Sunday, July 24, 2016

Was Balaam Really a Sorcerer or Just a Sinful, Greedy Prophet of God?

I believe that most everyone who has studied the Bible at all knows the story of Balaam's ass. The story is an interesting one, to be sure. For fans of The Chronicles of Narnia, it is fiction come to life. For the most part, almost without exception, it is taught that Balaam was a pagan soothsayer. That teaching always bothered me, for I did not read it that way, so I decided to look at everything we are told about Balaam to see if that is true.

First of all, those who teach that Balaam was a pagan prophet are under the impression that there could only be a true prophet among Israel, for they were the chosen people. The theory being that everybody in the world except Israel were pagans. But is that true?  Abraham lived in a pagan culture when he was called, yet God called him. It is said that Job was a contemporary of Abraham. He was not a part of Israel. Yet God said that he was the most righteous man on earth. One has to wonder why then God called Abraham instead of Job. For a certainty, Job was more righteous than Abraham. There was none like him on earth. Melchizedek was a priest of God. Why would there need to be a priest of God, if there were no people worshiping Him? While we are not told about those around the world who were worshiping God, for the story of the Bible is about Jesus, and other than the two mentioned, people did not enter into that story, clearly there were others who believed in the one true God.

To get to the truth about Balaam, we need to read his story first. I have put certain passages in bold that I wish to discuss at the end of each chapter.

"[1] And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho. [2] And Balak the Thof Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. [3] And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. [4] And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. [5] He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: [6] Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. [7] And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. [8] And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. [9] And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? [10] And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, [11] Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. [12] And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. [13] And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you. [14] And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us. [15] And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. [16] And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: [17] For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. [18] And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. [19] Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. [20] And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. [21] And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. [22] And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. [23] And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. [24] But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. [25] And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again. [26] And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. [27] And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. [28] And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? [29] And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. [30] And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. [31] Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. [32] And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: [33] And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. [34] And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. [35] And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.  [36] And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast. [37] And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour? [38] And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak. [39] And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjath-huzoth. [40] And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him. [41] And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people."

The first thing we learn from this chapter is that Balaam is well-known as a prophet. Moreover, he is known as a prophet whose prophecies come true. When the princes of Moab come with the message for Balaam asking him to come curse Israel, his answer is that he will speak to the Lord about it and see what He says. So the first thing we see is that Balaam did not turn to pagan gods to find out his answer, which one would suspect would be the first place he would turn if he were a sorcerer. He turned to the one true God for instructions, as if God were the person he normally turned to for his prophecies. And God came to him and told him that he was not to go, for the Israelites were blessed by God. So we know from this that He was used to talking to the one true God, and his prophecies came true. What is it that God told Israel about a prophet? He gave them criteria to judge them. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 "If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee." So the test of a prophet was to see if what he said came true and lined up with God's commandments. If both those things were met, then he was a true prophet. But if came true and did not line up with God's commandments, it was a test and they were to put him to death.

This is repeated slightly differently a little later in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 "But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him."  What these passages tell us is that there are two criteria by which a prophet is judged. First, does the prophecy come to pass so that it is true, and second, does it line up with God's Word. If both occur, he is a true prophet. In Balaam's case, he was known for prophesying things that came true, and we know in this case, that he most certainly was in line with God's Word, for God was telling him what to say.

Continuing on with the story,  Balaam tells the princes that God has said that he can't go, so he won't. They go back to Balak and he sends them back to Balaam again who tells them that even if the king were to give him all his silver and gold, it wouldn't matter, for he could not do any more or less than what the Lord, his God would allow him to do. Note that Balaam says that God is his God, and that he can't do anything without God's permission. In other words, He knows God, he is used to obeying God and having God tell him what he can and cannot do. This does not sound like a man who worships a pagan god. So Balaam decides to ask God again about going. Now it must be understood that Balaam was being offered a lot of money and honor. It was a serious temptation for him, and he didn't know who these Israelites were. He was hoping for permission to go do something, so that he could get that money.

