BALAK AND BALAAM

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[Numbers:22:1-41]

Lesson No.: 
110
Class: 
Senior
Memory Verse: 

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).

Cross References: 

I Moab Distressed
1. The Israelites pitch their tents in the plains of Moab across the river from Jericho, [Numbers:22:1].
2. Balak, king of Moab, greatly terrified, confers with the Midianites and sends messengers to Balaam to come to curse Israel, [Numbers:22:2-6].
3. The elders of Moab and Midian depart with the reward of divination in their hand, [Numbers:22:7]; [Deuteronomy:23:4]; [Joshua:24:9]; [1 Samuel:9:7-8]; [Micah:6:5].

II Balak and Balaam
1. The Lord speaks to Balaam and tells him not to go with these men; not to curse Israel, for they are blessed, [Numbers:22:8-12]; [1 Kings:22:14].
2. Balaam tells the princes that the Lord refuses to let him go; and they tell Balak that Balaam refuses to come, [Numbers:22:13-14].
3. Balak sends more honourable princes to Balaam, and promises to promote him to great honour, [Numbers:22:15-17].
4. Balaam tells them that if Balak would give him his house full of silver and gold he could not go beyond the word of the Lord, [Numbers:22:18].
5. Balaam consults God and is permitted to go, [Numbers:22:19-21].

III An Adversary
1. The Lord sends an angel with a drawn sword to stand in Balaam’s way as an adversary against him, [Numbers:22:22].
2. The ass turns aside and Balaam’s foot is crushed against a wall, [Numbers:22:23-25].
3. Balaam strikes the ass, and the angel goes farther to a narrow place and the ass falls down under Balaam, [Numbers:22:26-27].
4. The ass speaks and the Lord opens the eyes of Balaam, [Numbers:22:28-33]; [2 Peter:2:15-16].
5. Balaam humbles himself; he is told that he has permission to go with the men but to speak only the words the Lord gives him, [Numbers:22:34-35].
6. Balak meets Balaam, offers sacrifices, and takes him up into the high places of Baal to view the camp of Israel, [Numbers:22:36-41]; [Deuteronomy:12:2].

Notes: 

Israel’s Encampment
Having defeated two kings and taken their booty, Israel marched forward to the plains of Moab and pitched camp just across the river from Jericho. From this point they could look across and view the land of Canaan, their long-desired home.

For forty years they had wandered around in the wilderness and many times had been sorely tempted and tried. They had gone through many hardships, and their souls were often discouraged because of the way. They had learned their lessons of obedience the hard way. But now with colours flying and banners streaming they were marching with a conqueror’s tread. They had defeated two great kings and had taken possessions of their lands. The nations around were becoming alarmed. The king of Moab, in whose borders they were dwelling, was terrified, and he wondered what he could do to stop them. He had observed Balaam and had seen that whom he blessed, was blessed, and whom he cursed, was cursed.

The world takes notice. Words and actions are weighed. We may think many times we are unseen; but besides the all-seeing Eye that is ever watching over us, there are those on earth who are taking note of our actions, too. We are living epistles known and read of all men.

Reward of Divination
The king of Moab consulted with the princes of Midian and together they decided to send for Balaam to come to curse Israel for them. Balaam was a seer, of whose background little is known. He seemed to know and fear the Lord. He was possibly one of those descendants of righteous Noah, who still had a knowledge of the Truth in his heart although he was not in the family line of Abraham.

The princes came with the reward of divination in their hand. The money must have looked good to Balaam, for we learn from other passages of Scripture that his heart coveted it; nevertheless, he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do, after which he came back and told the princes that the Lord refused to let him go with them. Some people refuse to do things because the commandment of the Lord forbids it, but in their hearts they wish the commandment was not thus, for they long to do it. It is an unwilling restraint. Sometimes the Lord grants us permission to do things because we persist in our desire for them. But His real will for us would be different.

The Lord finally permitted Balaam to go, but we believe the reason was that Balaam wanted to go. Many times the Lord will let us have our own ways but they are adverse to His way. The Lord wants us to love His every commandment and word because they are made in righteousness and truth. David said, “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it” (Psalm:119:140); and, “Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psalm:19:11).

The tragic end of Balaam, and the fact that the last that was said of this much-enlightened man is very unfavourable, so far as his spiritual condition is concerned, points out the terrible consequences of actions prompted by a heart not fully set to do the will of God. Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness and sold his soul for them. He knew about God, and his lips spoke some of the most sublime prophetic truth we have concerning the world’s Redeemer. But Balaam lost all that he might have gained, by loving the paltry treasures of earth. The price a lost soul must pay during all eternity for a few moments of earthly pleasure, favour, honour, or wealth is too great for one to consider those things for a moment if those fleeting treasures are taken in place of the riches of Heaven, the joys of God’s favour, or the honour of being one of God’s children.

Temptation
Balak was determined that Balaam should curse Israel. He sent greater and more honourable princes to him and promised to promote him to great honour. Many people have swerved from the truth through promise of money or prestige in this world. Balaam no doubt to some extent feared the Lord, yet he had a covetous heart. The Word tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy:6:10). If we could read the hearts of all those who profess to be Christians today, we wonder how many would be revealed as having erred from the faith through the love for a bigger salary, greater honour, or more fame in this world.

Balaam did not have in his heart what Elisha had when Naaman, captain of the host of Syria, was healed and wanted to give Elisha gold and silver and changes of raiment. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was the one who had a covetous heart. He thought he was receiving money from Namaan -– a goodly prize -– but, instead, he received Namaan’s leprosy. Elisha said, “Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments and olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?” (II Kings:5:26).

King Saul was another man whose heart was covetous and desired fame. The Lord told him to destroy utterly the Amalekites. When Samuel asked him why he did not obey the voice of the Lord, Saul said, “The people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said, “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” Many people esteem it a light thing to disobey the Word of God.

Adversaries
Balaam’s way was perverse to the Lord, and God sent an angel to try to turn him from his perverseness. It has been said that the Lord will at first mildly try to turn us from our evil way, but if He fails in that, the second time He will crush our foot against a wall. If that more drastic method is ineffectual, He will bring us into such straits that we can neither turn to the right hand nor the left, but will fall before His judgments. The messenger of justice would have killed Balaam had not the mercy of God prevented the ass from proceeding. The angel here was an adversary to Balaam in his perverseness, trying to turn him back into the right way.

Peter speaks of “cursed children: which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (II Peter:2:14-16). May we never be found guilty of loving the wages of unrighteousness, but may we keep the integrity of our souls by being obedient to the voice of our God.

God Unchangeable
The first time the Lord spoke to Balaam He said, “Thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” God does not lie. He does not change. Yet there seemed to have been something in Balaam’s heart that would gladly have cursed Israel for the honour, promotion, and wealth he would have received, if the Lord would just give him permission to do it. He loved the wages of unrighteousness -- a selfish interest -– willing that a whole nation perish, just for the wealth and honour it would bring to him. “All of self, and none of Thee”; may we get to the place where it is, “All of Thee, and none of self.”

Questions: 

1. Who was Balak? Who was Balaam?
2. Where was Israel encamped?
3. What did Balak say about Israel?
4. What did he want Balaam to do?
5. What was an adversary to Balaam, and why?
6. What miracle was performed?
7. How many times did the angel of the Lord try to stop Balaam?
8. What was the condition of Balaam’s heart?
9. What does the Word say is the root of all evil?