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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Numbers

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PART 6: An Attempt to Undermine Israel [Balaam]

In part six we have an extreme attempt to curse Israel – which the Lord foils – but then the nation succumbing to temptations that follow the advice of the Seer.

Ch.22: [Action] Balaam Called & Permission Given

•  God deals with a greedy seer

Ch.23: [Action] Balaam's First & Second Messages

Ch.24: [Action] Balaam's Third to Seventh Messages

Ch.25: [Action] The Seduction of Israel

•  the outworking of Balaam's advice


FRAMEWORKS: Numbers 22: Balaam Called & Permission Given


v.1-7 Balak Summons Balaam

v.8-12 God questions Balaam and tells him not to go

v.13-20 Refusal, Return, Repetition & Release

v.21-30 Balaam's Donkey balks

v.31-34 Balaam sees and hears

v.35-41 Reluctant Permission Granted



v.1-7 Balak Summons Balaam


v.1 Then the Israelites travelled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

v.2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites,

v.3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.

v.4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time,

v.5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:

“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me.

v.6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”

v.7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.


[Notes: The Midianites were mostly nomadic but settled in areas of Moab and were closely allied with Moab. Balak the king of Moab sees the very large number of Israel and realises they are way too many to defeat by fighting, therefore he concludes that only by putting a curse on them can they be halted from overrunning his land. Balaam, who lives some 400 miles away, obviously has a reputation as a seer and so Balak sends for him – with the appropriate fee! – to have this people cursed.]



v.8-12 God questions Balaam and tells him not to go


v.8 “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

v.9 God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”

v.10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message:

v.11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.'”

v.12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”


[Notes: Balaam is not foolish and knows something of what has been happening with Israel and so recognises that he will have to consult the “I AM WHO I AM” – the LORD – and so when the messengers arrive he says he will have to consult with Him overnight. Whether (like the witch of Endor - 1 Sam 28:12) he was surprised we don't know, but the Lord comes to Balaam and demands he tell who these men are. God obviously knows but wants Balaam to confess it. He instructs Balaam not to go and not to curse Israel – because they are blessed – by Him!]



v.13-20 Refusal, Return, Repetition & Release


v.13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak's officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

v.14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

v.15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first.

v.16 They came to Balaam and said:

“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me,

v.17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”

v.18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God.

v.19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.”

v.20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”


[Notes: The next morning Balaam reports this to the messengers who return to Balak who will not be put off and sends more with a bigger bribe. Balaam, to give him his due – assuming he's not just bartering for an even bigger bribe – says he cannot do anything beyond what God tells him to do. But then comes the let-out: stay overnight and I'll have another word with God. His preference is to go (and get the bribe) so the Lord allows him to go but with the warning that he is only to speak what God tells him.]



v.21-30 Balaam's Donkey balks


v.21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials.

v.22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.

v.23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

v.24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides.

v.25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord , it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

v.26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left.

v.27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord , it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff.

v.28 Then the Lord opened the donkey's mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

v.29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

v.30   The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.


[Notes: It is clear that God does not want him to go and so we have this bizarre incident. Balaam, no doubt fairly affluent as a seer, has a donkey and two servants. On the way they come to a narrow passage where the donkey – clearly a better see-er than Balaam (!!!) sees an angel blocking the way. Eventually the donkey appears to speak to Balaam chastising him.]



v.31-34 Balaam sees and hears


v.31 Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

v.32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.

v.33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

v.34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord , “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”


[Notes: Then God allows Balaam to see the angel who challenges him and says he is on a reckless venture. Balaam accepts he has sinned and offers to return home.]



v.35-41 Reluctant Permission Granted


v.35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak's officials.

v.36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory.

v.37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn't you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?”

v.38 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can't say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”

v.39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth.

v.40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him.

v.41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.


[Notes: The angel reiterates God's will, which is, if you want to go, go, but only say what I give you. The Lord is going to use this as an opportunity to speak to this Moabite king. When he meets Balak he is eventually taken to a high place where they can see the edge of the Israelite camp.]