Scripture Reading – Numbers 23-24
The dynamic conversation between Balak, king of Moab, and Balaam continues in today’s Scripture reading. Hearing Balaam had arrived in Moab, Balak went out to see the seer and was anxious to have him curse Israel (22:26-41). Balaam warned the king, “the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak” (22:38). Balak, however, was undeterred, and led Balaam to Kirjathhuzoth, and after offering oxen and sheep, invited him to look out on the plain where Israel was encamped (22:40-41).
Numbers 23 – Balaam’s Prophecies, and Balak’s Rage
Balak was willing to do all that Balaam asked, and the king built “seven altars, and…offered on every altar a bullock and a ram” (23:1-2). Balak then stood by his burnt offerings, and waited for the prophet to speak. Instead of cursing, Balaam prophesied saying, “Lo, the people [Israel] shall dwell alone, And shall not be reckoned among the nations [Israel would become a distinct nation, and with its own land]. 10Who can count the dust of Jacob, And the number of the fourth part of Israel? [Israel would become a great population] (22:9-10a).
Balak was incensed, and rebuked Balaam saying, “What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether” (22:11).
Not yet ready to accept that Balaam could not curse Israel, the king invited him “to the top of Pisgah,” and once again “built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar” (23:14). Balaam withdrew to seek the LORD, and Balak stood by his burnt offerings (23:15-17). When Balaam returned, Balak asked, “What hath the LORD spoken?” (23:17b).
Rather than curse Israel, Balaam’s second prophecy focused on God’s character, and the prophet revealed He is immutable [unchanging]: For “19God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (23:19)
God’s promises are sure, for whom the LORD has determined to bless, He will bless (23:20-21a). He is omnipresent, and His presence assures His people victory (23:21b-22). The LORD is also a shield, and Israel would not be harmed (23:23). Balaam prophesied, because the LORD is with Israel, His people would “rise up as a great lion…and drink the blood of the slain” (23:24).
Balak loathed the blessings Balaam had heaped upon Israel, and he challenged the prophet, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all” (23:25). Balak then commanded Balaam a third time to look upon Israel, and curse the people (23:27-30).
Numbers 24 – Balaam’s Third and Fourth Prophecies
For a third time, Balak built seven altars, and offered seven bulls and seven rams (23:29-30), but Balaam could not curse Israel, for he “saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, [and] he set his face toward the wilderness” (24:1). Lifting up his eyes towards Israel, Balaam “saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him” (24:2). Balaam prophesied (24:5-9), “5How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, And thy tabernacles, O Israel!” (24:5).
Balak was furious, and protested, “I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. 11Therefore now flee thou to thy place” (24:10-11a). Before departing, Balaam took up a fourth prophecy (24:15-19), and prophesied, “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (24:17). This prophecy was partly fulfilled when Israel was established as a kingdom, and David reigned. However, it was the birth of Jesus Christ that was marked by “a Star out of Jacob” (24:17, 19; Matthew 2:2).
Balaam concluded his prophecies, and foretold the fall of three kingdoms: The Amalekites (24:20); the Kenites (24:21-22); and the Assyrians (24:23-24). Balaam and Balak went their ways; however, the Scriptures reveal how Balaam will be slain in battle, with several kings of Midian (31:8).
I have known many liars, and have seen that the bent of human depravity is for men to believe lies, before they will accept and embrace God’s truth. What a blessed security to know God keeps His promises, and His Word is sure! To quote the apostle Paul, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4a).
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith