|NUMBERS 22-24, Balaam||
NUMBERS 22-24 The Story of Balaam
Introduction: Israel’s 2nd
journey from Kadesh
2. Balak does not know or use the historical facts of the situation. That is, WHY Sihon was defeated. Numbers 21:22-24
3. The divine viewpoint perspective is not available to Balak, but is recorded in Deut. 2:9.
“Do not harass Moab, nor
provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a
1. Balaam is a Gentile
believer (v. 22:18) who used to be a sorcerer, who probably had contact with
demons (v. 6).
Even though God is now going to use a NATION as his evangelistic agent on the earth, there are still family priests alive, who will continue to function during their lifetime. No new ones will be commissioned by God once the nation of Israel begins to function as the national priesthood.
See Topic: DISPENSATIONS
2. Balaam has maintained involvement with occult practices.
There are believers scattered
all throughout the area. When the peoples migrated from Babel after the
confusion of the languages, both Yahweh worship and Nimrod’s religion were
carried with them. Balaam lived in Pethor. Melchizedek lived further south in
Salem, opposite the Northern end of the Dead Sea. Jethro lived even further
south in Midian at the top of the Red Sea.
7. What he should have done
is taught in Acts 19:18-19. If he did follow that principle after his
acceptance of the Messianic promise, then he turned again to the sorcery
practices later because of the financial appeal.
Balak informs Balaam of the
presence of Israel. If Balaam had been in fellowship and occupied with the
progress of God’s plan in his historical time frame, he would have been
informed by God of Israel’s status.
The verb is, Arar. It means to curse; to pronounce negative effects upon someone. It used to indicate the CONSEQUENCES of disobeying God’s laws as summarized at Psalm 119:21, “cursed are those who wander from Your commandments.”
It is also used of sorcerers who “attempt” to curse people and events, as at Job 3:8, “the cursers of the day.”
Bless, of course refers to positive effects in someone’s life and CURSE, refers to bringing negative effects into someone’s life.
He needs to inquire of the
Lord what he should do since he has not heard of Israel.
God makes contact and asks Balaam to explain the presence of these men. This is for Balaam’s benefit, of course, not God’s.
Balaam answers. God’s purpose is to make certain that Balaam is aware of all the facts to date. Then God will fill in the details to bring him up to speed.
God gives him the details.
1. Do not go with them: This is specific divine instruction. This is the DIRECTIVE WILL OF GOD.
2. You shall not curse them: Of course, anything that Balaam can say or do will not affect God’s plan for Israel. This injunction is not to “prevent” something negative from happening to Israel, but to bring Balaam around to God’s purpose for him.
3. For they are blessed: The verb is bArak, which indicates that they are under a blessing; that is, a divine plan for good and positive historical benefit. This statement not only indicates that CURSING would go against God’s will, but in fact, would really have no affect on Israel as the object of God’s blessing.
Balaam accepts God’s commands.
The Lord (Yahweh) has refused to let me go with you. Actually, he DOES have a choice, but has a basic desire to please God.
Balak sends others with promise of even greater wages than previously offered.
Balaam refuses the second offer as well, but only ON THE SURFACE. He wants to please God, but he really wants to acquire the financial reward as well.
1. No matter how much you pay
me I could do nothing contrary to the word of Yahweh my God. Of course, this
statement shows us that Balaam is a believer and despite his materialism lust,
he does want to please God.
This is like “putting out a
fleece” which is never proper procedure – and that includes Gideon. This is
like saying, “I heard you God, but do you REALLY mean it?”
1. Balaam has already made up his mind to go. In his soul, he has rejected the original instructions of God. This is indicated at verse 19.
2. He wants to please God, but he also wants to earn the sorcery fee, so he wants to find a compromise. Personal gain is more important to Balaam than the will of God, so he has already decided to reject the divine mandate of verse 12.
3. If God does not change his mind, Balaam will probably go anyway, but he would rather have the approval of his God.
4. In this case, God has become a religious system to be followed only if personal gain can be achieved.
5. God in perfect righteousness never violates human volition, but he will in perfect wisdom and justice, discipline negative volition in the believer. The fact that God gives Balaam permission to go indicates divine respect for human volition.
