Balaam’s Journey | BALAK – WEEK 40
By Avner Boskey
The parasha for this Shabbat is titled Balak. According to Joshua 24:9, Balak son of Zippor was the king of Moab, and thus a descendant of Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19:36-37). The Moabites were not descended from Abraham, but from Abraham’s brother Haran (Genesis 11:27). The Moabites lived in the area of modern Jordan, between Mount Nebo in the north and the Kingdom of Edom in the south, bordering the Dead Sea.
Balak was greatly afraid (Hebrew ??? gur) that Moses’ Jewish army would obliterate his Moabite people as they had already done to Amorite forces (Numbers 21:21-35). He came up with the strategy of a pre-emptive strike. Balak would hire a top Mesopotamian ‘voodoo’ man (a professional curser). Demonic powers would be conjured up to harass and weaken Israel on their march to the Promised Land. He sent a delegation of notables to Balaam son of Beor, explaining the geopolitical threat (22:4-6), flattering Balaam’s spiritual reputation for being a powerful curser, and promising lots of gold for an effective and successful spell.
Three themes run through this parasha. The first is that of blessing and cursing (22:6, 11-12, 17; 23:11, 13, 25, 27; 24:9, 11; also Joshua 24:9). For those who love the prophetic promises in the Tenach, these words draw us back to Genesis 12:3, where YHVH promises to bless those who bless the covenant descendants of the Patriarchs and to curse those who mock/ scorn/ belittle/ ignore/ hold in contempt/ treat the Jewish people as unimportant (that’s the sense of the Hebrew word ???????????? from the root qalal).
This whole passage unpacks the continuing validity and value of the God of Jacob’s protective promise over His chosen people. Balaam prophesies by the power of Ruach Elohim (24:2) that YHVH is not cursing Israel or denouncing Jacob (23:8). He proclaims that no sorcery or divination against Jacob will stand (23:23). YHVH declares that He does not characterize Israel as a sinful people but as ultimately righteous (23:21, 10). What extraordinary prophetic promises are found here! What a paradigm God presents in terms of His gifts and calling to Israel (see Romans 11:28-29).
The second theme in this parasha deals with Balak’s and Balaam’s anti-Semitic desire to do the Jewish people harm. Balak sets up the cursing ceremony with great pomp and splendor, gathering his top sheikhs and officials (23:1, 6, 14). Seven (the biblical number of divinity) altars are constructed and bloody sacrifices are made on each altar (23:4, 14, 29). Yet somehow God’s Spirit fills Balaam, and he prophesies great blessings on the Jewish people in every case (23:11; 24:10-11). Balak is driven to distress, asking if it is at least possible that Balaam could simply remain silent rather than say nice things (23:25). In the end, Balak starts hitting himself out of pure frustration (24:10).
The God of Jacob’s determination to bring His good plan together and fulfill His good strategies for Israel is a paramount focus in this parasha – as it is in the rest of the Bible (Deuteronomy 23:5; Joshua 24:10)!
The third theme in this parasha deals with Balaam’s divided heart in his spiritual ministry. He recognizes YHVH as the only true God (22:8, 18-19, 31; 23:3, 12, 26; 24:13) and recognizes the unction, anointing, and heart of Ruach Elohim (24:1-2). Yet, at the same time, the man made his living by cursing people and nations – not the best example of godly character. Also, God clearly lets Balaam know that his heart was recklessly perverse and not right with God (22:32).
Basically, though God had reprimanded Balaam and originally told him not to go with Balak’s men on a cursing spree (22:12), Balaam found wiggle room in YHVH allowing for one possible condition which would allow Balaam to go to Balak (22:20). Yet, even though that condition was not fulfilled, Balaam saddled his donkey and away they went. The repeated focus on silver and gold (22:17, 37; 24:11, 13; Nehemiah 13:2) reveals that Balaam was most likely driven by greed as well as a desire to please Balak. The Apostle Peter comments about “the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15).
After Balaam had returned home to Mesopotamia, his long viper’s tongue was still able to reach back to Balak. He gave the King of Moab counsel on how to break down Israel’s wall of protection. Balaam’s suggestion involved getting Moabite women to seduce Israelite men at a ‘peace picnic’ and then pull them into religious aspects of the feast involving idolatrous demon worship. God describes this strategy as “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” (Revelation 2:14).
Not everything that came out of Balaam’s mouth was inspired by the Spirit of God. In the end, Numbers 31:8 tells us that Israeli Special Forces tracked Balaam down and killed him. Joshua
adds that “the sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain” (Joshua 13:22).
Two closing points of interest in the parasha: Under a prophetic anointing, Balaam declares that the Jewish people have a calling to be different from all other nations and to live a separated and sanctified life: “Behold a people who dwells alone, and who is not numbered as among the nations!” (Numbers 23:9).
The final point in this passage concerns the End of Days calling on Jacob’s sons and daughters. Balaam prophesies that the Jewish people will rise up like a lioness, and will not lie down until they devour their pray (23:24). Israel will consume her enemies, break their bones, and pierce them with arrow (24:8-9). The armies of Israel will do valiantly, vanquishing Edom and even Moab (the original nation which tried to catalyze the cursing of Jacob; 24:18-19). The prophesied army of Ezekiel 37:10-11, 14 is part of the Last Days calling on the Jewish people. It will be a Middle Eastern fulfillment of Balaam’s prophetic vision and will at last establish God’s international and Messianic peace process.
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About the Author
Avner and Rachel Boskey live in the Beersheva region of Israel and are dedicated to stirring up the creative arts, worship, intercession, evangelism and the prophetic gifts within a Jewish and Israeli matrix. They have been involved for many years both in Israel and in many nations, in evangelism, Bible teaching, writing articles and books, creating original Messianic music, pastoral ministry and leading worship and prayer gatherings. Avner has received a B.A. in Jewish Studies from McGill and Hebrew Universities, as well as a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. He worked as a licensed tour guide in Israel for over 20 years. Over the last two decades Avner and Rachel have resided in the Negev. During these years they established weekly worship and prayer meetings for local believers and for thousands of visitors from many nations.
Avner regularly writes informative newsletters to encourage prayer for Israel and to help God’s people be more aware of current events in Israel and around the world from a biblical perspective. One can sign up for these at www.davidstent.org
Avner is the author of the books ‘Israel the Key to World Revival,’ ‘How to be Messianic without becoming Meshuggeh,’ ‘Jews, Arabs and the Middle East – a Messianic Perspective’ and the pertinent ‘A Messianic Perspective on the Restoration of David’s Tabernacle.’
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