God Speaks through an Outsider

KEY VERSE: “Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth?” —Numbers 23:12

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Numbers 22:4-6; 23:7-12; 24:17

BALAK was a Baal-worshiping king of Moab, whose people were frightened when they saw what the Israelites had done to the Amorites. In association with Midian, Balak sent to the town of Pethor for Balaam to come and curse Israel, saying, “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.”—Num. 22:6

Balaam turned down the first delegation from Balak because God said, “Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” (vs. 12) But Balak sent another delegation to Balaam. They were more “honorable” than the first and promised him honor and riches if he would come and curse the Israelites. The greedy prophet agreed to go but with the condition imposed by God that he would say only what God told him to say.

The angel of the Lord preceded Balaam, who was riding on an ass. The animal saw the angel and turned aside out of the way. Then Balaam smote the ass to turn it back, and again the animal saw the angel and attempted to move out of the way and crushed Balaam’s foot against a wall, and he smote her again. A third time the angel blocked the way of the ass, and Balaam again smote the ass with his staff. This time, however, the ass was miraculously given the power to speak and to protest. Finally, Balaam himself was permitted to see the angel of the Lord, who said, “Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me.” (Num. 22:32) Apparently Balaam’s only thought up to this time was the prospect of riches and honor, and hoping the Lord would curse Israel so that these rewards might be his.

After his encounter with the angel, Balaam was repentant and offered to return home, but the angel of the Lord said, “Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak.” (vs. 35) And so Balaam continued with the princes.

Upon meeting King Balak, Balaam immediately set to work for the opposers of God’s people. He had seven altars constructed upon which he offered seven oxen and seven rams. Then Balaam withdrew, saying, “Peradventure the Lord will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.” (Num. 23:3) He apparently had hope that the Lord would change his mind, and from the statement in Numbers 24:1, we get the thought that he was even endeavoring to use sorcery to induce God to change. “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.”

Three times the Lord permitted Balaam to entreat him with altars and offerings, but finally, as noted above, he was convinced that God would only bless Israel; he lifted up his eyes and pronounced the blessing. Balak, of course, was angry and sent Balaam back to his home.

But before Balaam left, God permitted him to pronounce a wonderful prophecy concerning the future of Israel and the deliverer who would come out of her, who would rule over the nations of the world. (Num. 24:15-19) “He took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: 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: 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. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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