From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 24

Balaam didn’t bother trying to manipulate Yahweh when he got to the new vantage point and looked out over the wilderness to Israel camped according to the plan of Yahweh. He realized that all the magic spells in the book wasn’t going to sway the great I AM – Reality behind all reality. He may not have liked it but it was finally obvious that Yahweh is sovereign over the universe and nothing will ever prevent him from keeping his promises.

At least at that moment, he bowed to the will of Yahweh; and the Spirit of the Supreme Being of the world, and all that is, spoke through him without preamble. Yahweh was in control of the spirit of the words he spoke but they were uttered by Balaam and made him a part of the truth he spoke. His vision was finally clear and he saw that Yahweh is Sovereign over everyone and everything. He confessed this before Balak and his minions and stated that he was expressing Yahweh’s words in deferential obedience. He told them that he saw[1] clearly now that Jacob’s tents were beautiful and Israel’s homes were valleys stretching out in the distance like gardens planted by rivers of water or sweet herbs planted by the gardener of Yahweh. He said they were like red cedars by pools and springs so that they would always have plenty of water and they would spread seeds everywhere.

Agag (/ˈeɪɡæɡ/; Hebrew: אֲגַג‎‎ ʾĂḡāḡ, Arabic: يأجوج‎‎, meaning “high” in Northwest Semitic language) is a Northwest Semitic name or title applied to a biblical king. It has been suggested that “Agag” was a dynastic name of the kings of Amalek, just as Pharaoh was used as a dynastic name for the ancient Egyptians.[[2] Balaam told Balak and his men that the King[3] of Israel would tower over Agag and those like him and their kingdom would be more majestic and above all others. Yahweh reminded Balak and his people that he brought Israel out of Egypt with the strength of an ox. He had no trouble chewing his enemies up and swallowing them[4]. He said that Israel was like the king of beasts who no one dared disturb. Then he summed it up by say that whoever blessed Israel was blessed and whoever cursed Israel was cursed.

Israel’s future looked wonderful. Balaam was saying that the large nation coming into Canaan was going to have a prosperous and flourishing future with a king who would rule over everyone. That really made Balak mad and he shook his fist at Balaam and yelled at him. He told him that he had brought him there to curse his enemies and instead he had blessed them. He told him he could go home without any pay and he could blame Yahweh for that.

Balaam repeated that he had told Balak and his emissaries from the first that he couldn’t say anything on his own even if Balak was to give him his palace stuffed with silver and gold. He said he would go home but before he left he warned them what Israel was going to do to Balak and his people in the coming days.

He announced the future with the eyes of a man who saw spiritual things clearly, heard godly speech and who knew what Yahweh was doing in the future. He said that a star would rise from Jacob – a scepter from Israel. He would crush the heads of Moab and Edom; and Seir would be as if they were slaves sold at auction while Israel walked off with the trophies of victory. Rabbi Moses ben Maimon worded Balaam’s prophesy this way: “I shall see him, but not now. This is David – I shall behold him, but not nigh. This is the king Messiah – A Star shall come out of Jacob. This is David – And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel. This is the king Messiah – And shall smite the corners of Moab. This is David, (as it is written, Sa2 8:2: And he smote Moab, casting them down to the ground) – And shall destroy all the children of Sheth. This is the king Messiah, of whom it is written, (Psa 72:8), He shall have dominion from sea to sea.”[5]

Balaam exposed Amalek’s future in his message from Yahweh. He told them that they may have been the first among nations at that time but they would be ruined.

Then he gave his attention to the Kenites[6] and told them that their nice secure homes wouldn’t help them when Assyria took them prisoner.

Balaam’s final words included everyone, the Holy Spirit of Yahweh told everyone through Balaam’s mouth that the fate of anyone who he didn’t bless was the same – any civilization in organized rebellion against him. The raiders from across the sea who raided Assyria and the regions beyond[7] would come to nothing like all the rest. History confirms that all these nations faded into the past but Israel is still here.

Balaam[8] returned home and Balak and his cronies went there way. Balaam’s name may mean “corrupter of the people” and if that is true, this Balaam may have gone home with a different name after his encounter with our living God, Yahweh. That man Balaam my have not been the same man named Balaam that is recorded in chapter 31 of Numbers and portions of the Epistles and the Revelation of John. It is quite possible that Balaam is a name that describes anyone who hired out to curse nations in that area and era.

