Series: Thru the Bible
Message – The GREED of Balaam – Numbers 22-24
The GREED of Balaam – Thru the Bible
Numbers 22 – God is a personal God – He wants to be known – NOT KNOWN ABOUT.
“(1) The Israelites traveled on and camped in the plains of Moab near the Jordan across from Jericho. (2) Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
- Q. What, concerning God’s purposes was clearly being accomplished here?
- A. He is showing His power and making His name known.
Exod. 9:16, “However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you My power and to make My name known in all the earth.”
(3) Moab was terrified of the people because they were numerous, and dreaded the Israelites. (4) So the Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will devour everything around us like an ox eats up the green plants in the field.” Since Balak son of Zippor was Moab’s king at that time,
Balak the king of the Moabites – who were the descendants of Lot’s son by incest.
Midianites – They were the descendants of Abraham and his wife after Sarah named Keturah. Genesis 25:1–2, “Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.” This would have been particularly difficult for Moses since He spent 40 years in this country, had married Zipporah a Midianite, and his father-in-law Jethro was a priest of Midian, and his brother-in-law Hobab who we believe decided to travel with them.
Numbers 10:29-32, HCSB “Moses said to Hobab, son of Moses’ father-in-law Reuel the Midianite: “We’re setting out for the place the LORD promised: ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well, for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.” (30) But he replied to him, “I don’t want to go. Instead, I will go to my own land and my relatives.” (31) “Please don’t leave us,” Moses said, “since you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can serve as our eyes. (32) If you come with us, whatever good the LORD does for us we will do for you.”
“(5) he sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates in the land of his people. Balak said to him: “Look, a people has come out of Egypt; they cover the surface of the land and are living right across from me. (6) Please come and put a curse on these people for me because they are more powerful than I am. I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that those you bless are blessed and those you curse are cursed.” (7) The elders of Moab and Midian departed with fees for divination in hand. They came to Balaam and reported Balak’s words to him. (8) He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will give you the answer the LORD tells me.” So the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam. (9) Then God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?” (10) Balaam replied to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent this message to me: (11) ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the surface of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. I may be able to fight against them and drive them away.'” (12) Then God said to Balaam, “You are not to go with them. You are not to curse this people, for they are blessed.”
“(13) So Balaam got up the next morning and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your land, because the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (14) The officials of Moab arose, returned to Balak, and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.” (15) Balak sent officials again who were more numerous and higher in rank than the others. (16) They came to Balaam and said to him, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: ‘Let nothing keep you from coming to me, (17) for I will greatly honor you and do whatever you ask me. So please come and put a curse on these people for me!'” (18) But Balaam responded to the servants of Balak, “If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the command of the LORD my God to do anything small or great. (19) Please stay here overnight as the others did, so that I may find out what else the LORD has to tell me.” (20) God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “Since these men have come to summon you, get up and go with them, but you must only do what I tell you.” (21) When he got up in the morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the officials of Moab.”
Now we do not know precisely WHO this Balaam was in terms of relation to Israel, but in relation to God he was clearly a seer/prophet.
All we specifically know about him is:
- Balaam clearly knew the REAL God
- He was obviously a prophet
- He had a reputation of accuracy and results.
At first the fact that there was a prophet OUTSIDE of God’s chosen people, might seem odd to us given all we have learned about God separating for Himself ONE nation through which He would establish a blood-line and bless the whole world with a savior. But we must remember that while Israel was God’s primary focus on the earth at the time – God has NEVER limited Himself to one people group for relationship. We know that God was also doing other things in the world OUTSIDE of His Own people. His “eyes” are said to go throughout the ENTIRE earth looking for those whose hearts are completely His – NOT just throughout all Israel – but throughout the WHOLE EARTH. God has NEVER turned away ANYONE who EVER sought to know Him, and God in His sovereignty calls whomever He will.
So Balaam was a prophet…a seer.
