Parsha Thought – Balak

  • Numbers 22:2-25:9
  • Micah 5:6-6:8
  • Romans 11:25-32

Our portion this week features an unlikely “hero”.  Perhaps more of a main character than hero.  Balaam, son of Beor, lived near the Euphrates River.  Such was his reputation that he was called by the Balak, king of Moab to come and curse the Israelites, and thus protect his kingdom.  Balaam seeks Yahweh in the matter (yes the text actually uses the sacred name here – there is no doubt whose counsel Balaam seeks), and ultimately is given permission to go.  But only with the strict stipulation that he speak only the words Adonai gives him.  He agrees, and leaves with the delegation sent to him.

Despite Balaam’s agreement to only speak what Adonai tells him, during the journey he has a vivid reminder.  An angel is sent to block his path.  Balaam, spiritual man that he is, doesn’t see the danger of the armed heavenly guard across the road, but his donkey does, and so diverts to protect her master.  Balaam, thinking the donkey is being, well…a donkey, responds harshly.

…so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. And Adonai 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?”

Numbers 22:27b-28 NASB

Through the course of conversation with his faithful steed Balaam’s eyes were opened and he saw the angel guarding his path.  Full of fear, he again promises to only speak the words of Adonai.

Arriving near the Jordan river, Balaam proceeds to bless the Israelites four times, against the desires of Balak.  Included is one of the greatest Messianic prophecies to date.  Balak, angry, sends Balaam home not having succeeded in his purposes.

All good and well.  Israel survives.  But the next time we read of Balaam we find a surprise.

They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.

Numbers 31:8 NASB (Emphasis Added)

Balaam wasn’t satisfied with his inability to curse Israel.  Not because he was such an enemy, but because without being able to curse them, he wouldn’t be paid.

Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.

2 Peter 2:15 NASB

In order to receive the wealth of silver promised him, Balaam counseled Balak how to bring a curse upon Israel.  It couldn’t be done through words, but by leading Israel into sin, they would curse themselves.  (This is exactly what happens in our next portion.)

Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against Adonai in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of Adonai.

Numbers 31:26 NASB

In a word the sin of Balaam was greed.  He was so focused on the payment he would receive that he failed to realize the drastic consequences for disobedience.  Within two years, he would be dead.  Perhaps he reasoned with himself that he wasn’t disobeying.  He did in fact speak all the words he was commanded to, and did not utter a curse against Israel.  But this “letter of the law” obedience will never suffice in the eyes of Elohim.  Balaam’s heart was far from Him.

So the question turns to us.  What, in our lives, is of such importance that we would justify in the same way to obtain?  Where is our focus, on the things of Heaven, or the tarnished silver of earth?  May we not exchange the glories of the incorruptible Elohim for that which is corruptible and brings corruption.

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