An ancient king that tried to use a non Jewish prophet to get his way with Israel
Gen. 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
The Lord set a principle down as he began to form the Hebrews (the Jewish people) as a nation who will worship Him and bring his ways to the other nations.
Gen. 12:3 In that time of history it was well known God was doing this as the other nations feared attacking Israel.
This has not changed, in fact Jesus refers to this in the judgment of Mt.25 after he lays down points of preparing for his coming and how the judgment will work…
Matt 25:35-40 “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?' Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
While this has a wider general concept of the church it also has a narrow meaning toward the Jews, why? Because Jesus is speaking of “his brethren” the time of Jacob’s trouble. Notice the righteous do His will toward the Jews and will be rewarded for it.
Now lets go to Balak, king of the Moabites; who were descendants of Lot's two surviving daughters.
The Israelites approached Moab through the desert as they left Egypt, outside the bordering circle of hills on the SE. They therefore applied for permission to pass through the territory of Moab and, being refused, went around its borders
Num. 22:1-41: “Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel. So Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this company will lick up all that is around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: "Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me!
Balak the king was threatened and asked for Balaam v.6 "Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed." So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner's fee in their hand, and they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak.And he said to them, "Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the LORD speaks to me." So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.
Then God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?" So Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 'Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.'"
Here Balaam is in a predicament – whom will he obey God or the king. The pressure was on and he had to decide between heaven and earth.
V. 12 And God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed."
In other words, God has his hand upon them just as he promised in Gen.12 and to come against them is to come against God. (as the lord said to Saul in Act 9:5)
V.13 “So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to give me permission to go with you." And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us.
Balak wants his way no matter what, so he ups the ante, says pretty please and offers him being honored and treasure.
v.15 "Then Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable than they. And they came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: 'Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; 'for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.'" Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. "Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me."
Balaam says there is no amount of money or honor the king can give me to have me do his bidding that would go against the God of heaven. He spoke correctly but this would not last long.
V. 20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you-- that you shall do." So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God's anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall; so he struck her again. Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam's anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the LORD 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?" And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!" So the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?" And he said, "No."
Balaam does not wait and disobeys God and The Angel resists him from further travelling. The road becomes a decision maker for Balaam. The donkey is able to see what he cannot, what is invisible. The donkey sees the Lord with his sword out of the sheath (not a good sign). She begins to buck and avoid confrontation. Balaam is completely unaware of why. The Lord boxes Balaam in a narrow path, where cannot turn to the left or right, (something we should all be stay on). Balaam is angered because he has plans he has to get somewhere and does not want to be delayed. So he starts beating the animal that is like a servant to him. The donkey answers him back because of the Lords doing and challenges his beating him, Balaam is so angry he begins to resist his own donkey and is ready to kill his animal servant because he won’t obey him, just as he won’t obey the Lord.
V. 31 “Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. "The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live."
Balaam takes the same position as the donkey when she saw the angel. The Lord now explains to Balaam the trouble he is in, that the donkey actually saved his life.
X.34 And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back." Then the Angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. Now when Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the border at the Arnon, the boundary of the territory. Then Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not earnestly send to you, calling for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?" And Balaam said to Balak, "Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak." So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kirjath Huzoth. Then Balak offered oxen and sheep, and he sent some to Balaam and to the princes who were with him. So it was the next day, that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might, that from there he might observe the extent of the people.’
Balaam confesses his wrong to the Lord and pleads ignorance of his interference, the Lord then instructs his to say only what he gives him to say, no more. Balak is eager to see Balaam as he thinks he will get his way from the prophet so he goes out to greet him. So Balak does a kings manipulation asking why he would not react to him like he requested. Balaam says he can only say what God tells him to say, he is far more careful as he has learned his lesson.
Balaam tells him he will speak for the Lord (the same Lord whose people Balak is angry at) Balak is generous to those with Balaam. He is brought to the place of worship of Balak, the high place where he can oversee what is about to take place. Little does Balak know that God is watching from a higher place above.
Num. 23:1-29 Then Balaam said to Balak, "Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams." And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Then Balaam said to Balak, "Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the LORD will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you." So he went to a desolate height. And God met Balaam, and he said to Him, "I have prepared the seven altars, and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram."