So Balaam speaks with God again and God tells him that if the men come back, then he has God's permission to go, but he can still only speak what God tells him to say. Now Balaam isn't listening really well, because his mind is apparently on that money, because he does not do as God tells him, He does not wait for the men to come to him. He saddles up his ass and rides out to them. This makes God really angry, so He sends the Angel of the Lord (otherwise known as the pre-incarnate Christ) to stop him. The rest of this part of the story is well-known, as to how the ass keeps trying to walk away from the Angel, and each time Balaam whips it. Finally God opens the mouth of the ass and it talks to Balaam. Now what has always just boggled my mind is that when the ass speaks to Balaam, he merely talks back as if it were an everyday occurrence to have your animal talk to you. The last thing I think I would have done was just carry on a regular conversation, well, that is if threatening your animal can be called a regular conversation. I would have been thinking that I was going crazy. After all, this isn't Narnia. But Balaam and his ass have an enlightening conversation at which point the Angel shows himself to Balaam as well. Now note Balaam's response. He recognizes this Angel as God, just as Abraham recognized Him when he came with the two angels to his tent before Sodom was destroyed, and he realizes that he has sinned against God and confesses it and offers to return home. That is an act of repentance. What pagan seer would say or do that? The Angel tells him to go ahead and go, but he will only speak what the Angel tells him to speak. Note that the Angel is saying that He is the author of the words, yet God earlier had told Balaam that He would be the one to tell Him what to say. So we can see that the Angel of the Lord is indeed Christ pre-incarnate for He is putting Himself in the place of God.

So Balaam goes to Balak and tells him that he should know that Balaam cannot do as Balak wants him to do. He can only speak the words that God tells him to speak.


Num.23

"[1] And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams. [2] And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram. [3] And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he sheweth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. [4] And God met Balaam: and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram. [5] And the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak. [6] And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab. [7] And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. [8] How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied? [9] For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. [10] Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! [11] And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether. [12] And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth? [13] And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence. [14] And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar. [15] And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder. [16] And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus. [17] And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken? [18] And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: [19] God 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? [20] Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. [21] He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. [22] God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. [23] Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! [24] Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain. [25] And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. [26] But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do? [27] And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence. [28] And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon. [29] And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams. [30] And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar."

In this chapter we see that Balaam offers sacrifices to God before he meets with Him. God (in the form of the Angel of the Lord) comes and speaks to Balaam and tells him what he must say. In the course of his prophesying, he asks that he be allowed to die the death of the righteous. How on earth would a sorcerer dare ask the one true God to be allowed that? A pagan prophet would not even be in converse with the one true God. The first time, Balaam sees all of the people and of course blesses them.  Balak's response is to say, "What are you doing to me? I brought you here to curse them, not bless them." Balaam again tells him that he cannot do other than what God tells him to do. Then Balak takes him to another place where he can't see all the people and Balaam again offers sacrifices and has a chat with God. God again tells him to bless the people.  Balaam announces that he can't reverse God's decision to bless them. That there is no enchantment or divination against them. Now the words enchantment and divination are the vocabulary that a pagan society would use in relation to prophecies, whether of God or of some pagan deity. And indeed the Hebrew word for enchantment "nachash" merely means to prognosticate or prophesy (verb) or prognostication or prophecy (noun). The word itself does not denote a false prophecy by a pagan seer, but it is merely the word that the pagan society would use for a prophecy whether from God or from someone else. Likewise the word "divination" is in Hebrew " qecem" which means a divine sentence or oracle, which means a message from one who is able to see the future. This message from God through Balaam was a divine sentence or in this case a blessing from God. The words themselves do not have to denote pagan sorcery. They merely mean prophecies and messages. These words are generally used in relation to pagan societies, because generally the person giving the prophecy is a pagan or false prophet. This is not the case here, as we are told that it is the one true God who is giving him these prophecies, so they are not enchantments or divinations in the magical, sorcery sense.  Now Balak take Balaam to Peor where another set of sacrifices are offered, Balak hoping that God will change His mind from this vantage point. Desperation seems to make people stupid at times. So does greed.  It is important to remember that the third time that Balaam blesses Israel it is from Peor. There is a further story about Peor in another passage in the Bible.


Num.24

"[1] And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. [2] And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him. [3] And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: [4] He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: [5] How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! [6] As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. [7] He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. [8] God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. [9] He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee. [10] And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. [11] Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour. [12] And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, [13] If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak? [14] And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days. [15] And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: [16] He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: [17] I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. [18] And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. [19] Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city. [20] And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. [21] And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. [22] Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive. [23] And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this! [24] And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever. [25] And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way."

