Wow. There was a lot to consider in today’s twelve pages, and I became fascinated with the story of Balaam and his donkey. I’ve always thought it was cool that 1) the donkey talked 2) the donkey SAW the angel and 3) the Lord said he would have spared the donkey, but not Balaam. Notice that this is “the angel of the Lord,” or a theophany. It’s Jesus standing there with a sword in his hand—and we know it is because he accepts Balaam’s bowing in worship. Angels don’t do that.

This morning I was particularly struck by the Messanic prophecy Balaam gave—it’s just beautiful:

17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skullsa ofb all the sons of Sheth.c
18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.[1]

Notice also in 22:39-40 that Balak sent “some” of the cattle and sheep to Balaam to provoke a curse/prophecy against Israel. What he “sent” was probably the entrails, for Balaam to use for divination. Notice that in 24:1, Balaam does NOT resort to sorcery “as at other times”—no animal guts needed for these last prophecies!

Were you bothered by Nu. 22:12 (“Do not go with them”), verse 20 (“Go with them”) and vs. 22 (“But God was very angry when he went?”) After digging around a little, it becomes clear that God declared his will—he didn’t want Balaam to go. But when Balaam went again and asked God for permission, God pretty much said, “You’re going to go, but you’d better say only what I put in your mouth.” And the next day, God demonstrated his anger and his sovereign will—Balaam would go, but he would deliver the Lord’s message.

Was Balaam a “believer?” It seems that he was a sorcerer—he knew of God, he knew enough to recognize him as God, but yet he still practiced sorcery and worshipped other gods. And he paid the price, being struck down in the battle against Midian (Nu. 31:8).

There was a lot more in this reading, including what Jesus called the most important commandment of all (Du. 6:4). Enjoy!


a Samaritan Pentateuch (see also Jer. 48:45); the meaning of the word in the Masoretic Text is uncertain.
b Or possibly Moab, batter
c Or all the noisy boasters
[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version, Nu 24:17-18. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.

1 Comment

  1. Accidental Poet

    Yes you’ve got to dig for the clues in that story! I’ve been thinking lately the Bible is the quintessential example of “show don’t tell”!!!


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