Monday, January 12, 2015

The Deceiving Nature

A son of Beor and a prophet of Pethor in Mesopotamia. The narrative relating to Balaam is found in Num. 22 thru 25. According to this narrative, Balak, king of Moab, sent messengers to the soothsayer, requesting him to come and pronounce a curse against Israel, with whom the Moabites were at war, and of whom they stood in dread. Balak hoped, with the aid of the soothsayer's powerful curse, to overcome his foe. His confidence in Balaam is illustrated by the declaration he makes to him: "I know that he whom thou blesses is blessed, and he whom thou curses is cursed" (verse. xxii. 6). Balaam, after consulting God, is forbidden to go back with the Moabites, and he accordingly refuses, despite the gifts that the messengers of Balak had brought with them for him. Balak, being determined to secure the prophet's services, sends other and more distinguished messengers, who, as the narrative puts it, are empowered to promise still greater rewards and honor to the soothsayer if he will accede to Balak's wishes. Balaam, although anxious to go, again refuses; declaring that even if Balak were to give him his house full of silver and gold, he cannot do contrary to God's command. However, he begs the embassy to await a second consultation with the Lord. This time God permits the soothsayer to go to Balak, but enjoins upon him to do only "the word which I shall say" (xxii. 20). Balaam then arises and departs with the Moabites, riding upon his ass. But notwithstanding the previous permission, God's anger is kindled at Balaam as he goes; and the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword in his hand shows himself accordingly to the ass, which refuses to proceed along the road despite Balaam's efforts to urge it. Three times the angel, invisible as yet to Balaam, puts himself in the path of the ass, which is beaten by its master for its refusal to proceed.

Now that we have a brief narrative to the story of Balaam, let’s study what is written in the Bible.

Numbers 22: 1-20

1 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.  2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.  4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, "This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the River, in his native land. Balak said: "A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me.  6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed."  7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.  8 "Spend the night here," Balaam said to them, "and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me." So the Moabite princes stayed with him.  9 God came to Balaam and asked, "Who are these men with you?"  10 Balaam said to God, "Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message:  11 'A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.' 12 But God said to Balaam, "Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed."  13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak's princes, "Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you."  14 So the Moabite princes returned to Balak and said, "Balaam refused to come with us."  15 Then Balak sent other princes, more numerous and more distinguished than the first.  16 They came to Balaam and said: "This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me."  18 But Balaam answered them, "Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God.  19 Now stay here tonight as the others did, and I will find out what else the LORD will tell me."  20 That night God came to Balaam and said, "Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you." 

Balaam seems to be a sincere man of God until he responds to the second set of messengers. The response of even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold”, insinuates his true desire. Now the misunderstanding here is God allowing Balaam to leave and then becoming angry when he leaves. In verse 12 God told Balaam that he could not go with the messengers and the curse could not be laid upon the blessed people. When Balaam relayed the message of God to the messengers he only said the Lord has refused to let me go with you, He didn’t tell them what God had said in context. It is important we completely relay Gods Message in full context because it can enlighten the entire situation to allow for understanding to the reason. Now the messengers relayed a misunderstood message back to Balak by just saying he refused to come. The continuation of reading implies that Balak wants a curse to be put on Israel, if Balaam had told him that God does not want a curse placed upon blessed people maybe Balak would have had a better understanding of why he could not come; or he may have wanted to know why Balaam would not do this deed. This may have also given him better understanding of what is going on with the people of Israel. But when the new set of messengers arrive, Balaam addresses God again, to which God tells he to go with them but to do only what God tells him to do. Now Balaam already heard the first time that God did not want him to go yet Balaam goes a second time to see if God would change his mind. Sometimes we do this same thing, when what God tells us in the first place, doesn’t fall into what we want, we seek God again to try and find an answer from God that fits into what we desire. And just as God did with Balaam, The Almighty does this for us and allows us to do of our will but only under the Direction of God.

