47. PROPHECIES OF BAALAM
A little later we look at the disgusting way the Moabites and the Amelites caused the destruction of thousands of God’s dear children. They are lost for eternity because they died in sin.
How does God regard these and other wicked people? He loves them and wants them to be saved. David’s grandmother was a Moabite. Can you remember her name. Jesus was also the son of David, the son of Ruth the Moabitess.
While Balaam looked down at the camp of God’s children he prayed this beautiful prayer:
Verse 10 “Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my end be like his!”
How did Balak react?
Verse 11,12 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!” 12 So he answered and said, “Must I not take heed to speak what the LORD has put in my mouth?”
Balak, it would seem, should have recognized that Balaam was not free to follow his own evil way, but was subject to the Spirit of God (22:35, 38).
Balaam’s Second Prophecy
Verse 13 Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only the outer part of them, and shall not see them all; curse them for me from there.”
Here was an opportunity for Balaam to withdraw, but his greed for worldly gain held him as if in a vise.
Outer part. Thinking Balaam might be overawed by the vast Israelite camp, Balak hoped that a view of a small part of it might make the prophet more bold.
Thus, by means of several moves to various locations, from each of which a portion of the camp of Israel was visible, the entire camp would finally be cursed.
Verse 14 So he brought him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
The field of Zophim. From a word meaning “to spy upon,” “to keep watch upon.” The name Zophim means, “the field of the watchers” (see 1 Sam. 14:16; Isa. 56:10; Jer. 6:17; Eze. 3:17). The site of Zophim is not known. It was undoubtedly another “high place” (see Num. 22:41).
Pisgah. A high mountain in Moabite territory, from which much of the surrounding country is visible (Deut. 3:27; 34:1, 2; see on Num. 21:20; 27:12).
Seven altars. The original procedure was repeated. In his heart, however, Balaam must have known that he could not reverse the first message from God. But he intended to do everything within his power to earn Balak’s favor and promised rewards.
Verse 15 And he said to Balak, “Stand here by your burnt offering while I meet the LORD over there.”
Literally, “stand yourself thus.” Balaam is not showing Balak where to stand, but how to comport himself. Perhaps Balaam was implying that Balak was, in part at least, to blame for his own previous failure.
While I meet the Lord over there. Literally, “and I will petition thus.” Again the prophet speaks of the how of making his petition, and not the place from which he did so. Undoubtedly, however, Balaam did withdraw to another place to meet Jehovah.
Verse 16 Then the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, “Go back to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” 17
Again it is Jehovah who meets the prophet. It was impossible for Balaam to speak against Israel so long as they were faithful to God’s revelations.
Verse 17 So he came to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab were with him. And Balak said to him, “What has the LORD spoken?”
Balak realized that the message came from God, for Balaam was apparently helpless.
Verse 18 Then he took up his oracle and said:
“Rise up, Balak, and hear!
Listen to me, son of Zippor!
“Pay attention and listen, Balak.”
Listen to me. The prophet fully realized the import of the message he was constrained to utter, and that without altering a single word. The Hebrew expression suggests not only to listen but to ponder well the import of the message.
Verse 19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
It seems strange that Balaam did not sense that he was treating Jehovah as if He were altogether a man, to be influenced to change His mind. Such was a purely heathen concept.
Nor a son of man. The word here translated “man” is the generic word meaning any member of the human race; God is not a mere mortal.
Repent. In the sense of grieving over one’s doings. The change of location, the additional altars and the sacrifices offered on them, did not convince Jehovah that He had made a mistake in not being influenced by the first location and offerings.
It is only a sincere turning away from evil by the sinner that can influence God to withhold due punishment (see Jer. 18:8; 26:3; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 11:29; James 1:17).
Verse 20 Behold, I have received a command to bless;
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
Jehovah had blessed Israel as His peculiar people. The wicked desires of evil men to hurt them would never lead God to reverse Himself.
Verse 21 “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
The LORD his God is with him,
And the shout of a King is among them.
This statement emphatically declares that so long as Israel remained true to God no evil would befall the nation. The word translated “iniquity” denotes wrongdoing, idolatry, false speaking, or any departure from God’s will, as that which in the end will prove to be unprofitable.
There is a moral relationship between sin and it’s just due expressed by this word. “Wickedness” stresses the fact that sin has made life something heavy to be borne; it has made of the normal pursuits of life a burden grievous to bear.
This word is commonly translated “toil” (Gen. 41:51), “sorrow” (Job 3:10; Ps. 55:10), “trouble” (Job 5:6, 7), “wearisome” (Job 7:3), “pain” (Ps. 25:18), “painful” (Ps. 73:16), and “labour” (Ps. 90:10).
The shout of the king. Literally, “the blast of a horn,” sounded as an alarm, or for joy, or in religious fervor (see Lev. 23:24; Ps. 47:5; Jer. 4:19). Possibly here “a shout of joy” is meant.
Verse 22 God brings them out of Egypt;
He has strength like a wild ox.
22. Brought them out of Egypt. Certainly with the object of having them serve Him in truth and righteousness (see Lev. 11:45; 25:38; Num. 15:41).
“Wild ox” It was no doubt a creature of great strength, courage, and of two horns
Verse 23 “For there is no sorcery against Jacob,
Nor any divination against Israel.
