Printer-friendly version

[Numbers:23:1-30]; [Numbers:24:1-25]; [Numbers:31:8], Numbers:31:16]; [2PT:2:12-17]

Lesson No.: 
Memory Verse: 

“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:5).


The Beauties of the Gospel
Balak and Balaam are high on a mountain overlooking the camp of Israel. Balak has won his point in getting Balaam to come to curse God’s people; and his hopes are high -– but he is going to be disappointed. These are the children of the Most High whom He loves and blesses; and Balaam said, “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed, or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?”

Many people today admit there are beauties in the Gospel, and they admire the righteousness of God’s people; but they themselves do not have the honesty of heart to give up their sins to serve the Lord. God does use such people to speak good words for His Kingdom, and souls may even be saved through their preaching; but such ministers who do not have the love of God in their hearts are deceiving themselves; and more frequently deceive the people, too, rather than help them.

Balaam was a false prophet whom God used to bless Israel in spite of their enemies. Through divine inspiration Balaam declared the goodness of God to His people, and cried, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” They were beautiful words, and Balaam would have really enjoyed to die thus, but it cost more than he was willing to pay. Balaam loved the riches of this world more than he loved God. No doubt, everybody in the world would like to get heavenly rewards, but they are not willing to live to please God.

The Dust of Jacob
Balak and Balaam first offered sacrifices of seven oxen and seven rams on seven altars. God’s children always offered sacrifices on one altar, to the one and only true God.
After the sacrifices, Balaam asked God what to say. From this hill Balaam could see much of the camp of Israel, and he exclaimed, “Who can count the dust of Jacob?” It reminds us of the promise God gave Abraham, before there ever was a Jewish nation: “And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered” (Genesis:13:16). As Balaam saw all the tents of the Israelites he must have thought that prophecy had already come to pass. Balaam also prophesied that the Israelites would be a separate people, not numbered among the nations; and through the centuries the Jew has never lost his identity.

Balak was very much disappointed that the curse he had planned had turned into a blessing, but he took Balaam to another peak, and asked him to prophesy again. From here he could see only the outer borders of the camp, and perhaps Balak thought he could at least curse a part of the people, those who were afar off. Balaam still insisted that he could say only what God permitted.

God’s Happy People
God had already blessed Israel, and he now told Balaam He would not change His mind. He loved Israel because among them the name of the true God was uplifted. “Happy is that people, whose God is the LORD” (Psalm:144:15).

No evil could come against the Children of Israel so long as they obeyed their Commander. Time after time God told them that if they kept His commandments no evil should befall them. “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy:28:1). The only provision was that they obey God. All the other nations were powerless against them if they kept His Law. Think of the honour and glory that would have come to Israel if they had loved God with all their heart, through the years! Instead, because of their disobedience they were scattered through-out the world, without a country or flag, for about 2,000 years. Not until the year 1948, right in our own day, did they again become a nation.

Blessings Continue
Balak was so angry at the end of Balaam’s second pronouncement that he said if Balaam could not curse Israel he could at least refrain from blessing them. Balaam really did want to curse Israel, for we read in Joshua:24:10, that God said, “I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still.”

It seems that Balaam had tried up to this time to use some of his old enchantments, but now he gives up entirely to let God speak through him. And what sublime words came forth! There is admiration for the orderly array of the tents of the Israelites. He prophesies of the future glory and power of their armies as they go forth to subdue kingdoms; he promises blessings upon all who bless Israel, and curses upon all who curse them.

Balak tried to quiet Balaam, and he ordered him out of this country. He said he had hoped to promote Balaam to great wealth and honour, but the Lord had kept him back from it. Balaam knew enough about the Lord to know that no amount of riches, not even a house full of gold and silver, could change the mind of God to bring a curse upon people whom God wanted to bless. And, besides, Balak could not have given Balaam anything if God had not provided it.

Of Jesus
The words of God must be spoken, and Balaam prophesied once again. This time his prophecies were of days a great way off, but prophecies just as sure to come to pass. He spoke of the Star that should rise out of Jacob, and a Sceptre out of Israel. This was speaking of Jesus who would come as a Star of hope to the down-trodden of the world. He would come from the tribe of Judah, and “arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi:4:2). Malachi also speaks of Him as the “Sun of righteousness.” When Simeon took the baby Jesus into His arms, at the time His parents brought Him into the Temple, he called Him “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke:2:32). Jesus would bring light and life to all who believed on Him. The Sceptre was a token of authority, and that part of the prophecy foretold the time when Jesus will come again and rule a thousand years on this earth in righteousness. No wicked king will be able to stand against Him. We call that period of time the Millennium.

Condemnation of Balaam
Balaam had spoken beautiful words at the inspiration of God, but they did not do him any good because his heart was evil. The Apostle Paul tell us, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (I Corinthians:13:1). Balaam never received any reward for the sublime blessings he poured out upon Israel. In II Peter:2:17, we find the reward of those people among whom Balaam is included: “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” There is no place for such people in Heaven: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation:21:27).

Israel’s Idolatry Punished
If Balaam had gone back to his home, Israel would have had no ill effects from Balak’s efforts to curse them. But Balaam had a more subtle way of bringing trouble to God’s children. The only time the Children of Israel could be defeated was when they sinned against their God.

Balaam offered advice to Balak, which caused many of the Israelites to come to worship the strange gods of the Moabites. Then God’s anger was kindled against His own people, and 24,000 people died in a plague be-cause of their idolatry.

We do not hear of Balaam again until the Israelites went to fight the Midianites. God gave His people victory, and among the conquered soldiers Balaam was found and killed ([Numbers:31:8]).


1. Why was Balak displeased with what Balaam prophesied?
2. Where did Balaam get the words he spoke?
3. What are some of the prophecies he made about Israel?
4. Have any of them come to pass? Name some.
5. How many people died through the counsel of Balaam?
6. What was Balaam’s end?