This part of the story is interesting in the sense of giving someone an opportunity to know more about the Almighty. In this passage Balaam could have sat down with the first set of messengers and them offered some counseling of our True God. He had the chance to give a message to the messengers to take back and enlighten Balak.

Balaam's Donkey

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.  22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.  23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road.  24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides.  25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again.  26 Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left.  27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff.  28 Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"  29 Balaam answered the donkey, "You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now."  30 The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?" "No," he said.  31 Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.  32 The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.  33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."  34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back."  35 The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.  36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory.  37 Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn't you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?"  38 "Well, I have come to you now," Balaam replied. "But can I say just anything? I must speak only what God puts in my mouth."  39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth.  40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the princes who were with him.  41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he saw part of the people.

Refusing in the first embassy to yield himself willingly to God, he would now be made the unwilling instrument of exalting God. And thus God gave him leave to do that on which he had set his heart. However because of his blinded self-satisfaction, in which the next morning he accompanied the ambassadors of Balak, 'God’s anger was kindled because he went'. In other words the idea is God gave Balaam over to his lusts in such a way that God would manipulate him, while he thought he was manipulating God. Yet due to the insane contradiction of reality as he should be going in obedience but his actual going was in deluded belief that he was controlling the situation, God lets him know that he was 'dumber than an ass', before sending him fully on his way. 'Yes I send you, but realize you are a dumb ass who knows not what you are doing when you go'.

Balaam also demonstrates his true nature here by beating the donkey because she steers off the road. He also demonstrates the reflection of man in his anger by his reaction as well.

Balaam and the Ass.(From a "Teutsch Chumesh.") or The favourite volume of the orthodox Jewess of Eastern Europe is a Yiddish paraphrase of the Penta-teuch, called Teutsch-Chumesh or Ze'enah Ure'enah

The ass is then given the power of addressing its rider in human speech, and asks him reproachfully why it has been smitten. The soothsayer, apparently not astonished by the miraculous speech, replies angrily that, were a sword in his hand, he would willingly kill the ass. The angel then becomes visible to Balaam, and the soothsayer falls on his face before the vision. Balaam confesses his sin to the angel and offers to return to his own land, but the divine messenger permits him to go on with the Moabites, enjoining him to say "only the word that I shall speak unto thee" (xxii. 35).

At this point it is not known what God and the angel have said to Balaam. The Both may have already given Balaam instructions and yet he already has his own agenda. Balaam is the example of most churches and Christians today who focus on dollar signs instead of Signs of God. Balaam was blind to the messenger God had sent until God opened his eyes. We all have this issue as well, God Instructs us to do The Will Of and we have our own agenda and become blind to God’s Will. We become the dumb ass that God has to speak to again to set us on the right track.

Chapters xxiii.-xxiv. contain the detailed account of four oracles that Balaam uttered to Balak concerning Israel. The soothsayer directs Balak to offer sacrifices to God of seven oxen and seven rams on seven altars built on a high place, Bamoth-baal, where he could see "the utmost part" of Israel (xxii. 41). Balaam then utters the first inspired oracle in favor of Israel, a people that "shall not be reckoned among the nations" (xxiii. 9). Impressively he concludes:

(xxiii. 10, R. V.).

"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 last end be like his"

Numbers 23

Oracle 1

1 Balaam said, "Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me."  2 Balak did as Balaam said, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar.  3 Then Balaam said to Balak, "Stay here beside your offering while I go aside. Perhaps the LORD will come to meet with me. Whatever he reveals to me I will tell you." Then he went off to a barren height.  4 God met with him, and Balaam said, "I have prepared seven altars, and on each altar I have offered a bull and a ram.  5 The LORD put a message in Balaam's mouth and said, "Go back to Balak and give him this message."  6 So he went back to him and found him standing beside his offering, with all the princes of Moab.  7 Then Balaam uttered his oracle: "Balak brought me from Aram, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains. 'Come,' he said, 'curse Jacob for me; come, denounce Israel.'  8 How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced?  9 From the rocky peaks I see them, from the heights I view them. I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations.  10 Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!"  11 Balak said to Balaam, "What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!"  12 He answered, "Must I not speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?"

