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Scripture Reading – Numbers 23-24
The dynamic conversation between Balak, king of Moab, and Balaam continues in today’s Scripture reading. Balaam arrived in Moab, and Balak went out to see the seer, 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. Then, after offering oxen and sheep, the king invited Balaam to look out on the plain where Israel was encamped (22:40-41).
Balaam’s Prophecies and Balak’s Rage (23:1-17)
Balak was willing to do all Balaam asked; therefore, the king built “seven altars, and…offered on every altar a bullock and a ram” (23:1-2). Balak 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, with its land]. 10Who can count the dust of Jacob, And the number of the fourth part of Israel?” (22:9-10a).
Balak was incensed after he heard Balaam’s prophecy and rebuked him, saying, “What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether” (22:11).
Nevertheless, Balak was not ready to accept that Balaam could not curse Israel. Therefore the king invited him “to the top of Pisgah.” Once again, he “built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar” (23:14). Balaam then withdrew to seek the LORD, as 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. (23:19-24)
The prophet revealed the LORD 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 is faithful, and His’s promises are sure. For whom the LORD has determined to bless, He will bless (23:20-21a). The LORD is omnipresent, and His presence assures His people victory (23:21b-22). He is also a shield, and Israel would not be harmed (23:23). Finally, Balaam prophesied that 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 heaped upon Israel and 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).
Balaam’s Third Prophecy (24:1-9)
Balak built seven altars for a third time and offered seven bulls and seven rams (23:29-30). Yet, Balaam could not curse Israel. Instead, he “saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, [and] he set his face toward the wilderness” (24:1). Lifting 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 then prophesied (24:5-9), “5How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, And thy tabernacles, O Israel!” (24:5).
Balaam’s Fourth Prophecy (24:10-18)
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, the birth of Jesus Christ was marked by “a Star out of Jacob.” Numbers 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). Then, Balaam and Balak went their ways. Later, the Scriptures reveal that 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 accept and embrace God’s truth. What 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).
Questions to consider:
1) Why was King Balak indignant with Balaam? (23:11)
2) Unlike man, what are things that God will not do? (23:19)
3) What did God’s Spirit reveal to Balaam concerning Israel? (24:2-9)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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