6. It is God’s permissive will that concedes to Balaam’s free will but does not retract the original instructions of verse 12. This concession by God is a reminder to Balaam that even though he is in rebellion, he will not be allowed to pronounce anything but blessing upon Israel.
7. A New Testament example of God’s directive and permissive will is found with the apostle Paul.
a. Acts 20:22-24, warning
b. Acts 21:4, prohibition
c. Acts 21:10-14, warning
d. Acts 21:15-17, arrival
e. Acts 21:26, doctrinal error
f. Acts 21:27ff, discipline
Verse 21, THE FIRST WARNING
1. He does not profit from the teaching of the night before and goes anyway.
God’s permission was a concession to a negative, rebellious believer to teach him the principle of the directive and permissive will of God.
2. Balaam is blinded by his lust for money, and that is why he finds himself butting heads with the angel of Yahweh – the pre-incarnate Word of God.
1. But Balaam was angry
He is angry because of his continued negative volition. Balaam chose the permissive will of God rather than the directive will of God and finds himself on the negative side of divine justice.
2. And the angel of The LORD (angel of Yahweh)
The angel of Yahweh is the visible manifestation of the Godhead through the 2nd member of the Godhead, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.
The angel of Yahweh is actually Yahweh himself (verses 32-35).
See Topic: ANGEL OF THE LORD
3. Took his stand in the way as an adversary: the preposition, le plus satan. The word satan means adversary. This is the principle of James 4:4.
This is the first of four warnings.
The donkey is given sight to see the obstacle in the pathway, although not the capacity to understand who it is or what it means.
So as a faithful beast of
burden, he turns away to protect his master.
Verses 24-25 THE SECOND WARNING
The same thing happens and the Balaam has the same emotional reaction.
Verses 26-27 THE THIRD WARNING
This time there is no place to turn so the donkey lays down.
Balaam’s emotions are still in control, and he hits the donkey a third time.
Verses 28-30 CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO JACKASSES
1. Yahweh opened the mouth of the donkey.
He gave the donkey ability to communicate its own feelings on the human level using human vocabulary. He did not give the donkey the ability to reason or to understand on the human level. It could only relate to its own reality through its own animal soul.
His words reflect simply concern for its own actions.
DONKEY: Why did you hit me?
BALAAM: Petty pride and emotions and no logic.
A. Because you mocked me. This is of course ridiculous.The animal does not have the capacity to mock or to make a personal attack on Balaam. Since Balaam is out of fellowship, he takes everything personally and emotionally.
B. If I had a sword:
Violence is always the by-product of pride and emotionalism.
DONKEY: simple animal logic to combat the creature arrogance of man.
A. Am I not your donkey: You know my animal disposition.
B. All your life: You know me very well.
C. Have I ever done this before? Ie., Have I ever turned aside from the road with no apparent reason. In other words, there must be a reason.
BALAAM: He answers, no, never before.
Then two things happen.
A. Balaam is shocked back to volitional reality by the conversation with his donkey.
B. And then Yahweh reveals himself.
Verse 31 Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam
Balaam sees the Angel of Yahweh and bows down to express his spiritual awareness.
Yahweh rebukes Balaam for his insensitivity to the animal.
Balaam recognizes the opposition of God, but he already knows this from verses 12 and 20.
So, once again, he just gives God some religious lip-service, and hopes to continue on his way in order to earn his fee.
His confession is a false confession since he remains in the attitude of disobedience.
1. If it is displeasing: This is religious double talk. There is no IF about it. Verse 12 makes it perfectly clear that it IS DISPLEASING to God.
2. This indicates that he is still negative to God’s directive will. But God will concede to Balaam’s negativity by expressing his permissive will to him.
3. Whether through God’s directive or permissive will, His plan will still go on and He will always be glorified in the long run.
Verse 35 The Permissive Will of God Restated
God will allow Balaam to
disobey in order to teach him spiritual value.
After the third time, Balaam gets the message, gets back into fellowship, receives the endowment of the Holy Spirit, and then teaches some fantastic Messianic truth for the future.
But even after that, the allure of money is too great. Balaam earns his fee by giving strategic counsel to Balak. This action is called The Doctrine of Balaam at Revelation 2:14.
Later, Balaam will die “The sin unto death” as a result of his continued rebellion. Num. 31:8.