It now must be said of Jacob
And of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’
It was the strength of Israel that the nation was free from the practice of consulting auguries, omens, oracles, and black art in general.
Such practices have ever led men astray from God and are strictly forbidden (Deut. 18:10; Jer. 27:9; Eze. 13:6; Hosea 4:12; Zech. 10:2).
Oh, what God has done! The glorious working out of God’s plan for the salvation of His people is beyond human language to express (Ps. 44:1; Isa. 40:21; 52:7–15).
Have you discovered it in your own life?
Verse 24 Look, a people rises like a lioness,
And lifts itself up like a lion;
It shall not lie down until it devours the prey,
And drinks the blood of the slain.”
As in other Semitic languages and in Eastern religious books, in the OT the qualities of animals are commonly attributed to human beings (Gen. 49:9, 27; Num. 24:8, 9; Deut. 33:20; Jer. 49:19; Micah 5:8).
A picture of past and future Israelite conquests. In the war against the Midianites, soon after Balaam’s visit with Balak, not an Israelite lost his life (31:49).
Verse 25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all!”
Balak feared that the blessings of Balaam would be as potent as he had hoped his curses would be.
Verse 26 So Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Did I not tell you, saying, ‘All that the LORD speaks, that I must do’?”
Balaam realized that he could not remain silent if the Lord commanded him to bless (chs. 22:20; 23:3, 12).
Balaam’s Third Prophecy
Verse 27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.”
Renewed hope in the heart of Balak led him to think that a view of Israel’s camp from another location might influence Balaam. This was still another opportunity for the prophet to sever connections with Balak and to return home (see chs. 22:6; 23:13; 24:1).
Verse 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that overlooks the wasteland.
The site of Peor has not been definitely located. The name is used in compounds for various places: Beth-peor (Deut. 3:29; 4:46; 34:6; Joshua 13:20) and Baal-peor (Num. 25:3). Peor was a mountain of Moab, in the vicinity of Pisgah, on which was an altar, or perhaps a temple, to Baal or to some other heathen god.
Verse 29 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me here seven altars, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.”
Here the identical procedure noted in verses 1 and 14 is repeated. Balak and Balaam were apparently at their wit’s end, for despite two previous failures they could think of no other means of obtaining their objective.
Verse 30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on every altar.
Upon this occasion Balaam did not withdraw to be alone. He made no pretense at working some magical art in secret, but remained with Balak at the altar.
The instructions given by Balaam were carried out unquestioningly by Balak. The responsibility was altogether Balaam’s.
Numbers 24:1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness.
As he gazed at the camp of Israel his mind was prepared to receive the message of Jehovah. He knew he could do no other than permit the Spirit of God to come upon him. Professing to be a prophet of God, he must speak God’s message.
Verse 2 And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
He saw them camped according to God’s directions
The spirit of God came upon him. On two previous occasions Jehovah had put words into Balaam’s mouth (23:5, 16). The same experience later came to Saul’s messengers (1 Sam. 19:20), and to Saul himself (1 Sam. 19:23).
When the need arises God may use an evil person to bear a true message. God may speak to a man directly or in a dream (Num. 22:9, 20), or by a messenger (32). In harmony with Balaam’s experience here, compare Isa. 48:16; 61:1; Micah 3:8.
Verse 3 Then he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
There are several Hebrew words translated “man.” The most common is ’adam. This word occurs more than 450 times, generally in a generic sense.
Another word, ’ish, is used of a man in contrast to a woman, a husband in contrast to a wife, a master in contrast to a servant, an eminent person in contrast to a lowly one. It stresses individuality.
A third word is ’enosh. It emphasizes inferiority, being from the verb “to be sick,” “to be incurable.” This word is never used of the Messiah.
The final word for man is geber, here used by Balaam of himself. As the word comes from a root meaning “to be mighty,” some commentators think its use by Balaam indicates arrogance.
Whose eyes are open. Balaam’s eyes remained open but sightless.
Verse 4 The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
The Almighty. From Shaddai, a word concerning whose exact meaning there has been considerable discussion. “The Almighty” has been adopted as a conventional equivalent in translation, and is uniformly so rendered, perhaps owing to the adoption of the Latin Omnipotens by Jerome.
Some Hebrew scholars think the name goes back to a root meaning “to be bountiful.” If so, the use of this word as a title for God indicates the fullness and richness of His grace. It points to Him also as the One who generously supplies all our needs.
Who falls down, with eyes wide open Literally, “falling down and his eyes uncovered.” This twofold physical phenomenon implies control by the Holy Spirit.
Compare the experience of Saul (1 Sam. 19:23, 24), of Ezekiel (Eze. 1:28), of Daniel (Dan. 8:17, 18; 10:8–19), of John (Rev. 1:17).
Some also think of the experiences of Adam (Gen. 2:21) and Abraham (Gen. 15:12) as being similar. Balaam fell asleep, as it were, and God spoke to him while he was in that condition.
It is certainly true that in whatever position his body may have been, whether prostrate or upright, his natural senses were held inoperative and his sensory perception was controlled by the Spirit of God.
After the break we will be looking at a description of Israel that Balaam saw in a vision:
Verse 5 “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!
Do you realise that God is preparing dwellings for us. Beatiful homes designed by the Great Architect Himself.
God is anxious that we take occupation in the near future.
Please give Him room in your hearts so that He can give you permenant residence in His presence.