These chapters (Numbers 21-23) are mostly descriptive of the relationship of the Israelites to the surrounding kingdoms. The Godward aspect is still a problem (21:5-6), but there are some changes there as well (21:7-9).
It is often said that an ounce of success is weightier than a pound of self-absorption. The narrative here begins with this kind of success, versus an external foe, and the Israelites in these chapters after the death of Aaron and Miriam gain back the sense of direction that we have not seen since the Exodus.
The story of Balak begins in Nm 22, and it is high mockery of the practice of "divination" (22:7). Balak, king of Moab, considers divination as one of the tools by which he as king can accomplish his will, using one of its resources available for hire (he thinks), the curse (22:6).
The reader is treated to quite a humorous story. Balak sees everything in economic terms. Whatever Balaam says about God, etc., Balak thinks is an excuse for what's really going on, the demand for a higher fee (22:16,17). But not only does God determine what Balaam says about Israel, but God interacts with Balaam personally, making him a real prophet for the duration of this event. Not only that, but he sees to it that Balaam does it despite himself (23:25-26).
What about the donkey? This is so integrated with the point of the story, the purpose of showing that God's management of Israel's destiny is as far above man's strategies, as heaven above earth, that it verifies not only the genuineness of God's ways, His sovereignty, the silliness of man's attempts to thwart Him, but it verifies itself in the process.
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