Verse 36, Balak comes out to meet Balaam
Verse 37, Why did it take so long? My money offer is genuine.
Verse 38, If you want to pay me, fine. But remember, whatever God tells me that is what I will say.
Balak’s perspective is that there are many gods, and that Balaam’s “god” happens to help him a lot in his profession. He does not care “what” god is involved as long as it gets the job done. Balaam is simply using religious language to impress Balak as well as to concede to God’s secondary instruction in verse 35.He really hopes to by pass God all together and pronounce a curse on Israel in order to earn his fee.
He spent the night at Kiriath-huzoth, a center for Baal worship as seen at verse 41.
Balak sacrificed to his own gods and sent some of the meat to Balaam and the Moabite leaders who were there with him.
In the morning Balak took Balaam to the high places of Baal in order to see the approaching camp of the Israelites.
NUMBERS chapter 23
Verses 1-10 The first discourse
Balaam is out of fellowship and is seeking to by pass Yahweh.
These offerings are not
Divine policy, but instead is the manner of seeking omens as verse 24
indicates, “he did not go as at other times to seek omens.”
Verse 3, Perhaps Yahweh will
come to me.
Verse 4, God met Balaam
Balaam appeals to his omens
to solicit God’s favor.
Verses 5-10, The first discourse
Verse 5, God gave Balaam the discourse
Verse 6, Balak and company have been doing their own religious thing besides Balaam’s offerings.
Verses 7-10, the actual discourse
Notice, in most translations, it is set apart as POETRY (indented to distinguish it from normal prose). All of the discourses will be so indicated.
Verse 7, Balaam’s origins and the nature of the commission – to curse Israel.
Balaam is thinking about how he can protect himself in view of the fact that he will only be able to speak the words that God gives him. Accordingly, God’s revelation to him starts with a proclamation that assures Balak that Balaam understands their contract.
Verse 8, However, God then
makes it clear that any cursing of Israel is clearly not going to happen.
“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed.”
Verse 9, This describes Israel as being a very unique nation, having a unique status, and amounts to a proclamation of blessing.
The details are found at Exodus 19:5-6 and Deut. 4:5-8 and 7:6.
Verse 10a, describes the PHYSICAL prosperity of the nation – its huge size.
Verse 10b, describes the blessing of identification with Israel.
The true source for self-preservation is to connect with Israel and Israel’s spiritual heritage.
“Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his.” The word yAhshar refers to adherence to the moral standards that God gave to Israel. This is “a death” that would be according to divine timing and wisdom because the UPRIGHT believer is living within God’s will.
But Balaam refuses to claim the heritage of the upright and ends up dying under divine discipline, “killed with a sword.” Numbers 31:8
Verse 11, Balak’s displeasure.
He rejected the spiritual truth of the discourse and was angry because his own physical need was not fulfilled.
Verse 12, Balaam’s way out of
incurring Balak’s negative actions
Verses 13-15, Balak wants to
try it again.
Verses 16-24, The Second
Verse 18, “Arise, O Balak, and hear.” This is personally addressed to Balak as a challenge to him to come to terms with both the character and the plan of God.
Verse 19 affirms the character and intent of God.
The comparison to “man” stresses the fact that, while man is characteristically a liar, God does not lie. Once He has spoken His intent, He will not change his mind.
The word, repent, is the verb nAcham as a hithpael imperfect. It is translated as either REPENT or be sorry. But the verb actually means, to change the mind.
Although this states that God does not change His mind, in actuality, He does change His ACTIONS toward His creatures based on how his creatures think and act toward Him.
The use of the word “repent” in such a case, is an anthropopathism to describe in human terms something that God does, but that is not done as humans do it. A good example of this is Genesis 6:6, where God changes His mind about the existence of the human race and decides to bring the flood to destroy all but Noah and his clan. However, this is always based on God’s foreknowledge and is an extension of His plan, being fully aware of what His creatures were going to do.
In this passage, the word is used to indicate the fickleness of the human psyche and the fluctuations in human emotions. God’s change of ACTION is not based on this human relativity. Thus, the statement is true, that God is not like man who characteristically lies and characteristically changes his mind upon any emotional whim within his soul.
Has He said, and will He not do it?
This is not MAN attempting a human plan. It is the Almighty God who makes a plan that HE will not alter.