As such He heard God’s voice and knew God to not change His mind – it is VERY likely that Balaam had an inner knowing that God was not commanding Him to go with them this second time, but was allowing it…for reasons clearly unclear to him – Balaam’s “spiritual eyes” were being blinded by greed as is confirmed in the letters of 2 Peter & Jude.
2Peter 2:15-19, HCSB “(15) By abandoning the straight path, they have gone astray and have followed the path of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, (16) but received a rebuke for his transgression: a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. (17) These people are springs without water, mists driven by a whirlwind. The gloom of darkness has been reserved for them. (18) For uttering bombastic, empty words, they seduce, by fleshly desires and debauchery, people who have barely escaped from those who live in error. (19) They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”
Jude 1:11, HCSB “(11) Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion.”
Num. 22:22-41, HCSB “(22) But God was incensed that Balaam was going, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand on the path to oppose him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and his two servants were with him.”
This, more than most things, I believe reveal the God as possessing both Male and Female characteristics and that it is FROM these that male and female were patterned to most accurately reveal God’s full nature through the interactions of the two. Here we see God doing something that has irritated, frustrated and down right baffled men throughout the centuries. God clearly tells Balaam to do something He does NOT want Balaam to do, just to see if Balaam will do it or not. Of course the resounding difference with God is that He knows what we will do, but He is giving us a chance to prove it.
I have not found a solid answer in scripture as to why God sometimes does this, but the one conclusion I can come to which I believe is consistent with His character is that – just like women do, God desires to be known. He already told Balaam that Israel was blessed and not to go with them. The very fact that Balaam would come back to God about the same issue just because a reward was now being offered, reveals an inward conflict in Balaam – one which God wants to deal with. Will Balaam love money more than God? The biggest test of which was whether Balaam would “hear what God was really saying by ‘Go with them’”. Would Balaam be sensitive enough to inwardly know what was in God’s heart, and that His encouragement to go was a test. Whatever the conclusion, God clearly did NOT want Balaam to go and was angered – incensed that he would choose to go – so much so that He was going to kill him for it!
“(23) When the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing on the path with a drawn sword in His hand, she turned off the path and went into the field. So Balaam hit her to return her to the path. (24) Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow passage between the vineyards, with a stone wall on either side. (25) The donkey saw the Angel of the LORD and pressed herself against the wall, squeezing Balaam’s foot against it. So he hit her once again. (26) The Angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn to the right or the left. (27) When the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she crouched down under Balaam. So he became furious and beat the donkey with his stick. (28) Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam,”
“What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”
(29) Balaam answered the donkey, “You made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!”
(30) But the donkey said, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?”
“No,” he replied.
(31) Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the path with a drawn sword in His hand. Balaam knelt and bowed with his face to the ground.
(32) The Angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you, because what you are doing is evil in My sight. (33) The donkey saw Me and turned away from Me these three times. If she had not turned away from Me, I would have killed you by now and let her live.”
(34) Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that You were standing in the path to confront me. And now, if it is evil in Your sight, I will go back.”
(35) Then the Angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you are to say only what I tell you.”
So this third time, it appears the test is over, and God is allowing him to go with the continued stipulation that he ONLY speaks God’s words!
“So Balaam went with Balak’s officials. (36) When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite city on the Arnon border at the edge of his territory. (37) Balak asked 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) Balaam said to him, “Look, I have come to you, but can I say anything I want? I must speak only the message God puts in my mouth.” (39) So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. (40) Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and sent for Balaam and the officials who were with him. (41) In the morning, Balak took Balaam and brought him to Bamoth-baal. From there he saw the outskirts of the people’s camp.”
Num. 23 HCSB
“(1) Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” (2) So Balak did as Balaam directed, and they offered a bull and a ram on each altar. (3) Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here by your burnt offering while I am gone. Maybe the LORD will meet with me. I will tell you whatever He reveals to me.” So he went to a barren hill. (4) God met with him and Balaam said to Him, “I have arranged seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” (5) Then the LORD put a message in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak and say what I tell you.” (6) So he returned to Balak, who was standing there by his burnt offering with all the officials of Moab. (7) Balaam proclaimed his poem:
Balak brought me from Aram; the king of Moab, from the eastern mountains:
“Come, put a curse on Jacob for me;
come, denounce Israel!”
