Balak Summons Balaam
1 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.
Shortly after the Israelites destroyed Og King of Bashan and his entire army, they took over his land (found in the last chapter).
They then traveled to the plains of Moab and camped alongside the Jorden River 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 Euphrates 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 land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is 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 report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.
Balak the King of Moab saw all that the Israelites had done to the surrounding Kings and their armies, people and land, and he was filled with dread because they were now coming his way.
The King Balak has his elders speak with the elders of Midianabout the “horde of the Israelites” coming to “lick up everything around them”. So Balak forms a plan to get the people of Israel cursed, that is to basically set God against them, who so far has fought for them. So Balak sends messengers to seek out Balaam the prophet.
Balaam was a pagan prophet; he worshiped the gods of the land, and generally worked for hire, however Balaam also knew the very same “true” God, the God that the Israelites knew. Because Balaam had faith in God, He was able to do some miraculous deeds, and the people believed that when Balaam cursed or blessed someone, it would be so. It is unclear through scripture as to why God allowed this to go on. But keep in mind that God is all knowing, and can and will use whomever He chooses.
** side note, God deals with Balaam
Joshua 13:22 (NIV)
22 In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination.(fortune telling, witchcraft)
Balak, king of Moab, called on Balaam to curse the Israelites because he was afraid they would overtake him and his land. Balak, dealing through his elders, offered a reward/fee to Balaam for his services. Balaam agrees to look into this situation and has the elders spend the night to await his report.
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 officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”
14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
Balaam seeks wisdom and advice from God, and God speaks back in a form of a question. God asks Balaam a question to stir up Balaam’s heart as to get him involved in this event, to open his eyes to the perception of his sin and of the potential danger he’ll be in.
Balaam asks God to curse the Israelites so that he and the army can destroy the Israelites, but God tells him “NO”- do not go with them for the Israelites are blessed. Balaam returns the next day and tells the Moabite officials to go back to their own country, for the Lord has refused to let him go and curse them.
15 Then Balak sent other officials, 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 all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can 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.”
The King, not satisfied with Balaam’s response, sends even more officials, more distinguished than the first group, offering even more money then before, to try to convince Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God.
Even though it seems like Balaam is being righteous here by his words, God knows his true heart, that of covetousness, ambition, and pride. The King set a trap for Balaam, one that he knew Balaam couldn’t refuse, and Balaam fell for it.
You see, many call God theirs, but God will eventually say, Be gone for I do not know you. If Balaam truly believed and trusted in God, he would have demanded God’s first response as the final answer… “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”. But instead he played the game… to see if perhaps God had possibly changed His mind.
Hebrews 3:12-14 (NIV)
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Matthew 7:23 (NIV)
23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Balaam instructs the new group of officials to stay the night, while he goes to seek the Lords advice. God came to Balaam and instructed him to go back with the officials, ”but- to only do what I tell you to do”.
21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 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, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey 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, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it 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 only 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.
As further proof that Balaam was eager to receive his rewards, the first thing in the morning he rose up and saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry that he went, so God sent an angel to stand in the road and oppose him. Balaam was riding on the donkey along with two of his servants, they did not see the angel of the Lord, but the donkey could see him standing there with a sword in his hand, so it veered off the road to avoid the angel. Balaam then beat his donkey to get it to go back on the road.
Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.
Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room for it to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry again and beat it with his staff.
Finally the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and allowed it to speak and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
Balaam in anger said , you have made a fool of me, and if I had my sword I would kill you right now! (There’s his pride rising)
The donkey then speaks wisdom to Balaam to calm the situation, and says that he has always been his donkey for all this time and has never acted like this before, nor has he ever given him a reason to beat him like that before.
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 it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”
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. The angel questioned him as to why he has beaten his donkey these three times. Again the wisdom of God spoken through a simple question, is to get Balaam to see how anger and pride will cause you to sin, and to possibly get him to ponder why is it that he is even there in the first place. The angel reveals to Balaam that he was sent to oppose the path he chose to take, and told him that only the donkey could see him, and that’s why the donkey reacted the way it did. The angel said that if the donkey had not turned from the path it was on, the angel would have killed him (Balaam) with the sword, but would have spared the donkey.
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 Balak’s officials.
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 I can’t say whatever I please. 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 officials who were with him. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.
Balaam’s eyes have been opened, he realizes he has sinned and asked if he should go back home. The angel instructs him to keep going on with the other men, but to speak only what the Lord tells him to say.
Balaam returns with Balak’s officials. When Balak hears that Balaam has come, he runs out to meet him at the edge of his territory, but questions him as to why it took so long for him to come for the urgent summons. Balaam insures him that he is here now, but will only say what the Lord allows him to say. Balaam goes with the King to where they could see the outskirts of the Israelite camps.
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