103-1023-Numbers Chapter 23
Balaam and Balak sacrificed bulls and male sheep on seven altars. The sacrificial offerings are detailed in the book of Genesis. Balaam’s home was in the east and is the land that Israel’s ancestors had come from. It is possible that Balaam is a descendant of Laban, a relative of Abraham. (Genesis 24:24-27) Considering that this is the type of offering that we would expect Balaam to offer.
This worship ceremony was a mixture of a truthful way of worship and that of the pagans. The place chosen for this ceremony was that of where the pagan god Baal was worshiped by Balak. But Balak already knew that his god was too weak to overcome the Israelites and their God. Also there were parts of the ceremony that represented idol worship. For example the special number seven for the altars. For Balaam’s part the ceremony was that of his Israelite ancestors. His offering was that of clean animals which would be pleasing to God. In pagan worship pigs were uses to sacrifice. But Balaam offered clean animals and whether Balak realized it or not the sacrifices were made to God.
Balaam wanted to go off to be alone so that God could speak to him. God did speak to Balaam and gave him a message to give to Balak and his officials. The message was given in the style of Hebrew poetry where there are pairs of lines. Here the first and second lines of each pair are similar. Sometimes the second line will complete the first line or the second line may emphasize the first line. Or it may say the same thing but in a different way.
It is important for us to remember that Balaam was speaking prophecy and were not his words but Gods. First it was not Balaam’s idea to curse Israel. It was Barak’s idea and he had brought Balaam from his own country to Moab. Then Balaam told Barak that he was not able to curse Israel because God had not cursed Israel.
Israel is not a lonely nation but a nation that is set apart from the other nations. They are God’s people. It was the Israelite people that God had chosen to know Him, to speak to them, to guide them, and to protect them.
No one can count the Israelites and this reminds us of the promise that God made to Abraham’s grandson Jacob. God had promised that the descendants of Jacob would be more that man could count. (Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 28:14)
People who die in the peace of the Lord will go to a rest of peace and Balaam knew this, and wanted to die in such peace.
Balak was angry because Balaam had not done what he wanted him to do. Balaam had not cursed Balak’s enemies the Israelites. Balaam had spoken of the blessings that the Israelites had received. Balaam told Balak that he had to speak the words that God had given him to speak.
Balak asks Balaam to go to another place and to try again to curse Israel. Barak and Balaam went to yet another place that the Moabites worship their pagan god. As they had done before they made the same preparations for sacrifice. The people of pagan gods knew that their gods lied and were not honest with the people. They did not understand that the Lord was the only true and just God
God again gave Balaam another prophecy. The first prophecy was that the Israelites were a special people and God had chosen them to belong to Him. The second prophecy was that the Israelites had defeated all their enemies because God was on their side.
Barak wanted God to change his mind about His people but God is not like people are. Neither is He like the false gods of other nations. When the God of the Israelite people promises to do something He does it because His promises are always true. God ordered Balaam to once again bless the Israelite people. Balak could not make God change His mind. No one can make God change His mind, as no one is greater than God.
Balaam then reminded Barak that God had rescued the Israelites from the land of Egypt by the power of His hand. Egypt was a very powerful nation and the Israelites had been slaves in that country. God had led them out of Egyptian bondage and He had defeated their enemies. God was like a king who led an all-powerful army.
Unlike other nations Israel would not need the uses of magic. Only from God did the Israelites receive their help, protection, and instruction. In God’s perfect plan things for the Israelites would happen at the proper time.
With God giving the Israelites strength they were fighting their enemies. They were fierce like strong lions and they had power to destroy their enemies completely. There were none who could stop God’s people.
Balaam had told Balak that the Israelites were as lions and able to destroy their enemies as a lion, they would devoir them. It was for this reason that Balak was afraid of the Israelites. And this is why Balak was so persistent that Balaam curse them. But Balaam was unable because God had told him not to curse the Israelites.
Now Balak had become angry with Balaam because instead of cursing the Israelite he was blessing them. Balaam would not curse them and Balak did not want him to bless them. Balaam continued to emphasize that he had to obey God.
Balak was in desperation because his armies would not be able to defeat the Israelites, as God was protecting them. Balak had hoped that Balaam would curse the Israelites but in fact he was blessing them. If God did not oppose His people then the situation for Balak was hopeless.
Then Balak took Balaam to another place that was high and he prepared the same ceremony. Seven altars were built to sacrifice seven bulls and seven sheep. Balak still hoped that God’s mind would change and Balaam would be able to curse the Israelites.