Balaam, Numbers 22:1-24:25


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Balak Summons Balaam
22:1 The Israelis continued their travels, eventually encamping on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River opposite Jericho. 2 Zippor’s son Balak saw everything that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 As a result, Moab greatly feared the people, because they were so numerous. Because a sense of impending doom was afflicting the Moabites as they faced the Israelis, 4 the Moabites told the elders of Midian, “This horde of people is about to lick up everything around us, like an ox licks up the green ground.”

At that time, Zippor’s son Balak was the king of Moab. 5 He sent messengers to Beor’s son Balaam in Pethor, near the Euphrates River, the land where the descendants of his people originated, to summon his aid. He said, “Look! A group of people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth, and are sitting here right in front of me. 6 So come right now and curse this people for me, because there are too many of them for me to handle. Perhaps I’ll be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, since I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.”

7 So the elders of Moab and Midian left to visit Balaam, bringing an honorarium with them, and communicated Balak’s concerns to him. 8 In answer, Balaam told them, “Stay here for the night and I’ll bring back a message to you, depending on what the LORD says to me.” So the officers of Moab stayed with Balaam overnight.

God Forbids Balaam to Cooperate
9 God visited Balaam and asked him, “Who are these men with you?”

10Then Balaam told God, “Zippor’s son Balak, king of Moab, sent them to me and said, 11 ‘Look! A group of people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth! So come right now and curse them for me. Perhaps I’ll be able to fight against them and drive them out.’”

12 But God told Balaam, “Don’t go with them. Don’t curse the people, because they’re blessed.”

13 So Balaam got up the next morning and told Balak’s officials, “Go back to your homeland, because the LORD has refused me permission to go with you.”

14 So Balak’s officials got up, returned to Balak and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 In response, Balak sent more officers—higher ranking ones, at that!— 16 who approached Balaam with this message: “This is what Zippor’s son Balak says: ‘Don’t let anything get in the way of your coming to me. 17 I’m determined to reward you generously, and I’ll do everything you tell me to do. So come right away and curse this people for me.’”

18 Balaam responded to Balak’s entourage by saying, “Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I won’t double-cross the command of the LORD my God in even the slightest way. 19 Meanwhile, stay here overnight so I may learn what the LORD might say to me.”

20 God came to visit Balaam that same night and told him, “If the men come to call on you, get up and go with them, but be sure to do only what I tell you to do.” 21 The next morning, Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started to leave, accompanied by the Moabite officials.

Balaam’s Donkey Rebukes its Owner
22 At this, the anger of the LORD flared up against Balaam, because he was leaving. So the angel of the LORD stood in the way to oppose him. As Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by two of his servants, 23 all of a sudden the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand! The donkey turned off the road and went into an open field. Balaam started beating the donkey in order to turn her back to the road, 24 but the angel of the LORD stood on a narrow path that crossed the vineyards. It had walls on both sides of the path. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she squeezed herself so close to the wall that Balaam’s foot was pressed to the wall. So he beat her again!

26 Then the angel of the LORD went along a little further and stood in a much narrower space, where it was impossible to turn either right or left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she crouched down under Balaam. As a result, Balaam got so angry that he started to whip the donkey with his staff.

28 That’s when the LORD enabled the donkey to speak. She asked Balaam, “What did I do to you that you would beat me in the space of only three footsteps?”

29 “Because you’re playing a dirty trick on me,” Balaam answered the donkey. “If only I had a sword in my hand! I’d kill you right now!”

30 But in response, the donkey asked Balaam, “I’m your donkey that you’ve ridden on in the past without incident, am I not, and I’m the same donkey you’re riding on right now, am I not? Am I in the habit of treating you like this?”

“No,” he admitted.

31 Then the LORD enabled Balaam to see, so he observed the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand. So he bowed down and prostrated himself on his face.

32 Then the angel of the LORD asked him, “Why did you beat your donkey in the space of only three footsteps? I’ve come to oppose you, because I say that what you’re doing is perverted. 33 The donkey saw me and turned in front of me in the space of those three footsteps. 34 If she hadn’t turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and left her alive!”

At this, Balaam replied to the angel of the LORD, “I’ve sinned! I didn’t know that you were standing to meet me on the road. So now, since it displeases you, let me go back.”

35 But the angel of the LORD told Balaam, “Go with the men, but deliver only the message that I’m going to give you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had arrived, he went out to meet him in the city of Moab on the border of Arnon at the extreme end of his territory. 37 Balak asked Balaam, “Didn’t I repeatedly send for you to summon you? Why didn’t you come to me? I can pay you well,t can’t I?”

38 Balaam answered Balak, “Well, I’m here now. I’ve come to you, but I can’t just say anything, can I? I’ll speak only what God puts in my mouth to say.” 39 So accompanied by Balaam and Balak’s officials, Balak traveled to Kiriath-huzoth, 40 where he sacrificed oxen and sheep. 41 The next day, Balak brought Balaam up to Bamoth-baal, where he could see part of the community of Israel.

Balaam’s First Sacrifice
23:1 Balaam told Balak, “Build for me here seven altars and prepare here for me seven bulls and seven rams.”

2 So Balak did just as Balaam instructed. Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Then Balaam instructed Balak, “Stand by your offering and leave me alone by myself. Perhaps the LORD will come to meet me. I’ll tell you whatever he reveals to me.”

And so he went to a high place, 4 where the LORD met with Balaam, who told him, “I’ve prepared seven altars and offered bulls and rams on an altar.”

5 Then the LORD gave Balaam this message. “Return to Balak and speak to him.”

6 So Balaam returned to where Balak had been standing, that is, next to his offerings, accompanied by all the Moabite officials.

Balaam’s First Prophecy
7 Then Balaam uttered this prophetic statement:

“King Balak of Moab brought me from Aram,

from the eastern mountains,

and told me,

‘Come and curse Jacob for me.

Come and curse Israel.’

8 But how can I curse those whom God hasn’t cursed?

How can I denounce

those whom the LORD hasn’t denounced?

9 I saw them from the top of the rocks.

I watched them from the hills.

Truly this is a people that lives by itself

and doesn’t matter among the nations.

10 Who can count the dust of Jacob?

Who can number the dust of Israel?

Let me die the death of the righteous,

and may I end up like him.”

11 “What are you doing to me?” Balak asked Balaam. “I brought you to curse my enemies, not pronounce a blessing!”

12 But in response, Balaam asked, “Shouldn’t I be careful to communicate only what the LORD puts in my mouth?”

Balaam’s Second Sacrifice
13 “Come with me to another place where you can see them,” Balak replied. “You’ll only see a portion of them, because you won’t be able to see them completely. Come and curse them from there for me.”

14 So Balakb took him to the field of Zophim, and from there to the top of Mount Pisgah, where he built seven altars and then offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15 Then he told Balak, “Stand by your offering while I go alone to meet the LORD.”d

16 Then the LORD met with Balaam and gave a message to him. “Now go back to Balak and speak to him.” 17 So Balaam returned to where Balak had been standing, that is, next to his offerings, accompanied by the Moabite officials.

“What did the LORD say?” Balak asked him.

Balaam’s Second Prophecy

18 In response, Balaam uttered this prophetic statement:

“Stand up, Balak, and pay attention!

Listen to me, you son of Zippor!

19 God is not a human male—

he doesn’t lie,

nor is he a human being—

he never vacillates.

Once he speaks up,

he’s going to act, isn’t he?

Once he makes a promise,

he’ll fulfill it, won’t he?

20 Look! I’ve received a blessing,

and so I will bless.

I won’t withdraw it.

21 He has not responded to iniquity in Jacob

or gazed at mischief in Israel.

The LORD his God is with them,

and the triumphant cry of a king is among them.

22 From Egypt God brought them—

his strength was like a wild ox!

23 No Satanic plan against Jacob

nor divination against Israel

can ever prevail.

When the time is right,

it is to be asked about Jacob and Israel,

‘What has God accomplished?’

24 Look! The people are like lions.

Like the lion, he rises up!

