Welcome to our Torah / Bible study section for this week “And Balak [בָּלָק] the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites” (Numbers 22:2).
Last week’s study section “Chukat” ended with Israel seeking to pass through the land of the Amorites on their way to the Promised Land. The Amorites responded with war; but with God's help, Israel defeated them. In this week’s section, we see the overpowering strength of God’s blessing on Israel. When Balak, the king of Moab, sent a sorcerer named Balaam to curse Israel, he found that he could not.
Although Balaam was commissioned to pronounce a curse over Israel, he found he could only issue a blessing, saying, “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?” (Numbers 23:8). Many might come against the nation of Israel or a prophet of God like with Elijah in 2 Kings 1:12; but no one can curse those whom Yahweh Himself has blessed! The Moabite King Balak, whose name means waste or to lay waste, wanted to lay waste the nation of Israel. To his dismay, he found that he was unable to do so because of God’s blessing upon her. Remember the “nation” included a mixed multitude of individuals from other nations who grafted themselves or were married in.
Why did King Balak feel so threatened by Israel that he felt the need to have her cursed? It is because Balak, along with his elders, had heard of the Israelites stunning victories over the mighty enemies of Sihon and Og. Just like Rahab and her city had heard in Joshua 2:9. Therefore, deciding that it would be too risky to fight Israel directly, they hired a “spiritual mercenary,” Balaam, who was a heathen sorcerer, to put a “hex” on their enemies. Although we may consider this an ancient superstition, many practice sorcery even today. For instance, in the United States there exists a form of Louisiana Voodoo (also known as New Orleans Voodoo). It is rooted in West African Dahomeyan Vodun went to the American south through the slave trade.
The Bible strictly forbids the people of God to practice such sorcery; neither are we to seek guidance from astrologers, sorcerers, psychics or those who consult with the dead. This includes horoscopes or reading of tea leafs etc.
“When you come into the land which Yahweh your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. .... For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations Yahweh your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before Yahweh your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, Yahweh your God has not appointed such for you” (Deuteronomy 18:9–13). [The “when you come into the land” does not mean their law or obedience only starts then and outside the land they are permitted to sin or do what God said they were not to do in the land. Think about it. That is not God’s intention nor meaning!!
Sadly, the rise in the popularity and acceptance of books, films computer games such as the Harry Potter series or previous Pokemon craze, has led some Christians to break this serious commandment at their own peril and expose their children and grand children to influence of satan in their young lives. As the world becomes darker and more terrifying, many people seek guidance and comfort from such sorcerers and others skilled in the occult arts; but as God’s people we are to “come out from among them and be separate.” (2 Corinthians 6:17). The adversary of mankind seeks to deceive and enslave people through a variety of methods, false doctrines mixed with true doctrines, false religions, fleshly temptations, through spiritualist, books, TV, kids cartoons, computer games and more.
Those who follow Yahsua (Jesus to some) actually have an advantage that is superior to any of those methods. Believers have the RuachHaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to lead and guide them into all truth; therefore, they do not need to stumble around in the kingdom of darkness looking for direction from those who serve the evil one. God promises that if we seek Him with all of our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and that those who are His sheep will hear His voice (John 10:27). He has not left us to our devices wondering which way we should go.
The Power of the Tongue.
The account of Balaam is an example of the power of the tongue in pronouncing blessings or a hindrance in one’s life. Even though most people in today’s modern, Western culture do not purposefully engage in placing curses on others, people frequently unknowingly affect others in a negative sense with their words. The Bible tells us that the power of life or death is in our tongue (Proverbs 18:21); therefore, we need to be deliberate when we speak about or over other people, ensuring that our words are constructive and life giving. Making sure they are easily understood by all without the need for an “interpreter”. It is not wise to have someone pray over you in words you personally do not understand. I always wondered why God made the ass speak in human language for it and Balaam to converse rather than have Balaam interpret donkey “hee haw” tongue language in Num 22:29-30!!
Not everyone has been so privileged to have blessings spoken over their life, especially as a child. All too often parents, teachers, and other children are unkind or speak appallingly ungodly words over another. Name-calling, criticism, and belittling comments are common occurrences in our human experience. Oftentimes these negative words can pierce the heart and soul of a child or adult. Such false labels as the following are taken to heart and believed to be true: loser, stupid, clumsy, lazy, hopeless, ugly, bad, worthless, inept, idiot, jerk, brat, or unlovable. What is the answer to this very real problem? How can we escape the multitude of word curses spoken over us? The answer is found in Yahshua HaMashiach (the Messiah)! On a practical level, remember you are not necessarily what you are called. You can use it to prove the speaker wrong by being strong and overcoming or you can accept and not take steps to excel. Not only do we find unconditional love and acceptance with Yahshua; but also the blood of the Messiah has the power to break every curse that has ever been spoken over us, whether intentionally or out of ignorance. He nor His father puts you down; but want to build you up to inherit the mansion and place promised to you if you obey their commandments.