Balaam asks Balak to have built a place of sacrifice for the true God in the place of false worship. Balak obeys the prophet and makes an offering, Balaam then goes to an even higher place separating himself and tells the Lord what has taken place. (the seven bulls and seven rams are also used by David in 1 Chron. 15:26;29:21; and is referred back to Job 42:8)
V. 5 Then the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, "Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak." So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab. And he took up his oracle and said: "Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, from the mountains of the east. 'Come, curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!' "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him; there! A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations. "Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!"
Balak seems to know that this God Balaam has sacrificed to is the one who has the real power. Balaam speaks what he is given. First comes an audible declaration of what Balak wants; then he hears from the prophet’s mouth God’s perspective. Balak now has fear because God has given his blessing to what he wanted to be cursed. The dust of Jacob refers to Gen.13:16, the multitude and land that was promised to them will not be denied them. Balaam refers to his dying in faith, that the end of his own life would be as the righteous of Israel. The destiny of Israel is in God’s hands, Israel is alone among the many nations, with innumerable people. To defy Israel, to defy God’s people is to defy God.
V.11 Then Balak said to Balaam, "What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!" So he answered and said, "Must I not take heed to speak what the LORD has put in my mouth?"Then Balak said to him, "Please come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only the outer part of them, and shall not see them all; curse them for me from there." So he brought him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. And he said to Balak, "Stand here by your burnt offering while I meet the LORD over there." Then the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, "Go back to Balak, and thus you shall speak."So he came to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab were with him. And Balak said to him, "What has the LORD spoken?"
Balaks anger increases as he asks of the prophet to do his bidding but he has refused. Once again Balaam repeats the act of worship he separates himself from Balak who is also made an offering. Balak think if he only sees less of their encampment he will be more inclined to do Balak’s will, not God’s. We find this area has significance, Deut. 34:1 “Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, V5-6 “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day.”
"It is remarkable that Moses should have taken his view of the promised land from a Moabite sanctuary, and been buried in the land of Moab. It is singular, too, that his resting place is marked in the Hebrew records only by its proximity to the sanctuary of that deity to whom in his lifetime he had been such an enemy" (Smith).
Moses died in the land of his enemy but in the hands of God.
V.18Then he took up his oracle and said: "Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to me, son of Zippor! "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. "He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them. God brings them out of Egypt; he has strength like a wild ox. "For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'Oh, what God has done!' Look, a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; it shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain."
Balaam is telling Balak that you know God has blessed the people of Israel and he will not recant like men do. Balak should understand this, yet he believes it is worth one more try in spite of the word he just heard that they will devour their prey as a lion.
v. 25 Then Balak said to Balaam, "Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all!" So Balaam answered and said to Balak, "Did I not tell you, saying, 'All that the LORD speaks, that I must do'?" Then Balak said to Balaam, "Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there." So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that overlooks the wasteland. Then Balaam said to Balak, "Build for me here seven altars, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams."
Balak is still trying to manipulate the prophet and thus manipulate God to have his way. But God cannot go against his promise to his people. Once again Balaam sacrifices to the lord overlooking the landscape but instead he looks elswhere.
Num 24:1-10 “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. Then he took up his oracle and said: "The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, The utterance of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open: "How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens by the riverside, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. He shall pour water from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters. "His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted." God brings him out of Egypt; he has strength like a wild ox; he shall consume the nations, his enemies; he shall break their bones and pierce them with his arrows. 'He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?' "Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you." Then Balak's anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, "I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times!”
Eyes wide open- Balaam was on the top of Peor looking down at Israel’s encampment as they are unified and prophesies their expansion and increase. He repeated the blessing thicefold to Israel’s opposer. This time he speaks of permanence, their living that will last and be strong. Balak represents the kings of the world that hate what God has declared he loves. He is representative of those who come against Israel. Balaam blessed Israel one last time
Balak angers more as he knows he cannot get his way and claps to get Balaam’s attention- you have refused my will and have pronounced God’s will. demanding him to speak otherwise curse my enemies, instead of bountifully blessing them these three times.
