What Did Balaam Do?

11 Feb
Balaam's Blessing and Cursing

from Google Images

Balak, the king of Moab, had nothing to fear from the Israelites, because God had already told Moses not to attack Moab, for he would not give Israel any of their land (Deuteronomy 2:9).[1] Moreover, when Israel requested permission of the Amorites to pass through the land by way of the Kings’ Highway, they were not only refused, but Sihon, king of the Amorites came out to meet Israel in battle (Numbers 21:21-23). Israel’s request showed they had no intention of taking aggressive action against any of the people on that side of the Jordan. When Israel defeated Sihon and the Amorites (Numbers 21:24-25), it created a path to the Promised Land by the Way of the Wilderness, which was 30 miles north of the Arnon River, the northern border of Moab at that time. Nevertheless, Balak was still afraid of Israel, because the defeat of Sihon, king of the Amorites,[2] by Israel left a power vacuum there, and Balak feared Israel would take advantage of that and swallow up his kingdom (Numbers 22:1-4). It was at this point that Balak sent for Balaam, the prophet of Mesopotamia (Numbers 22:5).

Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22:6), so he would be able to rise up against them and drive them out of the land. However, Balaam was unable to do anything the Lord wouldn’t permit (Numbers 22:12-13, 18). Nevertheless, eager to make a profit, Balaam went with the messengers and came to Balak, but, although the king of Moab took Balaam to three different mountain peaks that overlooked different portions of the camp of Israel, Balaam was able only to bless them (Numbers 24:10). Finally, after Balaam had finished blessing Israel, both he and Balak, king of Moab, went to their homes (Numbers 24:25).

If this was the end of the matter, all would have been well. But, the matter didn’t end here. Balaam was one of those who had fought alongside the Midianites against Israel (Numbers 31:8). If Balaam had left the Plains of Moab for Mesopotamia (Numbers 24:25 cf. 22:1), how could he have died with the Midianite kings in battle against Israel in the Plains of Moab (Numbers 31:8)? Something occurred that is not explicitly recorded in the book of Numbers.

Notice that Moses said Balaam taught the Midianites how to deceive Israel into betraying their covenant with God by worshiping another god (Numbers 31:15-16). It seems that either Balaam had never returned to Mesopotamia or the Midianites had contacted him a third time and he returned to them, because he was greedy for profit. Earlier, God, through Balaam, had blessed Israel three times, and then prophesied a blessing for them in the end of the age. In other words, Israel could not be cursed. They were totally blessed, from that point on, even to the end of the age. Nevertheless, Balaam, being a prophet, knew how to seduce Israel, so she would temporarily fall under God’s judgment. His tactics cost the lives of 24, 000 Israelites (Numbers 25:9). This was a very grave matter and had to be avenged. Otherwise, other nations might try to do something similar to weaken Israel.

Balaam had indeed shown himself to be a particularly ruthless enemy of Israel, one who conspired to overturn God’s purposes. His own will or that of the one paying him was more important to him than the success of God’s will. We shall see in a future blog-post exactly what Balaam taught the Midianites to do.


[1] This study is based upon a much larger study of Glenn Miller’s who hosts the Christian Think Tank website. His study can be found HERE. Although I have based my study on Glenn Miller’s, he may not fully endorse my conclusions or my interpretation of his work. The reader should consult Glenn’s studies and draw his own conclusion.

[2] Moab was a protectorate of the Amorites who had earlier defeated Moab in a war (see Numbers 21:26-29).

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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in apologetics


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