When we confronted with oppositions in our life, it is our duty to follow what God tells us to do. In this particular study Balak was simply scared of the house of Jacob and needed someone to put a curse on them to remove them from his land. This is a procedure most people produce when they believe a more powerful person, or people, are coming to confront them. Isn’t it funny how we become frightened by something and would rather destroy than understand it?

Now when we began this study, Balaam sacrificed a bull and a ram on each alter. To just look at the symbolic nature of both animals would represent stubborn natured So, in a symbolic way, the stubborn nature is being sacrificed in order to see clearly what God has planned. And by it being performed seven times would imply perfection

Key Notes: Highest place of Baal, Baal was considered a high diety in Canaanite worship. So to begin this at the highest plain of the deity of a god that man worship is the start of extinguishing our view points of earthly worship. Here, as all the examples of these two chapters, is how we must first change the highest places of our own self to understand the view that is displayed in our sight.

Oracle 2

13 Then Balak said to him, "Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will see only a part but not all of them. And from there, curse them for me."  14 So he took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah, and there he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.  15 Balaam said to Balak, "Stay here beside your offering while I meet with him over there."  16 The LORD met with Balaam and put a message in his mouth and said, "Go back to Balak and give him this message."  17 So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the princes of Moab. Balak asked him, "What did the LORD say?"  18 Then he uttered his oracle: "Arise, Balak, and listen; hear me, son of Zippor.  19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill  20 I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.  21 "No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them  22 God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox.  23 There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'See what God has done!'  24 The people rise like a lioness; they rouse themselves like a lion that does not rest till he devours his prey and drinks the blood of his victims."  25 Then Balak said to Balaam, "Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!"  26 Balaam answered, "Did I not tell you I must do whatever the LORD says?"

Key Notes: The top of Pisgah is the original place where Moses stood to view the promised land of Israel. From Hitchcock’s Bible Dictionary, the term means hill; eminence; fortress. The word “eminence” means a condition of being well-known and successful, a person of high rank or achievements, an area of high ground. With this second sacrificial journey, it demonstrates the personal status of one’s self, releasing the selfishness we all have in order to see what God is trying to tell us.

Oracle 3

27 Then Balak said to Balaam, "Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me from there."  28 And Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland.  29 Balaam said, "Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me."  30 Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

Key Notes: The top of Peor is the last resort for Balak to get Balaam to curse Israel. Interesting that the definition of “Peor” is hole or opening. At this point, if Balak and Balaam had of been paying attention, God is opening the understanding to The Promised Word. This point would allow them to see clearly how God’s Blessings can liberate a person or people.

Balak understood who God was which can be seen in verse 27 when he said, let me take you to another place, perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me. My personal opinion is that Balaam is not enlightening the situation for Balak. Balak is misunderstanding what God’s plan is, as Gods messengers we are to enlighten people to God’s Plan. We are also supposed to draw people nearer to God.

Numbers 24

1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert.  2 When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him  3 and he uttered his oracle: "The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly,  4 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:  5 "How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!  6 "Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters.  7 Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. "Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.  8 "God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them.  9 Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness--who dares to rouse them? "May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!"  10 Then Balak's anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, "I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times.  11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded."  12 Balaam answered Balak, "Did I not tell the messengers you sent me,  13 'Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD --and I must say only what the LORD says'?  14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come."

Key Notes: He set his eyes to the wilderness, this was the place of wandering and sin for Israel. God had forgiven them of their sins. Perfect example of how one can change and follow God and our sins will be forgiven. This also gives reference to how no one can curse God’s elect, not even Satan. (Romans 8:31,33-34). It is wonderful to know that when we lay down our sins and follow the path of Righteousness, there is no one that bring a charge against us. ‘’’if God is be for us, who can be against us...