The number three is significant all through the scripture. We find Balaam’s donkey was confronted three times.
There is a threefold blessing (Num. 6:14, 24); Three great feasts (Ex. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16). the thrice statement of holy by the angels (Isa. 6:3); the three hours of prayer each day (Dan. 6:10; Ps. 55:17); Noah's 3 sons (Gen. 6:10); Job's 3 daughters (Job 1:2; 42:13) and 3 friends (Job 2:11); Abraham's 3 guests (Gen. 19:1); and Sarah's 3 measures of meal (Gen. 19:5; mentioned Mt 13:33 as a parallel); the 3 temptations of Satan to Christ (Mt. 4:3,5,8); the 3 prayers of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:39), the Lord's restoring Peter by a 3-fold question and 3-fold commission (John 21:15). The frequent reference to the resurrection being “on the 3rd day” by Jesus (Mt 16:21; 27:63). Three main offices of Christ- Prophet, Priest, and King.
Balaam stating, blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you is what was promised to Abraham in Gen.12 and a reminder to Balak, who is well aware of their victories. It is still in effect to the dismay of many. Balaak was angered all the more as he was out of options, but everyone has their breaking point and Balaam had arrived at his.
Num 24:11-25 "Now therefore, flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the LORD has kept you back from honor." So Balaam said to Balak, "Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, 'If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD, to do good or bad of my own will. What the LORD says, that I must speak'? "And now, indeed, I am going to my people. Come, I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days." So he took up his oracle and said: "The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, and the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; The utterance of him who hears the words of God, and has the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult. "And Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, while Israel does valiantly. Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, and destroy the remains of the city."
Then he looked on Amalek, and he took up his oracle and said: "Amalek was first among the nations, but shall be last until he perishes." Then he looked on the Kenites, and he took up his oracle and said: "Firm is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock; Nevertheless Kain shall be burned. How long until Asshur carries you away captive?" Then he took up his oracle and said: "Alas! Who shall live when God does this? But ships shall come from the coasts of Cyprus, and they shall afflict Asshur and afflict Eber, and so shall Amalek, until he perishes." So Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place; Balak also went his way.”
They each went their own way. While it appears that Balaam had obeyed the Lord implicitly, this is not exactly what took place. Balaam prophesied of the Messiah and his rule over Israel’s enemies.
We later find that Balaam had explained to Balak how he would win, by seduction, having them to marry Moabite women and commit spiritual adultery, breaking their laws of Intermarriage. Balaam did what God told him to do but there was one caveat, he volunteered some helpful hints to Balak because Balaam seemed to owe something to this corrupted king, after all, he expected God to protect Israel. So he told them of the chink in their armor and Balak temporarily got his way.
Num 25:1-3 “Then Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel.”
Num 31:16 "Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.”
Later on in the New Testament we read of Balaam who gave Balak the king the plan to overcome God’s people.
Rev. 2:14 "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.”
Moab is connected with the scheme to stumble God’s people. Num. 25:17-18 God tells Israel to attack the Midianites because of their scheme to seduce them. So Balaam obeyed what God said to him but he volunteered information where God was silent to him.
Balaam’s demise: Num. 31:6-8 “Then Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from each tribe; he sent them to the war with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand. And they warred against the Midianites, just as the LORD commanded Moses, and they killed all the males. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed-- Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.”
The repercussions were great for this mercenary prophet who ended up siding with the Midianites against God’s people, Israel, whom he had previously blessed. The New Testament makes it clear covetousness was the weak area for this prophet for hire and it cost him.
“The tradition in Targum (Pseudo-Jonathan on Num. 22:4) at this time Moab and Midian had been one nation, with kings alternately taken from Midian and Moab, and that Balak was a Midianite may have at its foundation a fact” (reference: Unger’s Dictionary)
So we read in Micah 6:5: ‘O My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, that you may know the righteousness of the LORD."
Knowing history is important, knowing biblical history is more important as we watch the nations in place and those who choose sides to be against God and his people today. Think about the nations surrounding Israel today that want to destroy her, think about those who claim to be believers who side with those who want to destroy her, and her people. We must look to the past and remember so we may face our future with victory.