Balaam and Balak are now at Peor. Balaam offers sacrifices as before, but this time he did not seek counsel from God, for he already knew what God wanted said. Now the verse says that he did not go to seek enchantments as he had before, but merely turned his face to Israel to prophesy. When it says he did not go to seek enchantments as he had previously done, it is referring to the two conversations he had already had with God, not that he was not using magical spells as he had done earlier. He hadn't used magical spells earlier. He had asked God what God wanted him to do. Nothing in the Scriptures ever indicates that he used magical incantations in his prophecies. He was known for their accuracy and we know he was familiar with God and sought God's counsel. He was not seeking occult magical spells.  The enchantments referred to here refer to the prophecies that God would give him for Israel. As said above, the word in Hebrew merely means prophecies. It does not denote occult magic. And clearly since it refers back to his conversations with God, where he sought what prophecy he was to give, it is referring to prophecies of God, not occult spells or incantations. So Balaam sets his face to Israel and was filled with the Holy Spirit. I cannot see God filling a pagan soothsayer with the Holy Spirit. Cleary from the beginning Balaam has called God his God, and has said that he can not make any prophecy, but what the Lord gives to him. He is used to meeting with God, and he has a reputation for prophecies that come true, and he recognizes the Angel of the Lord when He appears and confesses and repents his sin. This does not add up to a pagan sorcerer, however it does add up to a prophet of God.

When he blesses Israel yet a third time, Balak is enraged and tells him that he had better run for home. Balaam's response is to basically say, "Look didn't I tell your princes that were you to give me all your silver and gold, I still could not say anything except what the Lord tells me to say?" And then he tells Balak that he's going to tell him what will happen in the latter days. Interestingly this term "latter days" often refers to the end times, which is in our day. Balaam then starts to prophesy again and refers to himself numerous times as a man whose eyes are opened, who has knowledge of the Most High (to have knowledge of God and know him means that Balaam is His prophet), who hears  the word of God, and sees visions of the Almighty. This is no pagan fortuneteller. This is a prophet of God. And this prophet goes on to give one of the most well-known prophecies of Christ. A Star will come out of Jacob and a Sceptre will rise out of Israel and this Star will destroy Moab, and Edom, and other tribes and lands. He will give the land back to Israel and make them valiant, and finally He will have dominion. That prophecy is about Christ and it refers to the ultimate destruction of Moab which does not happen until the Second Coming. There are prophecies about Moab concerning the antichrist, so God considers that Moab is still a nation although it might carry a different name now. These prophecies are not just Messianic prophecies, even though the Star of Jacob prophecy is thought to refer to the first coming of Christ. This prophecy really is talking about the Second Coming. Would God give to a pagan false prophet one of the greatest prophecies about the Messiah? The end of this passage tells us that Balaam left Peor and went home. But as we will shortly see, he didn't just leave without finding a way to get some of that money he wanted so badly.

There are other passages in the Bible that refer to this incident. The first is in Deuternomy 23:4-5 "Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee."

A few more are the following: Joshua 24:9-10 "Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand."

Nehemiah 13:2 "Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing."

Micah 6:5 "O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD."

Each of these merely tell us that Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel, but God blessed them instead.

The next chapter in Numbers tells us of what happened after Balak tried to have Balaam curse Israel.

Numbers 25:1-18 "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. [2] And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. [3] And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. [4] And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. [5] And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor. [6] And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. [7] And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; [8] And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. [9] And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. [10] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [11] Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.[12] Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: [13] And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. [14] Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites. [15] And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian. [16] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [17] Vex the Midianites, and smite them: [18] For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake."

This chapter tells us that 24,000 men of Israel had committed whoredom with Midianite women and had worshiped their gods. Because Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron had killed the last of them, he was responsible for the ending of the plague of whoredoms. As a reward for his zealousness for the Lord, God blessed him with the promise of a covenant of peace and a priesthood for him and his descendants. God then tells Moses to kill off the Midianites, because they were a problem with tempting the Israelites to go after false gods.

So Moses does as God tells them, and they go kill the kings of Midian. Balaam is also slain during the onslaught. Joshua 13:22 "Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them."  While this refers to Balaam as a soothsayer, we already have seen that the terminology is due to the society he lived in, but that does not mean that he was a false prophet, for he spoke for the Lord and his record was one of accuracy, which is the mark of a true prophet. The word "soothsayer" is the Hebrew word "qacam" which simply means one who is able to see the future, which Balaam could, due to God giving him that knowledge.

Now we know that Balaam was killed during this time, but we find out why God allowed him to be killed.  Numbers 31:8,16  "And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword...... Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD."

