As we continue with our story of Balaam, it is remarkable how Balaam now refuses to curse Israel after he defied God and took matters into his hands and went to see Balak.
Let’s Begin By Reading Numbers 24 in the Complete Jewish Bible as it will help us better understand the context.
Balak thinks, maybe the 3rd time will be the charm, but it was not to be so. Balaam is starting to catch on and finally recognizing that the Lord is pleased to bless Israel. Balaam ceased his divinations and looking for omens.
Wherever this exact place was that they went to, Balak and Balaam could apparently see most of the Israeli encampment; surely this is what Balak had in mind because as everyone in those days understood, you can only curse what you can see.
What happens next is a bit different than before. Up to now, we are told that the Lord God put words into Balaam’s mouth. But this time, the Spirit of God rests upon Balaam, and so Balaam speaks not what God has told him to speak, but what Balaam now knows to be the truth and the reality. Do you see the difference?
What we have occurred with the presentation of the 3rd Oracle is a little more of what we find in the New Testament whereby it is a man who has God’s Spirit upon him teaching a lesson or addressing a problem, and doing the teaching and instructing in his words.
Before this, it was as though the Lord was either controlling Balaam’s mouth or whispering into Balaam’s ears each and every sound and utterance Balaam was to make; there was no room for an ad lib.
Therefore (and please hear this) particularly as it concerns the Apostles of the New Testament we don’t get perfect words, but we do get sound principles. Each of the Apostles’ personalities reflected in what they are saying and the words they speak reflect their minds.
So now the Lord taught their minds what to speak, as the theological principle is absolute truth. But that doesn’t mean that they explain it in astounding ways.
Jesus Christ spoke in amazing ways. Yeshua HaMashiach spoke words that were so powerful, perfect and poignant that men marveled and went slack-jawed at them. It was declared, “no man has ever spoken like this.”
The Apostles were not as articulate as Jesus because they were not God as is Our Savior. Jesus could transcend the unexplainable and make it understandable to those “who had ears to listen” (a phrase He used often).
I take this brief detour because I want you to understand how incorrect it is to hang on to Paul or Peter’s every word as though it were Jesus speaking. To dissect their sentences and to even pretend that their words were outside and above their context and their culture are what has led to widely divergent doctrines within the Church. Especially the highly trained Rabbi Paul had the difficult job of attempting to explain to Jews that although the Torah remained fully intact, the advent of Jesus elevated its means to an ever-higher plane.
To the Gentiles, he tried to explain heavenly things. To non-Hebrew people who did not have the benefit of growing up among God’s people, Paul spoke things that these Gentiles knew nothing of, but any Jewish child would have known it because they started studying Torah at 5 or 6 years old. It would be like trying to teach Algebra to students who had never even learned basic math.
And, then for Jew and Gentile alike Paul attempted to define just what all that the coming of the Messiah meant and how to apply it to their lives. Paul went through hard gyrations in trying to form phrases and thoughts to explain what mere words cannot; things that we all still struggle with.
Stuff like what happens at our Salvation, what is eternal security, what place do our works and deeds have within our relationship with God. That was his challenging divine assignment.
Unlike the Old Testament Prophets or like Balaam (who at first had the Lord quite literally place the precise divine words into his mouth) Paul’s words were his own although God inspired them.
So in the saga of Balaam, we see both sides of the coin: we see examples of inspiration and samples of revelation.
On the one hand, we see the OT type of prophet who has God’s words put into his mouth using direct and conscious revelation from the Lord.
On the other, we have the NT model of Prophet, the teacher of the Word. A word (a kind of Scripture) that has already been given to man by others who came before him. Or are a result of things the Lord has taught to him; a teacher whose mind is inspired by absolute Godly truth but whose words are his own and therefore not perfectly precise.
All that I just told about this being Balaam’s word from his mind are confirmed in verse 3 when it begins, “…. this is the speech (or word) of Balaam…of a man whose eyes have been opened…of him who hears Yehoveh’s words…”
Some of our Bibles, like the CJB, will say in verse 4 that these are the words of “one who has fallen.” That gives us the wrong idea because among evangelicals that may mean “one who has sinned”; and what this means is “one who has fallen prostrate before the Lord” in worship.