(8) How can I curse someone God has not cursed?
How can I denounce someone the LORD has not denounced?
(9) I see them from the top of rocky cliffs,
and I watch them from the hills.
There is a people living alone;
it does not consider itself among the nations.
(10) Who has counted the dust of Jacob
or numbered the dust clouds of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright;
let the end of my life be like theirs.”
(11) “What have you done to me?” Balak asked Balaam. “I brought you to curse my enemies, but look, you have only blessed them!”
(12) He answered, “Shouldn’t I say exactly what the LORD puts in my mouth?”
(13) Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place where you can see them. You will only see the outskirts of their camp; you won’t see all of them. From there, put a curse on them for me.”
(14) So Balak took him to Lookout Field on top of Pisgah, built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. (15) Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here by your burnt offering while I seek the LORD over there.”
(16) The LORD met with Balaam and put a message in his mouth. Then He said, “Return to Balak and say what I tell you.” (17) So he returned to Balak, who was standing there by his burnt offering with the officials of Moab. Balak asked him, “What did the LORD say?” (18) Balaam proclaimed his poem:
Balak, get up and listen;
son of Zippor, pay attention to what I say!
(19) God is not a man who lies,
or a son of man who changes His mind.
Does He speak and not act,
or promise and not fulfill?
(20) I have indeed received a command to bless;
since He has blessed, I cannot change it.
(21) He considers no disaster for Jacob;
He sees no trouble for Israel.
The LORD their God is with them,
and there is rejoicing over the King among them.
(22) God brought them out of Egypt;
He is like the horns of a wild ox for them.
(23) There is no magic curse against Jacob
and no divination against Israel.
It will now be said about Jacob and Israel,
“What great things God has done!”
(24) A people rise up like a lioness;
They rouse themselves like a lion.
They will not lie down until they devour the prey
and drink the blood of the slain.
(25) Then Balak told Balaam, “Don’t curse them and don’t bless them!” (26) But Balaam answered him, “Didn’t I tell you: Whatever the LORD says, I must do?” (27) Again Balak said to Balaam, “Please come. I will take you to another place. Maybe it will be agreeable to God that you can put a curse on them for me there.”
(28) So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the wasteland. (29) Balaam told Balak, “Build me seven altars here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” (30) So Balak did as Balaam said and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.”
Num. 24 HCSB
“(1) Since Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go to seek omens as on previous occasions, but turned toward the wilderness. (2) When Balaam looked up and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God descended on him, (3) and he proclaimed his poem:
The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eyes are opened,
(4) the oracle of one who hears the sayings of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls into a trance with his eyes uncovered:
(5) How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
your dwellings, Israel.
(6) they stretch out like river valleys,
like gardens beside a stream,
like aloes the LORD has planted,
like cedars beside the water.
(7) Water will flow from his buckets,
and his seed will be by abundant water.
His king will be greater than Agag,
and his kingdom will be exalted.
(8) God brought him out of Egypt;
He is like the horns of a wild ox for them.
He will feed on enemy nations and gnaw their bones;
he will strike them with his arrows.
(9) He crouches, he lies down like a lion or a lioness
–who dares to rouse him?
Those who bless you will be blessed,
and those who curse you will be cursed.
(10) Then Balak became furious with Balaam, struck his hands together, and said to him, “I summoned you to put a curse on my enemies, but instead, you have blessed them these three times. (11) Now go to your home! I said I would reward you richly, but look, the LORD has denied you a reward.”
This is the standard tactic of the son’s of satan – the lost of this world will always accuse God or our “out dated” sense of morality with why they had to do us harm when they would like to have done us good. In all reality, it is nothing but a lying manipulation and a way of verbally justifying their ungodly actions.
(12) Balaam answered Balak, “Didn’t I previously tell the messengers you sent me: (13) If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the LORD’s command, to do anything good or bad of my own will? I will say whatever the LORD says.
(14) Now I am going back to my people, but first, let me warn you what these people will do to your people in the future.”
(15) Then he proclaimed his poem:
The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eyes are opened;
(16) the oracle of one who hears the sayings of God
and has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls into a trance with his eyes uncovered:
(17) I see him, but not now;
I perceive him, but not near.
A star will come from Jacob,
and a scepter will arise from Israel.
He will smash the forehead of Moab
and strike down all the Shethites.
(18) Edom will become a possession;
Seir will become a possession of its enemies,
but Israel will be triumphant. [This prophecy was accomplished by David (2Sa_8:14). Seir — seen in the south, and poetically used for Edom. The double conquest of Moab and Edom is alluded to (Psa. 60:8; Psa. 108:9).]
(19) One who comes from Jacob will rule;
he will destroy the city’s survivors.
(20) Then Balaam saw Amalek and proclaimed his poem:
[Amalek was the son of Eliphaz (who was the son of Esau, and therefore an ancestor of the Edomites).]
Amalek was first among the nations,
but his future is destruction.
(21) Next he saw the Kenites and proclaimed his poem:
[The Kenites Lived in or near Canaan as early as the time of Abraham. (Genesis 15:18-21). Again, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, was a Kenite (Judges 1:16) and a resident in Midian.]
Your dwelling place is enduring;
your nest is set in the cliffs.
(22) The Kenites will be destroyed when Asshur takes you captive. [History is unclear as to who was ruling Asshur (or in Assyria) when this happened – it could have been during the reign of Tiglath-pileser or Shalmaneser or Sennacherib or even Nebuchadnezzar…but THAT it happened is evident.]
(23) Once more he proclaimed his poem:
Ah, who can live when God does this?
(24) Ships will come from the coast of Kittim; [Kittim was a descendant of Japheth – Noah’s son]
they will afflict Asshur and Eber, [Eber was a grandson of Shem, son of Noah]
but they too will come to destruction.
(25) Balaam then arose and went back to his homeland, and Balak also went his way.”
Now the key to why the scriptures speak so harshly against Balaam is not revealed directly in these verses, for though he was certainly enticed by the honor and riches offered – he did not fail to speak ONLY God’s words.
However, the intent of Balaam’s heart was clearly to encourage God to curse them. In Deut. 23:5, God has this to say about it, “Yet the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but He turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you.”
In the beginning of the next chapter, however, we see the Israelite men began to have sex with the women of Moab who also enticed them to sacrifice to Baal. MUCH later in Numbers we see that the enticing of the women of Moab was due to advice given them by Balaam.
Num. 31:1-18, HCSB “(1) The LORD spoke to Moses, (2) “Execute vengeance for the Israelites against the Midianites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” (3) So Moses spoke to the people, “Equip some of your men for war. They will go against Midian to inflict the LORD’s vengeance on them. Skipping to verse (7) They waged war against Midian, as the LORD had commanded Moses, and killed every male. (8) Along with the others slain by them, they killed the Midianite kings–Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. (9) The Israelites took the Midianite women and their children captive, and they plundered all their cattle, flocks, and property. Skipping to verse (14) But Moses became furious with the officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, who were returning from the military campaign. (15) “Have you let every female live?” he asked them. (16) “Yet they are the ones who, at Balaam’s advice, incited the Israelites to unfaithfulness against the LORD in the Peor incident, so that the plague came against the LORD’s community. (17) So now, kill all the male children and kill every woman who has had sexual relations with a man, (18) but keep alive for yourselves all the young females who have not had sexual relations.”
This is also referenced in Rev. 2:14, in Jesus’ warning to the church in Pergamum, “But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the sons of Israel: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality.”
This is also our first CLEAR example of God commanding them to kill the women and children as ell, which we addressed last week and I also linked TWO separate articles on our website which deals with why this is in keeping with God’s justice.
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
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