Adam Clarke said that it appeared to be sufficiently evident to him that 1. Balaam knew and worshipped the true God. 2. That he had been a true prophet, and appears to have been in the habit of receiving oracles from God. 3. That he practiced some illicit branches of knowledge, or was reputed by the Moabites as a sorcerer, probably because of the high reputation he had for wisdom. 4. That though he was a believer in the true God, yet he was covetous; he loved the wages of unrighteousness. 5. That it does not appear that in the case before us he wished to curse Israel when he found they were the servants of the true God. 6. That it is possible he did not know this at first. 7. That he acted with a good conscious and as soon as he found it displeased God he offered to return and did not advance till he had the permission, and authority of God to proceed. 8. That when he came in view of the Israelite camp he did not attempt to make use of any means of sorcery, to accomplish the wish of Balak. 9. That he did seek to find out the will of the true God. 10. That though he knew it would greatly displease Balak, yet he most faithfully and firmly told him all that God said on every occasion. 11. That in spite of his covetous disposition he refused all suggested great honors and rewards to induce him to act in any respect contrary to the declared will of God. 12. That God on this occasion communicated to him some of the most extraordinary prophetic influences ever conferred on man. 13. That his prophecies are, upon the whole, clear and pointed, and have been fulfilled in the most remarkable manner, and furnish a very strong argument in proof of Divine revelation. 14. That in spite of the wicked counsel given to the Midianites the badness of his character has been very far overrated and that he risked even life itself in following and fulfilling the will of the Lord. 15. That, though it is expressly asserted that Israel’s sin of whoredom with the daughters of Moab was brought about by the evil counsel given by Balaam to cast this stumbling-block in their way, it does not appear that he had the criminal intentions attributed to him. 16. I would therefore simply say that the counsel given by Balaam to Balak might have been “to form alliances with this people, especially through the medium of matrimonial connections; and seeing they could not conquer them, to endeavor to make them their friends.” 17. It was the Moabite women, not Balaam that called the people to the sacrifice of their gods.[9]

 

Summary of chapter 24

Balaam said that his spiritual eyes were closed but when he bowed to the will of Yahweh his spiritual eyes were opened and he saw the vision of the Almighty and heard the words of Yahweh.

This chapter recorded that the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Balaam and is the culmination of the Yahweh’s declaration of blessings for Israel through Balaam’s narrative. Its highpoint is the foretelling of the Star that would rise out of Jacob, an apparent reference to the Bright and Morning Star.[10] Jewish scholars read the passage as a promise of the Messiah. The first star was King David who defeated and subjugated Moab. Yahweh’s judgments on other nations besides Israel were included along with prophecies of the Chosen People.

 

Prayer: Lord, you are my god, my portion, and my love – my everlasting all. There is no one in heaven above, or on this earthly ball that compares to you. My joy is in you. You are the source of every earthly blessing including my health and friends. You are better than any glittery wealth that the world might have to offer. Lord, there have been times in my life when you spoke through me and acted through me in spite of the fact that I still live in this corrupted flesh. There have also been times when I allowed the corrupt desires of my human nature to control my actions. I realize that no human being is good – I am a sinner saved by your grace and any good that I have ever done is because you are my creator and savior and your character traits can produce good behavior in my life when I allow them to. I know that just as Balaam was a man with evil inclinations and you worked through him to declare your intentions to the world, you also speak through people today whose desires may not be holy. Help me to remember that only you can tell what is in the human heart and not try to make judgements about other people. It is my job to judge my own actions and desires and discipline them to do your will. I want to be a channel of your blessings to others, Lord. Lord, you are my god, my portion, and my love – my everlasting all.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Do you think it took Balaam a long time to wake up spiritually? Is it always easy to see the world from the point of view of Yahweh? Do you ever have trouble seeing the spiritual world in the jumble of the physical? Which is more significant to your daily life?
  2. What do you think happened to Balaam to change his approach from invoking the spirits of nature to sway the creator of nature, to yielding to the will of the creator of nature?
  3. What did Balaam mean when he said his eyes were closed? What do you think opened Balaam’s eyes so he could see what Yahweh was doing?
  4. Did Balaam see Israel as it was, camped in tents – on the way to the Promised Land?
  5. Who do you think the star, which he saw with his spiritual eyes, was?
  6. Do you think Balaam could have had an insight into the future for Israel according to the will of Yahweh, speak Yahweh’s prophesies to the nations, and then tell the Moabites to tempt them to sin?
  7. Is it possible for you and me today to be used by our God in a mighty way and later ignore him and go after earthly desires?

[1] Israel’s future, according to the perfect will of our God, Yahweh

[2] Cox 1884, p. 110. Jump up^ J. D. Douglas; Merrill C. Tenney (3 May 2011). Moisés Silva, ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Harper Collins. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-310-49235-1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agag

[3] Yahweh was to be Israel’s king

[4] This was Balaam’s expression of the word of Yahweh spoken in the parlance of the day.

[5] http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/num024.htm

[6] Possibly Midianites who had accompanied Israel as they left Egypt and later separated from them. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9279-kenites

[7] The Greek and Roman Empires http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/numbers/24.htm

[8] It may be that Balaam serves in the Bible as the personification of divination and the reading of omen, that is the art of harvesting the environment for clues about the way things work without actually having to go through the trouble of learning to understand reality. Divination degenerates nature to a manipulable device with a few buttons, and separates the diviner and his audience from their rightful place in nature and ultimately from God. http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Balaam.html#.WK28a_krLIU

[9] http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/num024.htm

[10] Revelation 22:16; II Corinthians 4:6

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