Later in verse 4, we harken back to before Moses: to a time before the Lord told us His personal formal name. It goes back to a time when men knew God as El Shaddai. The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) has it right; most versions will say “Almighty” or some such thing.
Remember we now know (due to very recent findings) that El Shaddai means “God of the mountain”; and of course that is the correct context of our story at this point. After all, this is the 3rd mountain peak Balaam has been escorted to that he might put a curse on Israel.
The next several verses have Balaam declaring how pleased the Lord is with Israel; how powerful they are in Him. They will be even more abundant than they are now, and that the Lord will never cease to watch over them and bless them.
And in verse 9 we get the message that ought to be repeated every day among the Church: “Blessed are they who bless you and cursed are they who curse you.”
I’ve heard it said that it is a misuse of scripture to apply the “Blessed are they who bless you and cursed are they who curse you” as a demand upon the Church to care for Israel and the Jewish people. Because it only applied to Abraham’s immediate family and Israel wasn’t even created yet.
But clearly here those same words refers directly to the entire nation of Israel, does it not? There can be no doubt to whom the protected group is (Israel), and the warning is directed towards (gentiles) So write this verse number down somewhere for the next time someone tries to dispute this with you.
Well, King Balak is now furious. He glares at Balaam, slaps his hands together in disgust and tells Balaam to leave; and that Balaam will indeed depart empty handed because he did not do what he was hired to do, curse Israel.
Understand: this is a terribly severe blow to Balak. He will now have to fight Israel (if he determines to fight them at all) without the aid of Israel being weakened with the help of their being cursed and abandoned by their God.
But just as it seemed that it couldn’t get any worse for King Balak, it does. For not only doesn’t Balaam curse but also bless Moab’s enemies, Balaam goes on to describe the rather unpleasant fate that awaits the people of Moab and other gentiles in the Trans-Jordan and the Land of Canaan. Again the words are Balaam’s, but he is inspired by God to say them.
The words have beautiful Messianic hope in them and are to take place well into the future. Along with it is a prophecy of Israel’s soon-coming military victories.
It is a fundamental Biblical principle that often when prophecy is pronounced it happens not once, but twice, even three times.
It occurs in the near future, and again in the far future, and can take place at an intermediate time, and this applies in particular as it pertains to prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah.
And so we get words that are familiar to us: “…a star rises from Jacob, a scepter comes forth from Israel.” Kings are often referred to as stars in the ancient Middle East. This king from Jacob will inflict grave harm on the residents of Moab (today, we are speaking of the Kingdom of Jordan). Edom will be taken prisoner, and Amalek will be wiped out forever.
Verse 17 gives us a bit of a problem in trying to identify just who this “Seth” or “Shet” is. Newest scholarship thinks this should be translated as Shut…s-h-u-t.
Indeed this is not referring to the immediate family of Adam and Eve. Rather there are some recent findings of Egyptian documents that speak of people in the area of Moab around this same time frame that are called the “shutu”; almost certainly they are what is referred here.
In verse 18, Seir and Edom are identified as one place since Seir is located within Edom.
Now beginning in verse 20 things shift just a bit; whereas the Israeli military was the cause of the demise of Edom, Moab, and Shut, the death of the listed nations, in general, are NOT ascribed to military action by the Hebrews.
Therefore, we are to take this as divine judgment brought about by some other means, such as other nations. Most of the names of peoples and places used here are difficult to identify:
- Kittim is thought to be an island in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Asshur may or may not mean the Assyrian Empire, although Asshur will be used later to indicate Assyria (modern day Iraq). Probably this is a small tribe that lived for a time in the Negev.
It is thought that the Kittim are very likely an earlier name for the Philistines; and that these same people also go by the generic name of Sea Peoples as they come from the West, through the Mediterranean Sea. And, around 1200 B.C. Egyptians records indicate that the Sea Peoples attacked the coastal plain of Canaan, then moved south and attacked Eber who lived in the upper part of the Sinai.