Behold, I have received a command to bless;
Balaam’s words announce to Balak that God has commanded him to bless Israel.
This is based on the fact that God has blessed Israel, and it is impossible for Balaam to change that with his own human words. Any change on the proposed blessing of God on an individual or a group can only be changed by the volitional decision of that individual or the individuals in any particular group as a collective whole. But even then, some blessings cannot be removed – only delayed for a future generation to enjoy. Israel’s periodic failures removed blessings from that specific generation, but did not remove the ultimate plan of God for blessing the nation.
Verse 21, the status of Israel: The names, Jacob and Israel are used as synonyms in the poetic construction of this revelation from God.
“God brings them out of Egypt.” God is the source.
The image of lioness and lion is used (poetic repetition) to indicate great
Verse 25, Balak’s reaction
Verse 26, Balaam’s defense – I told you so.
In spite of Balak’s strong displeasure and emotional outburst, “you’re fired,” he suggests that Balaam try one more time.
Of course, he has totally ignored the information from God and thinks that God might change his mind if they go to a different place. The word, “agreeable” in the NASB, is the verb, yAshar. It means to be acceptable or in conformity with someone’s standards. Thus, “perhaps it is right in the eyes of THE God (elohim),” in the Hebrew plus the definite article – THE.
Balaam is still out of fellowship with God and goes through the same ritual as before. But this time there will be a difference. Balaam is finally going to come to terms with the will of God.
On the way to this third location, Balaam evaluates all that has happened. He recognizes the spiritual value in truth and gets back in fellowship. He discards his occult procedures and decides to let God work through him to advance the Divine plan.
lifts his eyes toward Israel. This is an attitude of favor toward them now
that he has accepted God’s viewpoint.
It is the special endowment of the Spirit to teach Messianic truth pertinent to Israel and the whole world. There was no Messianic truth revealed in the first two discourses because Balaam was not in fellowship with God.
Verses 3-9, The Third Discourse
The oracle of Balaam: This is a formal proclamation of God’s prophet. He is back in fellowship and totally in agreement with Divine policy for Israel.
And of the one whose eye is opened. This indicates spiritual perception and a capacity to understand and relate to God’s truth, which was not present before.
Statements of the divine origin of the words that Balaam will be speaking.
Who hears the words of God: This indicates that we now have a bona fide prophet receiving divine viewpoint information directly from God.
The vision: The specific plan of God for Israel.
Of the Almighty: shaddai – the one who is the nourisher. The title speaks of unlimited provision from the “many breasted one.” It is not a POWER issue, but a PROVIDER issue.
See Topic: God Almighty
Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered: This is the position of humility and worship – usually face down. It indicates total acceptance of God’s authority and viewpoint. And yet, his spiritual perception remains and the oracle follows.
This is language that describes the magnificence, economic prosperity, and SIZE of the nation.
Prophecy of national growth.
The king shall be higher than Agag. This is a title of the Amalekite king. Such a one had great respect and honor. To elevate Israel’s king above him is a great honor in the eyes of Balak.
Prophecy of Israel’s success in defeating her enemies; specifically the conquest of the land.
Re-affirms the security clause of the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 12:1-3, “and the one who curses you I will curse.”
This proclaims once again to Balak that it is impossible to curse Israel.
Verses 10-11, Balak’s reaction
Anger; threat of violence; rebuke; dismissal and refusal to pay.
Verses 12-13, Balaam’s response.
appeals to his initial warning to Balak – only what God tells me shall I
3 discourses were positive – speaking of blessing through identification with
me to go (verse 11) – well now I’m leaving.
Now Balaam says – YOU come with me and listen to 4 more messages.
DISCOURSE FOUR, verses 15-19, Messiah’s arrival and kingdom
And he took up his discourse: This is used to indicate a NEW vision; a new
The oracle of Balaam: Formal title through control of the Holy Spirit.
Who hears the words of God: indicates a bona fide prophet receiving divine
The title MOST HIGH, refers to the sovereignty of God and lends authenticity
to the message.
The title ALMIGHTY, as seen earlier (verse 4), refers to the fact that God is the PROVIDER for the needs of His people.
I see him: The verb is rAah and indicates a prophetic vision that sees the arrival of the Messiah in the distant future.
But not now/but not near: not the immediate present.