Possibly Balaam’s next step was to give Balak an inspirational message to give him a better understanding of God’s glory upon his people. What if Balaam had talked with Balak and had him draw nearer to God. An example of how we can assist with people rejecting God because we don’t utilize empathetic mannerism to help people. Balak could have been enlightened upon God’s glory if Balaam had of used this time to minister to him.

                Oracle 4

                15 Then he uttered his oracle: "The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly,  16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:  17 "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.  18 Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong.  19 A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city."


                Final Oracles

                20 Then Balaam saw Amalek and uttered his oracle: "Amalek was first among the nations, but he will come to ruin at last."  21 Then he saw the Kenites and uttered his oracle: "Your dwelling place is secure, your nest is set in a rock;  22 yet you Kenites will be destroyed when Asshur takes you captive."  23 Then he uttered his oracle: "Ah, who can live when God does this?  24 Ships will come from the shores of Kittim; they will subdue Asshur and Eber, but they too will come to ruin."  25 Then Balaam got up and returned home and Balak went his own way.

Balak moves the seer to another point of outlook, the top of Mt. Pisgah, where the entire Israelitish camp is visible. Here again Balaam receives an oracle even more strongly commendatory of Israel than the first: "The Lord his God is with him; . . . he hath, as it were, the strength of the wild ox" (xxiii. 21, R. V.). What Israel accomplishes is not by enchantment, but by God's own might. Comparing Israel to a lion, he says:

(xxiii. 24, R. V.).

"Behold, the people riseth up as a lioness, And as a lion doth he lift himself up; He shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, And drink the blood of the slain"

Balak then begs Balaam neither to curse nor to bless, but to remain silent as to Israel's future. Balaam replies that he must do as directed by God. The king then takes the soothsayer to Mt. Peor, but is once more disappointed. The prophet in his third utteranceis impressed by the magnificent sight of Israel's encampment (xxiv. 5b-6, R. V.):

"As valleys are they spread forth, As gardens by the river-side, As lign-aloes which the Lord hath planted, As cedar-trees beside the waters."

Balak is not satisfied with Balaam doing the opposite of what he asked of him. Balam took Balak to seven different sacrifices that symbolized the release of stubbornness, aggression, and the god-like mentality. The ram and the bull represented various gods in Egyptian time that they worshipped. Osiris is often depicted with a pair of ram horns attached to the base of his atef (specific feathered white) crown also from this earliest species of ram. Khnum, an important god throughout Egypt, but especially at Elephantine, who created mankind and even gods on his potters will, was apparently depicted as this species, with its long wavy horns and heavy build, as was Banebdjedet (Ba-neb-Tetet), an early ram headed god at Mendes. The ram, like the bull, was perhaps even more venerated by the ancient Egyptians for its fertility, as well as for its warlike attributes. Throughout history, rams have been important to mythological and religious concepts, associated with ancient gods from all over the world. The ram even became a symbol of Christ in ancient times. They also sometimes suffered from religion, being the objects of sacrifice to various gods. In fact, perhaps one of the most famous ancient accounts of a ram involves one in the Old Testament that Abraham found trapped by its horns in a thicket on Mount Moriah where he had gone to sacrifice his only son Isaac. [Gen 22:1-14] An angel stopped the hand of Abraham just as he was about to kill his boy and the ram was sacrificed in his stead. This is just to get an understanding towards the significance of ram and bull sacrifice.

Balak is at last infuriated and would dismiss Balaam at once, but the latter pours forth his fourth and last prophecy of the rise of a tribe in Israel that will secure for the Hebrews decisive victories over Moab and Edom; to which are added short denunciations of Amalek and the Kenites. The king then permits the prophet to return to his home. The four oracles are in poetic form and belong to the best specimens of a certain species of ancient Hebrew poetry. They are all characterized by a rich imagery, and the diction is at once impressive and stately. The third, xxiv. 5, beginning,

"How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! Thy Tabernacles, O Israel," is particularly fine.