So, very likely this is prophesying the coming of the ferocious Philistines, who would be a terrible bother to all of their neighbors and eventually to Israel.
The saga of Balaam and Balak ends with them parting company and each heading back home.
I would like to conclude this week with a thought from Tom Bradford; one that many of you may have already accepted, but others aren’t so sure. Tom thinks that the saga of Balaam and Balak is a prophetic tale of the gentile church.
- Balaam is a gentile.
- He is a spiritual man; in fact,
- He’s a God-fearer; that is he believes in and pays attention to the God of Israel.
- He hears from the God of Israel and knows the God of Israel.
But he cannot bring himself to dismiss his long heritage of Gentile traditions and customs that are so at odds with the Torah and other Scriptural commands of God.
Balaam is a spiritually oriented gentile who knows Israel has a mighty God, and he has been given personal instruction from this God on what his relationship is to be with Israel (a relationship of uniting with them and blessing them based on God’s covenants).
God makes it clear to Balaam that He has already blessed Israel (it’s a done deal) and as such, it cannot be overturned by any man or gentile nation. And God will NEVER cease to see Israel as a blessed people. He will never permanently curse Israel, and He will oppose anyone who tries to curse His people.
God tells Balaam that Israel has a glorious future ahead of them BECAUSE they are blessed of God. Balaam says that he wants to die in the righteousness that the people of Israel have been given by God.
And yet we find Balaam over and over again being warned by God as he journeys to Moab to do service to God’s enemy, the King of Moab.
Somehow there is this mental disconnect (Balaam describes it as a blindness that finally went away) whereby he just couldn’t grasp that he cannot do service for a gentile nation whose intent is to weaken or harm Israel and at the same time properly honor and be in harmony with the God of Israel. But that didn’t stop him from trying on numerous occasions.
Balaam is a fantastic model of the gentile-dominated Church. Do you see it?
The mainstream institutional Church says that Israel no longer has a glorious future. Instead, that glorious future now belongs to the Gentile Church. The most ubiquitous and accepted Church doctrines say that God has abandoned Israel, rejected His people for all time, cursed them and blessed we Gentile Believers in their stead.
And the Church is so horribly wrong on this. Brothers and sisters in Christ it is utter self-destructive foolishness to think that we can do anything but actively work to bless Israel. Believers have not always had a clear-cut opportunity to do so, but we do now.
Israel was not reborn as a nation until a mere 60 years ago, so there was no country of Israel to love and defend. Clearly, during the centuries of Jewish dispersion (especially before the rebirth of Israel), it should have been the Church’s unambiguous duty to stand with them and befriend those Jewish families when they needed us the most, but we did not.
We must never assist or lend moral support and thus strengthen Israel’s sworn enemies (as Balaam intended to do) and call it even-handed or loving and kind, and think that somehow this is not cursing Israel. Balaam wasn’t going to harm Israel. Personally, he was merely going to assist Israel’s enemy (Moab) and then go home. God told him that if he did, He’d have to kill him.
We can’t send supplies and money to the Palestinians or apply political pressure upon Israel on their behalf, and then somehow claim that the God of the Bible sanctions this as a worthy and holy cause.
We must not join with the secular word to push Israel into dividing the land that was covenanted to them by the Lord. Or insist that Israel deed to the Muslims as their capital the very place our Messiah will again set foot when He returns from Heaven.
Or allow Islam to maintain a pagan shrine and worship center where the Temple of God once existed and will again, and then say that because our heartfelt intent is peace, therefore, doing all these things must be right in Our Lord’s eyes.
- If Balaam can wake up and see the light, then so can the Church.
- If Balaam can finally understand that Israel is not like the Gentile nations
- God is not a human who changes his mind
- When God makes a promise or a covenant He will fulfill it
- The Lord Himself will curse anyone who curses His particular people, Israel
Let’s do our part to see to it that it happens, soon.