to go with them, but only to speak God's word. It was as if God was pushing Balaam down the road to spiritual ruin. The end result of Balaam meeting Balak was that he advised Balak to make Israel sin with his women, which would mean that God would curse Israel. And for this Balaam was condemned. If Balaam had not gone with the messengers in the first place, he would not have fallen into this sin. But God told him to go with them (Num. 22:20).

Num 22:21 Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab-
Balaam was told to go with the elders of Moab, but only speak God's word. He was told to go (:20) but God was angry that he did (:22). The intention was that he fall down and repent, and refuse to go with them. But he went with them, ostensibly in obedience to God's word of command which was leading him to self destruction. The rebels in Num. 16:6 were in a similar position. They were told to take censers and offer incense, which was exactly how Nadab and Abihu were slain (Lev. 10:2). So this was the kind of leading into temptation which we are to pray shall not happen to us (Mt. 6:13). Their path to repentance was being offered to them, but the consequences of refusing it were now higher. The intended response was 'No. We give in. To offer incense like that and come near to the incense altar in the holy place is not for us. We would rightly be slain for doing so. So, we give in and retreat from our position'. But human pride was in the way. And they took up the offer, leading to their justifiable destruction. For by knowingly doing what they knew would lead to destruction, they were committing the sin of presumption which forms a context to that account (Num. 15:30,31). The command to "put fire in them" was because they had "gone too far" (Num. 16:7). So that they were being led down the path to destruction, unless they dropped everything and repented. God likewise works with people today.

The detail that he rose and saddled his donkey is the cameraman of Divine inspiration zooming in close. We see him going forth on a path that he had been warned not to. The text is clearly quoting Gen. 22:3 where Abraham arises, saddles his ass, and goes on a journey of obedience. Also with two servants, as Balaam did (:21,22). Again, an Angel and a sword are to feature in it. Although Balaam was also from Mesopotomaia as was Abraham, he is set up as the very inverse of Abraham's seed.

Num 22:22 God’s anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of Yahweh placed himself in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him-
The Hebrew word for adversary is “satan”. Good people, Angels, even God Himself, can be ‘satans’ or adversaries. ‘Satan’ carries no bad connotation of itself as a word; it has been loaded with this meaning by the wrong idea that there is a personal ‘satan’ out in the cosmos who is in radical opposition to God. This isn’t a Biblical idea. The wicked Balaam was opposed by an Angel of God, who stood in the walled path as an adversary, or Satan to him, so that his donkey couldn't pass by (Num. 22:22). This shows that a good being can act as a Satan to a person. Interestingly, the Septuagint translates this with the word endiaballein, 'to set something across one's path'; a diabolos is a person who performs this act. The same idea repeats in the New Testament, where Peter is described by Jesus as a stumbling block across His path to the cross, and thus Peter is a 'Satan' (Mt. 16:23).

Num 22:23 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and the donkey turned aside out of the way, and went into the field. Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the way-
The two times Balaam faces the Angel, albeit unknowingly, refer to the two times that Balak’s messengers had come to him. Balaam didn’t see God in it all; and he was angry with the donkey for perceiving God in a situation where he himself couldn’t perceive God. The triple meetings of the Angel with Balaam may reflect how God deals with those who go against His word. The first encounter blocks their path, but gives them an option to pass around the blockage, in Balaam's case, through the field. There is no pain, just some inconvenience and frustration. Then if the path continues, there is a blockage of the way which causes personal pain- Balaam's foot crushed against the wall. And if the person still continues, then there is the meeting with God in condemnation, where there is no way to turn. And Balaam was saved from that by grace alone.

Balaam was finally slain with a sword, Num. 31:8; Josh. 13:22. But God's patience in warning him ahead of time was amazing. 

Num 22:24 Then the angel of Yahweh stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side-
Num. 22:22 describes how an Angel of God stood in a narrow, walled path before Balaam, so that his donkey fell down beneath him. That Angel is described as a "satan", an adversary, to Balaam. Job comments how the sufferings which the 'Satan' brought upon him were God 'walling up my way that I cannot pass' (Job 19:8). The connection is clear- and surely indicates that Job's satan was a satan-Angel, acting as an adversary to Job just as such an Angel did to Balaam. See on Job 1:6. Job and Balaam have certain similarities- both were prophets (in Job's case see Job 4:4; 23:12; 29:4 cp. 15:8; Amos 3:7; James 5:10,11); both had genuine difficulty in understanding God's ways, but they to varying degrees consciously rebelled against what they did understand; both thus became angry with God (in the Angel), and were reproved by God through being brought to consider the Angel-controlled natural creation.  What happened at this point was what later happened to Judah (Hos. 2:6), and like Balaam they insisted on pressing on when God had closed in their path. For the significance of the path through the vineyards, see on :26.  

In these three encounters, the Angel as it were retreats ["went forward" in :26 really means 'he proceeded to...' rather than being a statement of moving physically forward]. And so in a sense does God, in desperate attempts to bring us to our senses, seeking not to hurt us, but often having to put us in a position where we can't go forward further.

Num 22:25 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, and she thrust herself to the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; and he struck her again-
It would seem that the natural creation may see the Angels when they are invisible to us- thus Balaam's donkey saw the Angel standing in the way and was too frightened by the realness of it to go further (Num. 22:25). This was to teach Balaam that he ought to have seen the Angelic presence at work without having his eyes specially opened to see the Angel, in the same way as the ass didn't need it's eyes opened to see the Angel.

"Crushed" is the word used throughout the Pentateuch for the 'oppression' of Israel in Egypt, and most of the other occurrences speak of Israel's oppression by the Gentiles. Balaam was representative of Israel, going against what God wanted, and being oppressed / crushed in order that they might stop in their tracks and repent. But they generally refused.

Num. 23:3 [Hebrew] describes Balaam as lame or limping. Presumably from this incident. He was following the path of Jacob returning to Canaan from the east, who likewise met an Angel and became lame. But Balaam failed to learn from this precedent and refused to humble himself and resign his hope for material blessings as Jacob had done.

Num 22:26 The angel of Yahweh went further, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left-
The New Testament describes Balaam as rushing headlong on this journey, running greedily for the money (Jude 11), in “madness” (2 Pet. 2:15). This is the effect which the hope of wealth can have upon people. Finally God brings people to confrontation with Him, when there is no possibility of avoiding the issues. The very same phrase for not turning aside to the right nor left has just been used about Israel's path towards Canaan, also passing through vineyards as Balaam did in :24 (Num. 20:17; 21:22). Clearly Balaam is being set up as representative of Israel, who also had an Angel involved with them on their journey. The intention of their being closed in on their path was that they would not turn to the right nor left before God, and that figure is used to describe apostacy.

If he could not go forward nor turn to either side, the only way out was back. But Balaam urged the donkey forward. He was intended to turn back, but his words to the Angel showed only half hearted commitment to this option. He refused to repent and so he was told to go forward. 

Num 22:27 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, and she lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff-
This suggests association with Moses in anger wrongly striking the rock, leading to his condemnation. A donkey laying down is the very phrase used in Ex. 23:5 of a donkey collapsing under a burden too heavy for it, imposed by a cruel master. The donkey collapsed under the weight of Balaam's refusal to stop and turn back.

Num 22:28 Yahweh 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?-
The Angel repeats these words in :32, asking why Balaam smote the donkey three times. This was to show that the donkey was speaking from God. Why had he beaten the donkey? Because he was spiritually blind. So he should not claim to have any special spiritual revelation from God. This was a call for humility. But instead he madly continues, hoping he can somehow get a word from Yahweh to curse Israel. The fury of Balaam with the donkey, because he three times sees what he doesn't, is the fury of Balak with Balaam when he obstinately [apparently] blesses Israel rather than curses them, because his eyes have been opened. But additionally, Balaam's anger was kindled with the donkey (:27) just as God's anger had been with Balaam(:22). Again Balaam is being identifed with the donkey. Both Balaam and the donkey are inspired with God's word [the Angel repeats these words in :32, asking why Balaam smote the donkey three times]. Again Balaam is being asked to identify with the donkey; he refuses to at this point, but he has to see the similarity in the end. "Balak said to Balaam, What have you done to me?" (Num. 23:11), reflecting the words of the donkey to Balaam "What have I done to you?" (Num. 22:28). Again Balaam is being led to see himself as the donkey he had so despised. The Hebrew word for "struck" is that used in Num. 22:6 "that we may strike them". Balaam is being shown that any attempt to strike Israel was as foolish as his striking of his donkey. But he refuses to 'get it' because he is obsessed by the scent of wealth if he can in fact curse Israel so that Moab strikes them.

2 Pet. 2:16 comments: "But he was rebuked for his own transgression: a dumb ass spoke with a man's voice and hindered the madness of the prophet". Peter was unafraid to rebuke the high flying intellectuals who were wrecking the first century ecclesia. He likens his rebuke of them to the "dumb ass speaking with man's voice" which rebuked Balaam. This was what he chose to identify himself with; that inspired donkey. There was no great trained intellect in Peter; yet his zeal for God's word puts us to shame. As the time of the end progresses, it seems that more and more of Christ's church (in the Western world) are educated people. In this I see a tremendous danger. A man who could probably not read, who probably wrote his inspired letters by dictation because he couldn't write himself, had a zeal for understanding which puts us to shame. Paul correctly made the point (and who more aware that his intellectuality could run away with him than Paul) that God has chosen the weak things to confound the mighty; He has chosen the simple of this world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1 and 2). I get some kind of intuitive feeling that Paul had Peter at the back of his mind as he wrote this letter to working class Corinth (1 Cor. 1:26). The deep mutual respect between theologian Paul and fisherman Peter is a real working model for our ecclesias.

The dumb ass was speaking God's word. But that word was spoken in order to save Balaam from destruction at the hand of the Angel who stood in front of him. We see here God's justice and grace working together. God made the Angel go out to kill Balaam; and made the ass speak to Balaam and collapse beneath him so that this didn't happen. It's rather like the Angel of death going out to destroy all the firstborn on Passover night, including that of the Israelites; but turning away from the houses over which the Passover Angel hovered. Thus one Angel delivered people from another Angel. There is no contradiction here; rather an insight into the careful balance within all God's operations with men. He doesn't simply operate on auto-pilot.

The donkey resisted three times, but so far Balaam has resisted God only twice. But we will go on to read that Balaam three times gives oracles which he hoped would be against Israel- if we read Numbers 24 as just one oracle [Balak laments that Balaam has blessed Israel three times]. The hope was that Balaam would look back and perceive that he had three times resisted God, just as he had done when riding his donkey against the Angel with drawn sword. The legendary stubborness of the donkey, which Balaam despised, was to be understood as the stubborn obedience to God's will which He asks of His people. All that Balaam despised in the donkey was actually how he should have been behaving spiritually.

Num 22:29 Balaam said to the donkey, Because you have mocked me, I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would have killed you-
Moments later, Balaam sees the Angel with a sword in his hand, thinking of killing him, but refraining by grace. God was trying to teach Balaam that He is indeed gracious, far more than Balaam was. But Balaam was so madly obsessed with trying to obtain more material wealth, even though he had servants and donkeys and a house fit to entertain princes, that he paid no attention to things like God's grace and hand in his life.

Num 22:30 The donkey said to Balaam, Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever in the habit of doing so to you? He said, No-
The donkey had not literally carried Balaam all his life, as donkeys don't have such long life spans. Balaam was clearly intended to see a similarity between his God and his donkey, who had faithfully been there for him all his life long, and had never been unreasonable to him. The humility of God was not ashamed to compare Himself to the humble beast of burden, ridden, used and abused by His people. "Was I ever in the habit of doing so to you?" is LXX "did I ever do thus to thee, utterly disregarding thee?". Balaam was so blinded by his desire for wealth that he disregarded his donkey, his God, his people and even the Angel clearly opposing him. This is the power of human desire for wealth. 

Num 22:31 Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face-
His eyes were opened to the Angel blocking his way, and when he realized how he had closed his spiritual vision to the Angel trying to stop him going to Balak, he fell down on his face. But when he is later given a vision of Balak’s judgment, the vision which Balaam didn’t want to see, he describes himself as “the man whose eye was closed” and yet had to see the vision with his eyes open (Num. 24:3,4 RV). He didn’t learn the lesson. He closed his eyes so as not to see the vision, and yet God forced him to open his eyes and see it. And again, he fell down upon his face (Num. 24:4,16 RV), as he had when the Angel blocked his path earlier. He wouldn’t learn his lesson, he wouldn’t perceive how circumstances were being repeated in God’s desperate effort to get him to repent.

Num 22:32 The angel of Yahweh said to him, Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come forth as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me-
Balaam "ran" for reward, so wanting to do Balak's will in order to receive the promised "hire" (Jude 11); and the Angel and donkey tried to arrest him in his headlong rush. He paid no attention, just as the efforts of Jude and Peter to arrest the madness of these men were not being heeded. The language of a righteous Angel coming forth as a satan / adversary is similar to the scene in Job. The questions were to elicit the answer 'I kept hitting the donkey because I was paying no attention to God's hand in my life, I was obsessed with running in the wrong way'. But there was apparently no answer from Balaam, and so after the silence, the Angel continues- explaining that indeed "your way is perverse before Me". Balaam's way was before Yahweh. God saw every part and aspect of it.

"Because your way is perverse" could be translated "Although..." (s.w. Gen. 48:14). In this case the sense is that the Angel was standing as an adversary to Balaam in order to save him from destruction and eternal judgment; and the Angel did this kindness, even though Balaam's way was perverse and obnoxious to the Angel.