Balaam is represented as one of seven heathen prophets; the other six being Balaam's father, Job, and his four friends (B. B. 15b). He gradually acquired a position among the heathen as exalted as that of Moses among the chosen people (Num. R. xx. 1). At first a mere interpreter of dreams, Balaam later became a magician, until finally the spirit of prophecy descended upon him (ib. 7). He possessed the special gift of being able to ascertain the exact moment during which God is wroth—a gift bestowed upon no other creature. Balaam's intention was to curse the Israelites at this moment of wrath; but God purposely restrained His anger in order to baffle the wicked prophet and to save the nation from extermination (Ber. 7a). When the law was given to Israel, a mighty voice shook the foundations of the earth; so that all kings trembled, and in their consternation gathered about Balaam, inquiring whether this upheaval of nature portended a second deluge; but the prophet assured them that what they heard was the voice of the Almighty giving the sacred Law to His children of Israel (Zeb. 116a).

Now Balak was really angry after the blessings Balaam poured on Israel, and he ordered Balaam to return home. Before he left, however, Balaam told Balak that the only way to harm the people of Israel was to seduce them into sin. For only then would G-d punish His people.

The kings of Moab and Midian acted upon this shrewd advice of Balaam. They arranged a big feast in honor of their idols and invited the children of Israel to participate in the ceremonies. Many of the Jewish people fell for this ruse and participated in these heathen celebrations. Amongst them was Zimri, a prince of the family of Simeon, who was not ashamed to let the entire Jewish community witness his evil conduct.

As always, man sees himself losing ground and instead of following The Almighty, we follow the desires of self.

Nevertheless, it is significant that in rabbinical literature the epithet "rasha" (the wicked one) is often attached to the name of Balaam (Ber. l.c.; Ta'anit 20a; Num. R. xx. 14). He is pictured as blind of one eye and lame in one foot (San. 105a); and his disciples (followers) are distinguished by three morally corrupt qualities, viz., an evil eye, a haughty bearing, and an avaricious spirit—qualities the very opposite of those characterizing the disciples of Abraham (Ab. v. 19; compare Tan., Balak, 6). Balaam received the divine communication at night only—a limitation that applies also to the other heathen prophets (Num. R. xx. 12). The Rabbis hold Balaam responsible for the unchastity which led to the apostasy in Shittim, and in chastisement of which 24,000 persons fell victims to a pestilence (Num. xxv. 1-9). When Balaam, "the wicked," saw that he could not curse the children of Israel, he advised Balak (intimated in Num. xxiv. 14) as a last resort to tempt the Hebrew nation to immoral acts and, through these, to the worship of Baal-peor. "The God of the Hebrews," adds Balaam, "hates lewdness; and severe chastisement must follow" (San. 106a; Yer. ib. x. 28d; Num. R. l.c.).

The Rabbis, playing on the name Balaam, call him "Belo 'Am" (without people; that is, without a share with the people in the world to come), or "Billa' 'Am" (one that ruined a people); and this hostility against his memory finds its climax in the dictum that whenever one discovers a feature of wickedness or disgrace in his life, one should preach about it (Sanh. 106b). In the process of killing Balaam (Num. xxxi. 8), all four legal methods of execution—stoning, burning, decapitating, and strangling—were employed (Sanh. l.c.). He met his death at the age of thirty-three (ib.); and it is stated that he had no portion in the world to come (Sanh. x. 2; 90a). The Bible devotes a special section to the remarkable history of the prophet, in order to answer the question, why God has taken away the power of prophecy from the Gentiles (Tan., Balak, 1). Moses is expressly mentioned as the author of this episode in the Pentateuch (B. B. 14b).

Balaam in Priestly Code and in Deuteronomy.