Yahshua became a curse for us so that we could be redeemed and set free not only from the curse of death, the penalty for breaking the law without forgiveness; but also from other curses: “Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" (Galatians 3:13).
Blessing and Cursing the Israelite People.
A very important lesson we can all learn from the account of Balaam is found in a little word “if” in the KJV of Num 22:20.
Num 22:19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. Num 22:20 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. Num 22:21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
Balaam knew the commandment of God. He pretended he wanted to do the right thing by saying he would wait to hear God’s directions. God said only IF the men come he was to go with them; but wanting to do his own thing and get the financial gain he went without the men coming to him. Today many do the same. They know what the commandments of God says; yet follow their own or false teachers reasoning. One being it is all about our “relationship” with Yahweh. I do not see this directive from God. I read He desires obedience and through that we can assume we get a good “relationship” with Him. Likewise through our disobedience to His commandments we can assume the “relationship” is a bad one! Num 22:22 And God's anger was kindled because he went...! Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Yahweh require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? To humble oneself is to obey and show reverence.
By taking upon himself the task of cursing the Israelites (called Jews today), Balaam entered into Jewish history books as Balaam HaRashah (Balaam [or Bilam] the Wicked). Although he called himself a prophet of God, he was motivated more by profit than the gift of prophecy. The reality that Balak and Balaam ignored is that God has promised to bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and to curse those who curse them. (Genesis 12:3) How many people or nations are cutting themselves off from blessing and a place in Heaven by attempting to curse the Jews (called Hebrews in the Bible) or replace them?
Although Balaam possessed legendary powers, they were tiny compared to God’s power. Three times Balaam tried to curse Israel and three times he involuntarily blessed them instead. The three incidents correspond to Balaam’s three attempts to curse Israel in Numbers 23-24. Balaam attempted to utter a curse over the people of Israel three times, but each time the LORD stood in his way, so to speak, and changed his curse into a blessing. On the third occasion, Balaam assaulted his donkey with a stick. When the donkey rebuked him, Balaam said, “If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now” (Numbers 22:29). The sages noticed the irony of such a statement from a man who allegedly could defeat an entire nation simply by the power of his words. He intended on smiting all Israel with the power of his speech, but he needed to beat his donkey with a stick and wished for a sword to kill her: Ironically, Balaam referred to himself as “the man whose eye is opened” (Numbers 24:4) and as the man “who knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty … having his eyes uncovered” (Numbers 24:15-16). His donkey disagreed with his self-assessment. The man who “sees clearly the vision of the Almighty with eyes open,” did not see as clearly as his donkey. The donkey had a better vision of God than Balaam did. The donkey had deeper spiritual insight than Balaam did. Just like many self or denomination appointed prophets and prophetesses who worship God at times and in ways he did not ordain; claiming to have insight.
Individuals also claim to have insight and wonder down a path of their own imagination claiming it was of God via the Holy Spirit. When God, tries to deter them by making the path hard, they claim it is of God. Finally when they cannot move forward (like the donkey lying down), they blame it on the devil. In his blindness, Balaam did not realize that the irritating behaviour of his donkey was actually saving his life. The LORD said, "If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live" (Numbers 22:33). We must also be careful on whom we blame things; God, satan or ourselves. Pro 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Maybe in God’s wisdom of our weak character, He has denied us things to save our spiritual lives!.
Life is full of irritating obstacles that get in the way of our plans. Throughout any given day, a person experiences countless distractions and complications. It is easy to become impatient and upset with the things and people that get in the way of what we are trying to accomplish. We should learn a lesson from Balaam. Those irritating obstacles might be from the LORD. God may have other plans for us. Rather than get upset when our plans are derailed, we should seek the LORD's direction. In Balaam's life, God was in the midst of the interruptions. The next time the car breaks down or the flight is cancelled or some other unforeseen interruption rears up, rather than get irritated, remember the story of Balaam.
People of faith sometimes speak of God opening and closing doors. This is an idiom that refers to God's divine direction in life. For example, suppose a person set out to take a job in a certain field. They submitted an application for a position for which they were fully qualified. They were confident that the job would be theirs. Inexplicably, they did not get the position. A person like Balaam would become bitter over the disappointment. A person of faith would say, "God closed that door, He knows what is best. I will look elsewhere”. When seeking direction in life, a person needs to keep an eye on the donkey to see what God might be saying. Have the attitude of Job.