So now we know what happened at Peor when Balaam pronounced his last prophecy and then left Balak.  He told Balak how to corrupt Israel by having them turn against God. Since he knew God, he knew what God's reaction would be to this. And he told them to use the sexual attraction of the women to corrupt the men. In pagan societies, it is not uncommon for sexual activity to be a part of the pagan worship, and the morals are not the same as God's people. These women would entice the men to sexual promiscuity and lead them into worshiping their pagan gods. We know that he did this for the monetary and otherwise rewards, for we are told he did.  2 Peter 2:15"Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;"   Jude 1:11  "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core."

Peter also gives us the testimony that Balaam was a true prophet of God. He writes in 2 Peter 2:16 "But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet."  Now one might suppose that he simply meant he was a false prophet, but that is not the case in the Greek. There are two words that are used in the New Testament regarding prophets. The first is where we get our word "prophet" for it is the Greek word "prophetes" and means what it means in English - "prophet," but in each case in the New Testament when it is used, it refers to a true prophet of God. When false prophets are referred to in the New Testament the word "pseudoprophetes" is used. And as might be expected from the part of the word "pseudo," which means false, this word is applied to prophets which are not of God. So Peter is telling us that Balaam was a true prophet of God. That he was a greedy prophet who grossly sinned against God is without question.  Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. He was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but he joined himself to pagan women, just as they did in Peor, and as a consequence, the Holy Spirit left him and God turned against him. Would anyone say that Solomon was not a true servant of God at one time? No, they would not. But his end was not a good one for he committed the same sin as the Israelites had done earlier at Peor. We today are not without sin. We are Christians, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, yet we deal with the same sins they did. Greed, envy, we worship things other than God. It might not be a pagan god, but it doesn't have to be. We might worship a movie star, or a football player, or money, or any number of things. We are simply far more fortunate than Balaam, or Solomon, or Ananias and Sapphira, for God does not strike us dead or punish us as we deserve. We should be careful how we label Balaam, for the proof is there that he was a true prophet of God. There is also proof that he sinned against God and incurred God's wrath. There is a lesson for us there. Especially because this sin is again brought up in Revelation in one of the letters to the churches.

Revelation 2:14 "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication."

There are churches today that are guilty of having joined themselves to the paganism of the world. This is easy to see in many churches today. The first thing that is obvious and comes to mind is the music. It is the world's music, melded to religious words. I use the term religious, because in some cases the lyrics do not really even qualify as glorifying to God. They are self-idolizing and indulgent, speaking of self rather than speaking of God and glorifying Him. Sometimes the lyrics are so nebulous that they  might speak of anybody, much less God.  Many of the doctrines have joined themselves to New Age teachings. Christians are practicing yoga and kinesiology and other New Age practices. The blood of Jesus is something they don't want as a part of their doctrine, and the prosperity gospel is prevalent.  The sin of Balaam is still alive. He died for it, and the church will be punished for it as well. For this particular church Christ promises to come and fight against them with the sword of His mouth.  For the church at Thyatira, who is allowing the false prophetess Jezebel to have them commit the same sins as Balaam had Israel commit, they are told they will be thrown into the great tribulation.

So before we start casting aspersions at Balaam, perhaps we should take a good look at ourselves, for while Balaam suggested the sin to Balak for reward and died for it, the church is guilty of committing the sin of Balaam, just as Israel did, and just as a reminder, Israel died for it too.

3 comments:

  1. Insightful and yet scary...so many folks believe in the feel good stuff. And the "once saved, always saved" ....doesn't quite measure up to the truth that the Bible teaches.

    I appreciate your thoroughly well explained walk through this.

    I know I am His. And YET...if even the elect if possible can be deceived.... I'd rather not have my faith be in faith itself.

    Seems as of late...most sheep have to find the Good Shepherd themselves. Not meaning to come across as prideful...but just seeing how we need to put our faith in the Person and works of Jesus Christ....and to know how to use this weapon (God's Word) and combat the enemy with what is written.

    God bless ya'!

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    1. Agree that this feel good stuff is not measuring up to the truth. People will be deceived, because they don't know God's Word. He told us, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." And they will be. Funny how the church cannot see that they are treading the same path that Israel trod. And the sheep do have to find the Good Shepherd on their own, because it is for sure the Church isn't teaching Him.

      God bless you too.

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  2. Forgot to check the box....my not so smart phone didn't clue me in...

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