THE TEACHING OF BALAAM

Theatre at the Asclepion, Pergamum
Theatre at the Asclepion, Pergamum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Balaam receiving Balak's messengers, ...
English: Balaam receiving Balak’s messengers, as in Numbers 22:4 and after, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can find the name “Balaam” many times throughout the Bible–in the Old and New Testaments.  Here’s what Jesus says about Balaam to Pergamum, one of the seven churches, in Revelation 2: 14 (KJV):  “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac [Balak] to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.”

Who is Balaam?  To find out, start by reading Numbers 22, 23, 24, and 25.  Here is a brief summary:  Balak, the king of Moab, saw how the sons of Israel had defeated the Amorites; so he sends messengers to Balaam, a prophet of God who was not an Israelite, to curse Israel  The messengers offer Balaam “the rewards [money] of divination” to do this.  God says to Balaam,“thou shalt  not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed” (Numbers 22: 12).  Balaam obeys God and refuses to go back with the messengers.  The story should have ended there, but it didn’t.

Balak is not deterred.  The next time he sends leaders from Moab and Midian, more distinguished than the first group, to Balaam asking again that he curse Israel.  Balaam consults God a second time, despite the fact that God has already given him an answer.

God, who is now angry with Balaam, tells him to go on with the men but only say what He tells him to say regarding the sons of Israel.

English: An Angel Appears to Balaam (Num 23:15...
English: An Angel Appears to Balaam (Num 23:15-35) Русский: Ангел Господень удерживает Валаама (Числ. 23:15-35) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Balaam goes forward, the *angel of the LORD blocks his way.  Balaam’s donkey sees the angel of the LORD, but Balaam doesn’t.  The donkey cannot get around him..  Balaam loses patience with the donkey and strikes it three times.  First God opens the mouth of the donkey, who rebukes Balaam; then He opens Balaam’s eyes so that Balaam sees the angel of the LORD standing in his way with sword drawn.  The angel of the LORD rebukes Balaam saying, “thy way is perverse to me.”  Balaam confesses his sin and offers to turn back, but the angel of the LORD tells him to go to Balak but only say what the LORD tells him to say.

In Chapters 23 and 24, Balak takes Balaam to three different areas to view the tribes of Israel from different angles and curse them.  But each time the LORD puts “a word in Balaam’s mouth” causing him to bless, instead of curse, Israel.

Next, Balaam sees “the vision of the Almighty,” falls “into a trace” with “his eyes open,” and prophecies.  “I shall see him, but now now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.  And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.  Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city”  (Numbers 25: 16-19).  To read the entire prophesy continue through verse 24.  The prophesy I have quoted is well-known, and it is one of many prophesies that speak of the Messiah revealed in the New Testament.

English: Moab leads Israel into sin, as in Num...
English: Moab leads Israel into sin, as in Numbers 25:1-8, illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible; illustrated by Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, and published by P. de Hondt in The Hague (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 25 does not mention Balaam by name, but we learn that the sons of Israel “commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.  And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.  And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (verses 1-3).  After Moses chastises Israel for doing this, one Israelite brazenly brings a Midianite woman into his tent. This is what Jesus is referring to in Revelation 2: 14.  Although Balaam could not curse Israel, he told Balak how to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel.

Numbers 31: 16 confirms this.  “Behold, these [women of Midian] cased the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.” 

In 2 Peter 2: 15, we read that “Balaam, the son of Beor . . . loved the wages of unrighteousness.”  Balaam refers to God as “the LORD my God” in Numbers 22: 18, and yet he is lured by the “fees of divination.”  (See Deuteronomy 23: 4, Nehemiah 13: 2, and Jude 11 for more references to Balaam.)

APPLICATION:  This is a message for the church today.  Every believer has a least one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and should manifest the fruit of the Spirit.  Even so, we–like Balaam–are tempted.  The LORD promises that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our endurance (I Corinthians 10: 13).  The key is to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  Read and study the Word.  Pray without ceasing.  Put on the full armor of God, and beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Be doers of the Word.

Русский: Скрижали Завета
Русский: Скрижали Завета (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People of “the Way” (Jew and Gentile followers of Christ) are saved by faith, not by works.  But once we are saved, we are expected to obey God commandments, which He has written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31: 31, 2 Corinthians 3: 3, and Hebrews 8: 10).  This is what is meant by the New Covenant.  The Old Covenant was written on tablets of stone; the New Covenant is written on human hearts.

“Ye cannot serve God and mammon [money]” Matthew 6: 24.  The Bible tells us that “the love of money” is the root of all evil.  It’s time to get our priorities in order, and the number one priority is our relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah, whose Second Coming is imminent.

*The angel of the Lord is a manifestation of God.  Some view the angel of the LORD as the pre-incarnate Christ.

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