He does not lie down again

until he has consumed his prey

and drunk the blood of the slain.”

25 Then Balak told Balaam, “Don’t curse them or bless them!”

26 “Didn’t I tell you,” Balaam responded to Balak, “that I’ll say whatever the LORD tells me to say?”

Balaam’s Third Sacrifice
27 So Balak exhorted Balaam, “Let’s go right now! I’ll take you to another place. Maybe God will agree to have you curse them for me from there.” 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Mount Peor, which overlooks the open wilderness.

29 Balaam told Balak, “Build seven altars for me right here. Then prepare seven bulls and seven rams.” 30 Balak did just what Balaam had instructed—he offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

Balaam’s Third Prophecy
24:1 When Balaam noticed that the LORD was pleased that Balaam was blessing Israel, he didn’t behave as he had time after time before, that is, to practice divination. Instead, he turned with his face to the wilderness, 2 looked up, and saw Israel encamped in their respective tribal order. Just then, the spirit of God came upon him. 3 Balaam uttered this prophetic statement:

“A declaration by Beor’s son Balaam,

a declaration by the strong, blind man.

4 A declaration from one who hears what God has to say,

who saw the vision that the Almighty revealed,

who keeps stumbling

with open eyes.

5 Jacob, your tents are so fine,

as well as your dwelling places, O Israel!

6 They’re spread out like valleys,

like gardens along river banks,

like aloe planted by the LORD,

or like cedars beside water.

7 He will pour water from his buckets,

and his descendants will stream forth like abundant water.

His king will be more exalted than Agag

when he exalts his own kingdom.

8 God is bringing them out of Egypt

with the strength of an ox.

He’ll devour enemy nations,

break their bones,

and impale them with arrows.

9 He crouches, laying low like a lion.

Who would awaken him?

Those who bless you are blessed,

and those who curse you are cursed.”

10 Balak flew into a rage and he started hitting his fists together. “I called you to curse my enemies,” he yelled at Balaam. “But look here! You’ve blessed them three times! 11 Now get out of here! I had promised you that I would definitely honor you, but now the LORD has kept me from doing that!”

12 But Balaam replied to Balak, “I told your messengers, 13 ‘Even if Balak gives me his palace full of silver and gold, I won’t double-cross the command of the LORD and do anything—whether good or evil—on my own initiative, because I’m going to say whatever the LORD says.’ 14 Meanwhile, since I have to return to my people, come and listen while I tell you what this people will be doing to your people in the last days.”

Balaam’s Final Prophecies
15 Then Balaam uttered this prophetic statement:

“The declaration by Beor’s son Balaam,

a declaration by the strong, blind man.

16 A declaration from one who hears what God has to say,

who knows what the Most High knows,

who saw the vision that the Almighty revealed,

who keeps stumbling with open eyes.

17 I can see him,

but not right now.

I observe him,

but from a distance.

A star streams forth from Jacob;

a scepter arises from Israel.

He will crush Moab’s forehead,

along with all of Seth’s descendants.

18 Edom will be a conquered nation

and Seir will be Israel’s defeated foe,

while Israel performs valiantly.

19 He will rule over Jacob,

annihilating those who survive in the city.”

20 Next, Balaam looked directly at Amalek and then uttered this prophetic statement:

“Even though Amalek is an international leader,

his future is permanent destruction.”

21 Balaam also uttered this prophetic statement about the Kenites:

“Your dwelling places are stable,

because your nest is carved in solid rock.

22 Nevertheless, Kain will be incinerated.

How long will it take until Asshur takes you hostage?”

23 Finally, he uttered this prophetic statement:

“Ah, who can live,

unless God makes it happen?

24 Ships under control of Kittim will devastate Asshur and Eber,

until they are permanently destroyed.”

25 Then Balaam got up, returned to his country, and Balak went on his way.

3rd set of 40 years in Moses’ life – Moses as leader – Exodus 7:8 – 40:38

Moses’ 37 years as a leader – Numbers 14-34

Moses’ Three Sermons – Deuteronomy 1:1-34:12


Other modules in this unit: