BALAAM USED BY GOD
Moses was a man with the spirit God used to fulfill His promises to Abraham. The promise was that Moses was to form the tribes into a nation, and give the nation a Law that they could live by. God put all the necessary power in Moses’ words and Moses’ staff. Hence, there is no mention of any time when Moses was not under the influence of God’s Spirit. And when Israel became subject and obedient to the Law, the Law took the place of the Spirit because the words of the Law were Spirit. Jesus told his listeners, “The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life” (John 6:63). Jesus, Himself, was “… the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). And, God is Spirit (John 4:24). And not a dot can be changed in God’s Commandments (Matthew 5:18). The prophet, Isaiah 55:10-11 was instructed to relay this message: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
God has manifested and revealed Himself in many ways in humans like the man called Balaam, in a bird like the dove, in an object like Moses’ shepherd staff, in a cloud, and in a pillar of fire. Balaam is of special interest because he was hired by Balak to curse Israel. Yet, the Spirit of the Lord made Balaam bless Israel. Our story does not begin with Balaam, but with God’s purpose for mankind, which is revealed through Abram. God promised, “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). Balak, king of Moab and his allies, summoned Balaam from Aram to curse Abram’s seed and also to disrupt God’s purpose for mankind. It was not a small deal to halt an invading host of Hebrews; furthermore, neither was the derailing of God’s mission. God’s mission was to redeem mankind from eternal separation from God. Abram’s seed would be chosen to bring the Savior into the world. This choice was not through the male linage, but it was through Ruth, the female line, which also had Moabite blood in their veins. Ruth is of Lot’s bloodline, the nephew to Abram. Again God’s promise, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel” (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). The Virgin, Mary, was a cousin of Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, a priest of the Levite line. Priests preferred to marry Levite women who were familiar with the role of the priesthood. It is very likely that Mary was a daughter of the Rabbi of Nazareth. Jesus was cleverly woven into David’s bloodline, but the bloodline of Mary, Jesus’ mother, remains a hidden mystery.
Balaam was no mystery. He was a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Balaam also believed in the cognizant of the events and of miracles, which accompanied and surrounded the rise of Jacob or Israel. Apparently, Balaam knew of God’s promises to Abram, Isaac, and Jacob. When Balak’s messengers arrived and tried to secure his service to curse Israel. Balaam decided to sleep over it and inquire of the Lord what he should do. That night, the Lord told Balaam not to go, but Balak increased the reward, and the Lord warned Balaam not to go. Balaam told Balak’s envoys, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God, do no less or more” (Numbers 22:18). That night, Balaam prayed some more and the Lord gave him permission to go with the messengers to Balak, “… but only what I bid you, that you shall do” (Numbers 22:20). Balaam was sent to speak for the Lord.
Then, why does the writer bring in an angel of the Lord to kill the prophet? The incident of the donkey appears out of place for the oracles of Balaam regarding Israel’s rise and success. It was the donkey that saved the prophet from being killed, so that God’s promise could be made public (Numbers 22:21-41). It is another one of the bloopers of a person’s belief that God does both, good and bad. But in this instance, mankind would have been deprived of the most important predictions regarding man’s future and redemption. The five Oracles of Balaam are simply superb revelations of what is even yet to come today.
The encounter between the Lord and Balaam is remarkable. And so are the Oracles from the Lord’s mouth in Numbers 23 and 24. Balaam was a man who did not act in haste. He slept over or he withdrew to think and gave the Lord a chance to direct him. Balaam worshiped God with sacrifices on seven altars, seven bulls, and seven rams, like the Hebrews did. Balaam let God put words in his mouth. The oracles, Balaam claimed, were the words of the Lord. Numbers 23:7-10, reads, “… From Aram Balak has brought me, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains; ‘Come, curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!’ How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? For from the top of the mountains I see him, from the hills I behold him; lo, a people dwelling alone, and not reckoning itself among the nations! Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!”
Balak was displeased and took Balaam to a higher mountain. Balak built seven more altars and sacrificed seven more bulls and seven more rams. Balak had the prophet, Balaam, wait on the Lord for a favorable response. Instead God’s words were directed against Balak, “Rise, Balak, and hear; hearken to me, O son of Zippor: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent (change). Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it? Behold, I received a command to bless: He has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob; nor has He seen trouble in Israel. The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king among them. God brings them out of Egypt; they have as it were the horns of the wild ox. For there is no enchantment (curse) against Jacob, no divination (evil prediction) against Israel; now it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘What has God wrought!’ Behold a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself; it does not lie down till it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain” (Numbers 23:18-24).
Balak did not give up. Balak took Balaam to a mountain, which overlooked the desert. Balak built seven more altars and he sacrificed seven more bulls and seven more rams. By this time, Balaam realized that blessing Israel pleased the Lord. No longer did Balaam consulted the omens, but he looked toward the desert. The Spirit of God had Balaam see a third vision Of God’s intentions for Israel:
The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, but having his eyes uncovered: how fair are your tents O Jacob, your encampment, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch afar, like gardens beside the river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. Water shall flow 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 as it were the horns of the wild ox, he shall eat up the nations his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down like a lion, and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed be every one who blesses you, and cursed be every one who curse you (Numbers 24:3-9).
Balak could not induce Balaam’s service to curse Israel; therefore, they did not leave as friends. The Spirit of God had more for Balaam to see. After a similar introduction of the third oracle, the Lord added this vision: “I see him but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crash the forehead of Moab, and break down the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed, Seir also, his enemies, shall be disposed, while Israel does valiantly. By Jacob shall dominion be exercised, and the survivors of cities be destroyed!” After this oracle, Balaam had two interruptions, as if he had to catch his breath. What he had seen was too much to absorb; only, there was more to come immediately and in the future. Balaam looked at Amalek and continued his vision. “Amalek was the first of the nations, but in the end he shall come to distraction.” He saw the same end for Kenite, “Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock; Nevertheless Kain shall be wasted. How long shall Asshur take you away captive?” He took another breath and concluded, “Alas, who shall live when God does this? But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and Eber; and he also shall come to destruction” (Numbers 24:17-24).
Balaam was not rewarded for his visions of the rise of Israel. Balaam was blamed for Israel’s own mistakes, which was when Israel became involved with sick Moabite women. The involvement of Israel’s men with the sick Moabite women, almost destroyed Joshua’s army (Numbers 25). The Old Testament has no evidence, but Peter in his second letter, 2:15, hints at such a tradition and so does Revelation 2:14. Joshua’s army killed Balaam (Joshua 13:22). Joshua’s life was taken, but not the visions, which the Spirit of the Lord has left for man to ponder.
Balaam’s two small predictions did not favor Israel. Amalek and Kain were not driven from Canaan; however, along with all the other nations, they were absorbed by Ishmael or Islam. Asshur (Assyria and Babylon) became Eber’s (Hebrews) mortal enemies. Asshur dispensed with Israel as a nation and ships from Kittim (Rome) halted Asshur. They became friends; nevertheless, they ended up as mortal enemies of Judah (Daniel 11:30-32). Towards the very end, when Judah shall again reemerge, ships from Kittim (USA) will start to be friendly; yet, at the end, they shall turn hostile towards the Holy Land. As amazing as it sounds, this prophecy is becoming history. As the tiny nation, Israel faces Goliath, or the United Nations (modern Babylon) with a bomb, instead with a sling and with a little rock. “Alas, who shall live when God does this?”