The following discourses provide a summary of what will happen when the Messiah descends physically to the earth during the Armageddon campaign which takes place during the 30 days that follow the end of the 70th week of Daniel. For details on this see the article on the battle of Armageddon at:
And Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies also shall be a possession.
While Israel performs valiantly: This refers to the Jews of Judah and Jerusalem who fight during this extensive campaign. Edom has been shut down by Messiah’s arrival, and becomes the possession of Messiah and Israel during the Messiah’s kingdom, and yet will be in a status of judgment as indicated at Isaiah 34:8-17 and 22:11-12, uninhabited and overrun by animals.
After Messiah rescues the Jews in Edom and Moab and Ammon, the fighting in the land war continues in Judah. Zech. 12:6-9 and 14:12-15.
Perform valiantly is the verb, Asah – to do or perform.
One from Jacob: the Messiah
Verse 20, Discourse FIVE is addressed against Amalek and looks to a NEARER judgment.
Amalek was the first of the nations: The first one to attack Israel after she
came out of Egypt.
And (NOT – but) his end shall be destruction: Ex. 17:14; Numbers 14:45; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam 15:1-33; 28:16-18; 30:1-17; 1 Chron. 4:42-43
There is still no archeological evidence of the Amalekites.
Verse 21-22, Discourse SIX is addressed to the Kenite and speaks of its protection within the boundaries of Israel – until Israel too is taken captive by Assyria in 711 BCE.
Verse 22, “Is it that Kain shall be consumed at the time Asshur takes you captive?”
Hebrew: kiy im – question that demands a negative answer. Thus, “is it that .
For destruction: preposition LE (unto) plus verb bAar as a piel infinitive –
functioning as a noun.
The adverb, until (adh mah)
Verses 23-24, Discourse SEVEN, judgment on the land of Assyria
Statement of divine sovereignty and power over life and death. 1 Tim. 6:13; James 4:15
See Topic Death and Sovereignty
Asshur refers to the Assyrian empire which was absorbed by Chaldea and then conquered by Persia and Greece and Rome, respectively.
“But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim.” The islands in the Mediterranean Sea which refers to Greece and Rome. “And they shall destroy Asshur and Eber and he also will come to destruction.”
Persia is not mentioned in this discourse. The focus is first on Greece and then Rome. Rome was the greatest of the ancient empires and subdued all nations under its dominion.
The beginning of the Greece/Roman dominion is mentioned by Daniel at Dan. 11:30. It takes place about 168 BCE. Greece was divided up after the death of Alexander the Great and then absorbed by Rome. Kittim looks at the general geographical area from which comes the conquering – first via Greece and then via Rome.
To view this as the Greek dominion of that area leaves the history flowing smoothly. There is no major division as occurs at 70 AD.
Thus, the prophecy brings us to the destruction of Israel in 70 AD via Rome.
Eber refers to the descendants of Abraham; the western Shemites as represented by Israel. It looks at Rome’s dominion over Israel from 68 BCE until 70 AD when the nation was destroyed and the population dispersed all throughout the Roman empire.
This brings Balaam’s prophecies to a natural stopping place in 70 AD.
There is no more conversation to be made. Balaam left Balak to DEAL with the divine viewpoint on his own. The two of them simply parted and returned to their respective homes, balaam without his fee, and Balak still wanted to destroy Israel.
But now we have to do some very careful reading between the lines.
Balaam’s big mistake is his failure to JOIN Israel; to identify with the Messianic people of God as the first vision suggested. Verse 23:10, “let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his.”
Balaam does not stay “home” very long. He starts thinking about all that money he forfeited and longs to possess it. This “hunger” – this rich-mindedness gets Balaam out of fellowship and he returns to the land of the Midianites to find Balak and give him the key for neutralizing Israel.
He makes his home with the Midianites. Numbers 31:8
He gave counsel to seduce Israel into practicing the phallic cult. Num. 31:16; Rev. 2:14
The details are found at Numbers 25:1-16 and 31:16. Both Moab and Midian are involved.
This attitude and action on the part of Balaam went down in history as the prime example of how rich-mindedness can ruin a believer’s life.
See Topic The Way of Balaam:
This resulted in judgment upon Israel, but even then was only a small set-back to God’s work with them in conquering Canaan.
©Ron Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com.
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