Num 22:33 and the donkey saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. Unless she had turned aside from me, surely now I would have killed you, and saved her alive-
The Jewish commentators insist that this should be translated as in LXX "And if she had not turned out of the way, surely now, I should have slain thee, and should have saved her alive". The implication is that the Angel killed the donkey for having turned out of the way when first confronted by the Angel. This turning out of the way was seen as wrong; the donkey should have fallen down in awe and reverence. Turning out of the way is a common figure for apostacy. The Angel is by all means trying to show Balaam that his life had been saved by grace. He ought to have died; but his donkey did, because like him, it had turned out of the way the first time instead of falling down in fear and respect. Perhaps when it fell down, it never arose; for the Angel slew it. Being deprived of his means of transport was surely also a sign to Balaam that he was intended to return. The death of his faithful, loyal donkey in order to save him, the just for the unjust, looked ahead to the spirit of the death of the Lord Jesus. It is intended to elicit in us repentance. But so many are untouched with it, as was Balaam, because of the madness of their headlong obsession with themselves and wealth.

Num 22:34 Balaam said to the angel of Yahweh, I have sinned; for I didn’t know that you stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases you, I will go back again-
Still Balaam doesn’t get it. Surely he knew his journey was displeasing to God. Sometimes people are pulled up by God in their path- and still they refuse to understand. They are blinded by the headlong desire for material things, rather than seeing God’s perspective. Balaam's claim that "I didn't know..." of God's opposition to his journey to curse Israel was untrue (Num. 22:34); so he is made to say in prophecy that he did know God's will (Num. 24:16). "I have sinned" recalls the same words on the lips of Pharaoh and Saul, again insincerely. Confession of sin can so easily be mere words. Balaam immediately goes on with a qualification of why he had sinned- and claims that he did so in ignorance. Confession of sin is to have no qualifications added to it.   

This appears untrue because in Num. 24:16 he is inspired to state that he did know God's will. We can know but choose not to know. He claims he has sinned but in ignorance, when this was not true. 

Num 22:35 The angel of Yahweh said to Balaam, Go with the men; but only the word that I shall speak to you, that you shall speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak-
Again God leads him further into temptation, seeing he didn’t himself decide to return home. God was pushing him onwards down the destructive road he so eagerly chose to go, headlong. That way was perverse to God and "contrary to Me" (:32), but He pushed him along it as that was the path he chose. The dynamic in both the downward and upward spiral is the Spirit of God, an evil spirit from the Lord or the Holy Spirit, the spirit of holiness. We could translate "But only whatever I shall speak, that you will speak", as if God is not commanding him anything but rather warning him that he is going to be overtaken by His Spirit to utter blessings and not curses upon Israel- which is exactly what happened.

Num 22:36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him to the City of Moab, which is on the border of the Arnon, which is in the utmost part of the border-
That Balak came out to meet Balaam again reflects his desperate desire to have this religious man on his side. We see here the power of the human need for religion. Rather like a terrible criminal somehow needs the religious man at his side as he finally comes to his deathbed in prison.

Num 22:37 Balak said to Balaam, Didn’t I earnestly send to you to call you? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I not able indeed to promote you to honour?-
Balak sees himself as the ultimate source of blessing and promotion. But like Balaam, he was playing God by saying this. He assumed Balaam's delay in coming was because he doubted whether Balak had the resources to reward him. He refused to accept that Balaam was circumscribed by Yahweh.

Num 22:38 Balaam said to Balak, Behold, I have come to you. Have I now any power at all to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak-
As discussed on :35, this can be read not as a statement of obedient loyalty to God, but rather informing Balak that God's Spirit would come upon him and make him speak what He wished; and that, unfortunately, he had no power over that process. As often in reading the Bible, we do well to reflect in what tone of voice Balaam said these things to Balak, and what additional, unrecorded things he said.

Num 22:39 Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath Huzoth-
LXX "and they came to the cities of streets".

Num 22:40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes who were with him-
The idea was that eating sacrifices together was a statement of religious unity and fellowship. Balaam on one hand could speak of Yahweh as "my God" (:18) and yet on the other, eagerly accept fellowship with idolatry.

Num 22:41 It happened in the morning, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal; and he saw from there the utmost part of the people-
LXX "And brought him up to the pillar of Baal". The significance of "he saw from there..." was that Balak expected to use the "evil eye" upon Israel. But as he began to do this, God's Spirit took him over and made him bless them. It would be an example of where the Bible deconstructs belief in things like the evil eye and other connections with a supposed supernatural source of evil. Even if these things were true, then God's Spirit power was far greater than them. This would then be the significance of the descriptions of Balaam as "the man whose eye was closed". We note "eye" in the singular, not the plural. The idea may be that Balaam had tried to use superstitions about the 'evil eye' against Israel and had lifted up his eyes against Israel in this way (see on Num. 24:2). But his [evil] eye had been closed by God and he was now taken over by God's Spirit in order to bless Israel.