The miracle of the talking donkey is not just for amusement. It is an illustration to prepare us for the passages of Torah that are about to follow. In Numbers 23-24 Balaam inadvertently speaks a series of blessings and prophecies over the people of Israel. Balaam's prophecies are directly from God. How could God speak through the wicked sorcerer Balaam? The lesson of the talking donkey illustrates that God is not limited to using only righteous men to deliver His messages. If He can use the mouth of a donkey to get a message across, He can also use the mouth of a wicked man like Balaam. In a sense, Balaam plays the role of God's talking donkey.
If God can speak through a donkey, He can speak through anything and anyone. A person should always be attentive to the words of others, always listening for the voice of Yahweh. Other Bible accounts as Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, Cyrus in Nehemiah etc tells us god can work through who he wishes even Pharaoh of Exodus [Rom 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth]. He can also raise stones to worship Him if humans have not the sense to. So even if you get healed through a false church, pastor or denomination that does not make them a person of God. Your search for God, His mercy and your faith in His ability could be what healed you. God does not need them.
Balaam failed to curse Israel. Worse yet, he failed to win a large reward from Balak. Then a thought occurred to him. Perhaps he could not curse Israel, but he could induce Israel to curse themselves. In Numbers 31:16, we learn that he conspired with the Midianite and Moabite leaders and suggested a plan. He counselled them not to march out to make war against Israel. Instead, he advised them to invite the men of Israel to a party hosted by the daughters of the Midianites and Moabites. He told them to use their daughters as bait to lure the Israelite men to an idolatrous feast. While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1).
Even the noblewomen of Midian participated in the plan to prostitute themselves to Israel. For example, the infamous Cozbi was the daughter of Zur, one of the five princes of Midian. When Moses saw the women of Midian, he declared, “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD” (Numbers 31:16).
The daughters of Moab “invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor” (Numbers 25:2–3). The choice of words intentionally evokes sexuality, a theme that the prophet Hosea picks up in his rebuke regarding the Israelite fertility cult. They came to Baal-Peor and devoted themselves to shame, and they became as detestable as that which they loved (Hosea 9:10).
Balaam’s wicked plan succeeded. He managed to finagle the nation into bringing a curse down on its own head. The LORD unleashed a plague among the tribes and 24,000 died. In the book of the Revelation, Yahshua rebuked the assembly at Pergamum for eating food sacrificed to idols and engaging in sexual immorality under the influence of “the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:15). The Master referred to sexual immorality and eating food tainted by idolatry as “the teaching of Balaam.”
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. (Revelation 2:14–15).
I am seeing more and more sincere seekers of Yahweh’s ways being induced and seduced into worshipping Baal. They desire a biblical gift (tongues) so they are given a counterfeit one; but not by God: 2Co 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 2Co 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Over the centuries, many peoples and nations have tried to destroy Israel, like Balak, but none have succeeded to wipe Israel off the map as they have desired. Today Hamas and other Islamist terrorist groups have written into their charters the goal of annihilating Israel and driving her people into the sea. This desire to annihilate the Hebrews / Jewish People has been shared by Nazi Germany, the Spanish Empire, Byzantine Empire, Assyrian Empire, Philistines, ancient Persia (see Book of Esther), and more. Balaam was slain in Joshua 13:22. The other empires are no more and Yahweh, in the Bible, has prophesied to destroy future nations who come to destroy His peculiar people. Why has Israel survived against all odds even to today? It is because of God’s covenantal promise to the seed or offspring of Israel:
“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of Hosts is His name): ‘If those ordinances depart from before Me,’ says Yahweh, ‘then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.’” (Jeremiah 31:35–36).
God has blessed the Hebrew / Jewish Nation, (not necessarily every Jew). He also blesses the obedient. Act 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: Act 10:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Even though God has made the survival and ultimate salvation of Israel secure, Psalm 83 prophesies that in the Last Days, a confederacy will be formed before our very eyes that intends to wipe out the name of Israel forever: “They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’” (Psalm 83:3–4).
