2 Peter 2:15-16
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor…

I. We begin with THE GOOD PART of the character of Balaam. Balaam was a true prophet of God. He was the last prophet under the patriarchal dispensation. He had the knowledge of religion, faith in the future Messiah, and prayer for the great blessing — a death of peace and hope.

II. Let us now consider the character of Balaam; as it may be called, THE BAD PART. The bad part of Balaam's character was that he united with his religion, faith, and prayer, the errors of the head, which ruined his religion, and the vices of the heart, which ruined his faith and prayer. He complied with the practices of the idolaters that surrounded him; and he was guilty of that love of money which made him desire the wages of unrighteousness and receive the rewards of Balak, against the warnings of his conscience and his knowledge of God. We must now consider the especial reason why the dumb ass, on which the prophet rode, was the fittest channel by which God would reprove, first, his idolatry, and then his covetousness.

1. And first the dumb ass was the fittest channel by which God would reprove the idolatry of Balaam. It was as if a voice came from the God of Israel, saying to the prophet, "Wilt thou forsake the one true God, and join thyself, for the sake of money, to the foolish idolatry of the people around you? I will open the mouth of the most stupid of their idols to reproach thee, the prophet of God, to convince thee, and so convince them, that I am the only God, the only giver of all the usefulness of the instinct which has caused the dumb ass to be worshipped and honoured."

2. So also the ass was the fittest channel for the reproof of the covetousness of Balaam. The wild ass of the East was not, as is too often imagined, the same sort of animal as that among us. It was selected, because of its size and beauty, to be the bearer of kings, magistrates, and princes; and its use may be said, therefore, to be confined to those who were the leaders and the wealthy among the people. Now the only palliation that can be alleged for the love of money is the poverty which fears want, or which desires the advantages which money confers. Balaam had no excuse for the covetousness which loved the wages of unrighteousness, and the proof of all this was the mere fact of his possessing the animal which was possessed only by the rich, the great, and the wealthy. When the Lord, therefore, opened the mouth of the ass, it was as if God said, "Why should the prophet of the true God thus be led away by the hope of money? why should the prophet of the true God love the wages of unrighteousness? Is not the possession and the use of the dumb ass on which you ride, the proof, and the demonstration to all around you that you already enjoy all that human ambition is wont to desire, and all that human avarice is wont to covet?" Be content. The most wonderful of all God's miracles was wrought to prove to us God's abhorrence of the most usual of all the sins that beset us, that we may learn to avoid that "covetousness which is idolatry."

(G. Townsend, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

WEB: forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing;

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