A different tradition about Balaam exists in the Priestly Code (P), where Balaam is represented as a Midianite, who attempted to seduce Israel by immoral rites (Num. xxxi. 16). According to this account, which probably depends upon Num. xxv. 6-15, Balaam was afterward slain with the Midianitish princes (Num. xxxi. 8; Josh. xiii. 22).

The allusion to Balaam in Deut. xxiii. 4, 5 (compare Neh. xiii. 2) states that the prophet was hired to curse Israel and that Yhwh turned the curse into a blessing, thus implying that the prophet was anxious to accede to Balak's desire (compare also Josh. xxiv. 9). Such an idea might have been obtained from Num. xxiii. 4, where Balaam tells Elohim explicitly that he has offered a bullock and a ram on seven altars, thereby implying a hope that God will inspire Balaam to curse Israel.

Opinions vary greatly as to the derivation and meaning of the name Balaam. It is generally considered to be a compound of "Bel" and "'Am," and since both "Bel" and "'Am" are names of deities among Semites, the name may either represent a combination of two deities ("'Am" is "Bel") or "Bel" may be used in the general sense which it acquired of "lord": the name would then be interpreted "'Am is Lord."

Balaam and Moses.

When Pharaoh's daughter threatened to take the life of Balaam, he fled with his two sons, Jannes and Jambres, the renowned wizards, to Ethiopia; there, during the absence of the king, who had gone to war against the people of Syria, he instigated a rebellion, making himself king, and his sons captains of the host. He raised high walls on two sides of the capital, dug pits on the third side, filling them with water, and on the fourth side, by means of witchcraft, placed serpents to render the city unapproachable. For nine years the king's army besieged the capital, unable to enter; then Moses on his flight from Egypt came there and became the king's counselor and, as the king's death soon followed, his successor. He required each warrior to fetch young storks (or ibises) from the forest, and soon the serpents disappeared and the city was captured. Balaam and his sons fled to Egypt, where they became the master-magicians who opposed Moses and Aaron at the court of Pharaoh (Targ. Yer. to Ex. vii. 11; "Chronicles of Jerahmeel," xlvii. 6, 7; Yalḳ., Ex. 168).

The Strategy of Balaam.

When Balaam went forth later to curse the Israelites in the wilderness, he again had with him his sons Jannes and Jambres (Targ. Yer. to Num. xxii. 22). His witchcraft had no effect on Israel, because the merits of their ancestors shielded them and angels protected them (Tan., ed. Buber, Balak, xvii., xxiii.; Targ. Yer. to Num. xxiii. 9, 10, 23; Samaritan Book of Joshua, ch. iii.). He then resorted to the strategem of seduction. After having, by divine inspiration, predicted the destiny of the people of Israel, and having spoken even of the Messianic future (Josephus, "Ant." iv. 6, §§ 4, 5; Philo, l.c. 52), he advised Balak to select the handsomest daughters of the Midianites, who should lead the Israelites to idolatry (Josephus, l.c., §§ 6-9; Philo, l.c. 54-56; Samaritan Book of Joshua, iv.). This plan was executed, and 24,000 Midianite women caused as many Hebrew men to fall (Targ. Yer. to Num. xxiv. 25; Samaritan Book of Joshua, iv.). Phinehas decided to avenge the wrong upon Balaam. Seeing his pursuer, the latter resorted to witchcraft and flew up into the air; but Phinehas made use of the Holy Name, seized him by the head, and unsheathed his sword to slay him. In vain did Balaam entreat his conqueror, saying: "Spare me and I will no longer curse thy people." Phinehas answered, "Thou Laban the Aramean, didst intend to kill Jacob our father, and thou didst invite Amalek to make war against us; and now, when thy wiles and sorceries were of no avail, thou didst lay pitfalls for 24,000 Hebrews by thy wicked counsel. Thy life is forfeited." Whereupon Balaam fell, pierced by the sword (Targ. Yer. to Num. xxxi. 8; Sanh. 106b).