There is only one way that Israel may be defeated (and each individual of any nation); that is, through her own sin; by turning away from God. This is what happened to the people of Israel in this study section. Although Balak and Balaam failed in bringing a curse upon Israel, they brought destruction upon themselves by committing sexual immorality with the Moabite women and worshiping their god Baal-peor. Balaam knew he could not curse them so his advice was to lure them into disobedience by having the Moabite women camp near the Israelites. It is the same temptation that comes to each one of us when temptation (prelude to sin) comes and sets up camp at the door of our hearts on desires. So strengthen your mind. Evict desires from your system. There are many ways i.e. company you keep, things you see how your time is planned etc. Jas_4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
“So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, (lord Peor) and the anger of Yahweh was aroused against Israel.” (Nums 25:3). Seeing His Chosen People worship pagan gods enraged Yahweh and resulted in a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites. Scripture reveals that it was Balaam, who counselled the Midianites to ruin Israel through association with their women. (Numbers 31:7–16).
What happened in the end to Balaam? After being ridiculed by his own donkey, who miraculously tried to save him by telling him about the end that lay before him, Balaam finally died in a battle with the Israelites. (Numbers 31:8). So ended the life of one who was motivated by greed and selfish ambition rather than by God’s righteousness. This demise can befall today’s preachers who once maybe were financially less well off and eager to serve God; but then came fame, a position in a denomination or other that led them to compromise the search for truth they once pursued.
The Book of Jude underscores the error of false prophets like Balaam: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” (Jude 1:11). What was this grave error of Balaam that was serious enough to be included alongside Cain, who murdered his brother (Genesis 4), and Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses that resulted in the deaths of many Israelites (Numbers 16)?
The PirkeiAvot (Ethics of the Fathers) contrasts Balaam’s sins with Abraham's righteousness: Whoever possesses the following three traits is of the disciples of our father Abraham; and whoever possesses the opposite three traits is of the disciples of the wicked Balaam. The disciples of our father Abraham have a good eye, a meek spirit and a humble soul. The disciples of the wicked Balaam have an evil eye [greed/envy], a haughty spirit and a gross soul.... The disciples of our father Abraham benefit in this world and inherit the World To Come, and as is stated,"To bequeath to those who love Me there is, and their treasures I shall fill" (Proverbs 8:21). The disciples of the wicked Balaam inherit descent into the pit of destruction, as is stated, "And You, God, shall cast them into the pit of destruction; bloody and deceitful men, they shall not attain half their days. And I shall trust in you" (Psalm 55:23).
Yashua also referred to Balaam, saying to the Believers at Pergamum: Rev 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 stumbling block before the children of Israel (sexual immorality with the Moabite women), to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication (false god worship).
Num 25:1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab (the sexual immorality stumbling block). Num 25:2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat (eat things sacrifice to idols), and bowed down to their gods (fornication). Num 2 5:3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel. [many keep teaching and bibles translate, that fornication is sexual immorality. i.e. that adultery is between married people and fornication sex outside marriage. This is wrong; but see explanation in book “Have I Got it Right God”. Contact me if wish free copy.]
Peter also referenced Balaam in his warnings to Believers. May the people of God today take heed:
“They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey, a beast without speech, who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness.... These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” (2 Peter 2:15–18).
Why are there so many warnings about Balaam? And how are they relevant today? Balaam, even after failing to curse Israel directly, continued to associate and co-operate with those who sought Israel’s destruction. There are some within the Christian Church who not only associate with, but also financially support people, charities, and causes with an anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic agenda. Maybe they are swayed by the adverts of the poor in countries that oppose Israel; but there are poor, needy and charitable causes in Israel too. Who have similar faith to Christians than those of the opposing countries.
May God’s people disassociate from those who curse Israel and teach anti-Semitic propaganda. May the followers of Yahshua (Jesus to many), both Jews and Gentiles, choose to stand with Israel to the very end and continue in holiness. Let us bless Israel and pray that God will save her from all those enemies who try to curse her. Let us also pray that the remaining part of the Jewish People who have not realised the Messiah of their scriptures came in Yahshua will soon reach that realisation then all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).
2 Peter 2. Much can be written on this chapter; but I have reached my quota of article length. In short, each Christian denomination think they have the truth and others “truth” is not “the truth”. However, most of those denominations speak against the total keeping of Yahweh’s laws and the Jews to whom the oracles were given. 2Pe 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies,... 2Pe 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
2Pe 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.. Prosperity sermons and market place ministries. 2Pe 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; The laws of Yahweh are righteous. Only 8 persons were saved out of the whole world. Salvation is not promised to everyone. Remember the little conditional “IF” of obedience.
2Pe 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: Resist the theology of the false preachers and do what the prophets did. If it worked for them it should work for you. Do not try a new way. It is not proven!!
2Pe 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: They may preach liberty without the law; but this could be what they know you want to hear or an easy message to follow. Scripture says keeping the Commandments of God AND faith in Yahshua is what saves.
Shalom and a blessed week to you all.