THE BALAAM STORY

balaam

“——–For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed.” The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said. “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me.” (Numbers 22: 6-8)

Who was Balaam? Balaam was either a prophet of the Lord who had gone wayward or he was a spirit world explorer who had found the right connections to manipulate the spiritual world.

Balaam was not an Israelite, and so is less likely to have intimately known the Lord the way one of the Israelites would have known. Could he still have been a prophet of the Lord like Melchizedek or be like the Magi, who came to worship Jesus? These men were not Israelites but certainly knew and worshipped the true Lord. Balaam could have been a prophet of the Lord who jumped at the opportunity for prestige and money when approached by the Moabite king and went wayward! The New Testament references to Balaam appear to suggest that narrative.

With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed–an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey–a beast without speech–who spoke qwwith a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. (2 Peter 2:14-17)

 Here Balaam appears in the section of the false prophets and is referred to as one who wandered off for material gain that wickedness brings. How unfortunate when those who have been given knowledge of the Lord, miss the true treasure of knowing God and wander after material gain! It is inevitable that one who becomes a believer will succeed in life because abundance is given to him. He is given access to the supreme force in the universe and life blooms around him. It is not just people, but nations and societies as a whole that turn in repentance to follow Jesus, find abundance in their lives. However far too often, believers turn their eyes away from the One who gives life to that which flows out of God and miss the way. Jude 11 includes Balaam in the list of such people.

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

It is perhaps more likely that Balaam was not a prophet of the Lord but was an explorer of the spirit world. In other words, he was familiar with the spiritual world and his familiarity had given him knowledge to be able to manipulate the spiritual world in such a way that he could influence the physical world with blessings and curses. In modern day language, he was a psychic or an occultist or a diviner. The Bible contains several references that condemn the practice of divination and sorcery.

When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.  There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-11)

Man has a spiritual element, however much of it remains mysterious. God has allowed man only limited revelation- this includes the natural world around him and of the spiritual through sources sanctioned by God including the Bible, through prophets in the Old Testament era and through his Holy Spirit in the era after Christ. Any device that points to the spirit world, any special revelation from a person including one who claims to be a prophet and any method that attempts to connect to the spirit world should not only be viewed with suspicion but should also be shunned as these are fraught with danger of proximity with evil spirits that can lead on to possession.

The question does arise with Balaam as to how he appeared to know the Yahweh Lord in his references. It is plausible that any person who wanders through the spiritual world albeit in an unauthorized fashion would encounter the most dominant force in the spiritual realm- the true Lord whom we worship. Nothing happens in the spiritual world without the sanction of the Lord and as we see an unsuspecting Balaam contemplating a curse upon the very chosen ones of God, he comes to face to face with God Himself in a direct confrontation that almost took away Balaam’s life. God however spares Balaam’s life and uses the opportunity to instead bless Israel. What a comfort to know that no curse against God’s chosen ones shall come to fruition.

Finally the story ends with partial success for Israel’s enemies as they manage to curse Israel by seduction rather than a direct curse in the spiritual realm. Revelations 2 tells us that Balaam was the brain behind that ruse which almost destroyed the Israelites.

 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality (v 14,15).

 God’s judgment finally came upon the Midianites through the Israelite army and Balaam was killed along with other Midianite men. God has the last laugh in this story. He always does!

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