Henceforth he became the type of false prophets seducing men to lewdness and obscene idolatrous practises (Rev. ii. 14; II Peter ii. 15; Jude 11; Abot v.19). The name "Nicolaitanes," given to the Christian heretics "holding the doctrine of Balaam" (Rev. ii. 6, 15), is probably derived from the Grecized form of Balaam,  = Nικο-γάος, and hence also the pseudonym "Balaam," given to Jesus in Sanh. 106b and Giṭ. 57a. See Geiger, "Bileam and Jesus," in "Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift für Jüdische Theologie," vi. 31-37).

The life of this sorcerer was further detailed in the "Sefer ha-Yashar" legends and by the later cabalists (Yalḳ., Reubeni to Balak). Balaam's ass formed an especial object of haggadic interpretation and embellishment. "The speaking mouth of the ass" was declared to be one of the ten miraculous things that God had created in the twilight of the sixth day (Abot v. 6). Targ. Yer. to Num. xxii. 30 gives a long monition which the ass offers to her foolish master.

Numbers 31:1 The LORD said to Moses,  2 "Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people."  3 So Moses said to the people, "Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites and to carry out the LORD's vengeance on them.  4 Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel."  5 So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel.  6 Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling.  7 They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man.  8 Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba--the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.  9 The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder.  10 They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps.  11 They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals,  12 and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho.  13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp.  14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army--the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds--who returned from the battle.  15 "Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them.  16 "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people.  17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man,  18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.  19 "All of you who have killed anyone or touched anyone who was killed must stay outside the camp seven days. On the third and seventh days you must purify yourselves and your captives.  20 Purify every garment as well as everything made of leather, goat hair or wood."  21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle, "This is the requirement of the law that the LORD gave Moses:  22 Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead  23 and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing. And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water.  24 On the seventh day wash your clothes and you will be clean. Then you may come into the camp."

In Balaam is the example of a person that is fully aware of God’s Power and Presence, yet allowed his own personal agenda to take precedence. He suffered the ultimate punishment for his mishap.  

As early as Deuteronomy 23:4-5, he is shown as an enemy of God and Israel and degraded as a hired mercenary. Joshua positively notes his death at the hand of Israelites (Joshua 13:22), and he also repeats Balaam's overthrow by God in a list of His victories for Israel (Joshua 24:9-10). Nehemiah and Micah recall him to the people of their days as an evil man whom God defeated (Nehemiah 13:2; Micah 6:5). Yet we cannot disregard the anointment he had in scripture. In other words, remember the character of this type of individual.

The New Testament mentions Balaam three times, all negatively. Both Peter and Jude describe him as the personification of greed in using religion for personal gain (II Peter 2:15; Jude 11). Revelation 2:14 credits him with "the doctrine of Balaam," which is inducing others to sin, specifically to idolatry and sexual immorality.

·         2 Peter the ways of Balaam are unrighteous

·         Jude error of Balaam

·         Revelation the doctrine of Balaam

Certainly, Balaam was no paragon of virtue. Yet, as unrighteous as he was, his prophecies remain in God's Word—and they are true! Why?

Just like Balaam, there are people who know God and know Gods Word but yet demise methods to undermine them. It is a strategy that began with Satan in the garden. Today it is apparent that our society is thriving off the past actions of this type of mentality. It is so powerful that confusion is in the midst of the churches that represent The Almighty. The example of Balaam is a warning to all of us that if we take Gods Word and use it out of context, we can cause traumatic destruction. To understand Gods Word is to live it in its full glory. To inspire others and no to use as an instruction tool of foolish words.

They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. (2 Peter 2:15, NIV)

Balaam is a character of the Bible that holds a dark yet mysterious characteristic. Although most scholars interpret him as evil, questions still add to why he was able to communicate with God. This story of Balaam is an example of how important it is to have a personal relationship with God. People may come in the form of representing God but have ulterior motives which will only benefit their own personal desires.


King James Version, Holy Bible
Jewish Encyclopedia

Vernon McGee, “Through The Bible” Vol. 1