Posts Tagged ‘Numbers 22:2-25:9’

Parashah 40: Balak

Parashah 40: Numbers 22:2-25:9

(In a regular year, read with Parashah 39;  in a leap year read separately.)

“Now Balak the son of Tzippor saw all that Isra’el had done to the Emori” (Numbers 22:2).

This parashah is about a talking donkey.  As a child, I remember hearing about this donkey, but never understood the reason for his chattering.  I knew there was an angel and some man hit his donkey a few times.  Either the reason for this account was hidden from me as a child or my Sunday school teachers didn’t know how to teach the reasons for the event.    Since Yeshua warns the Congregation in Pergamum about the teachings of Balaam, it is important to understand who this man was and what he did (Revelation 2:14-15).

Hebrew Word Pictures

Balak (Devastator) – בלק – bet, lamed, koof

the house leader behind

Balaam (Corrupter of People)or Bil’am – בלעם – bet, lamed, ayin, mem

the house leader understands the mighty

Balak was the King of Moab.  He had witnessed what Isra’el had done to the Emorites and was afraid the multitude might destroy his nation.  He meets with the leaders of Midian to plan a way to bring Isra’el down.   He writes a message to Balaam asking him to curse Isra’el.  He sends the leaders of Midian and Moab along with divining money to Balaam. 

“Listen, a people has come out of Egypt, spread over all the land and settled down next to me. Therefore, please come, and curse this people for me, because they are stronger than I am. Maybe I will be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is in fact blessed, and whomever you curse is in fact cursed” (Numbers 22:5-6).

Balaam was from Pethor (Soothsayer) in Mesopotamia near the Euphrates River.  This area had become hostile to Isra’el making Balaam an obvious and willing participant in cursing the Israelites. Balaam  was a powerful and gifted prophet because whoever and whatever he blesses is blessed and whatever and whoever he curses is cursed.   It appears that Balaam is a god-fearer as he tells the messengers that he must first ask Elohim for an answer to the message. 

“God came to Bil‘am and said, ‘Who are these men with you?’  Bil‘am said to God, ‘Balak the son of Tzippor, king of Mo’av, has sent me this message: The people who came out of Egypt have spread over the land; now, come and curse them for me; maybe I will be able to fight against them and drive them out.’  God answered Bil‘am, ‘You are not to go with them; you are not to curse the people, because they are blessed’” (Numbers 22:9-12).

Balaam does not have Elohim’s permission go with the messengers nor curse Isra’el because they are blessed.  Balaam tells the messengers Elohim’s response and they return to Balak.  However, he doesn’t tell them the complete response: Isra’el cannot be cursed because they are blessed by Yahweh.  He cannot curse those who Yahweh has blessed rendering him a powerless diviner.

Balak doesn’t back down and uses a bribe.  He sends princes to talk to Balaam.  Along with the promise of a great reward Balak promises complete obedience to Balaam’s instructions.   

Even if Balak were to give him his palace filled with silver and gold, Balaam could not go beyond the word of “Adonai my God” to do anything whether great or small.  He tells the men to spend the night and he will inquire of Elohim once more.  This time, however, Elohim tells him he may go with the men, ifthey summon him, and then only to do whatever Elohim tells him.

Without being summoned, Balaam gets up in the morning, saddles his donkey and leaves with the princes of Moab.  Elohim becomes angry with Balaam and his rebellious attitude.  In order to get his attention ‘I AM’ uses the donkey and the “angel of Elohim.”

Balaam is riding his donkey when an angel of Elohim blocks the pathway.  Only the donkey can see the angel with his sword drawn; so the donkey turns off the path and into a field.  Balaam beats the donkey to get it back on the path.  They go on a little further to a place where the path narrowed between a stone wall and some vineyards and the angel stands in the path again.  The donkey sees the angel and pushes against the wall crushing Balaam’s foot.  Balaam beats the donkey a second time.  The angel moves ahead to where the path became so tight there was no turning right or left.  The donkey sees the angel again and lies down.  Balaam becomes so angry that he beats the donkey a third time with his stick.   Yahweh enables the donkey to speak:

“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

“Bil‘am said to the donkey, ‘It’s because you’ve been making a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand; I would kill you on the spot!’”

“The donkey said to Bil‘am, ‘I’m your donkey, right? You’ve ridden me all your life, right? Have I ever treated you like this before?’”

“No,” he admitted.”

“Then Adonai opened Bil‘am’s eyes, so that he could see the angel of Adonai standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, and he bowed his head and fell on his face. The angel of Adonai said to him, ‘Why did you hit your donkey three times like that? I have come out here to bar your way, because you are rushing to oppose me’” (Numbers 22:28-32). 

Balaam learns that only because of the donkey is he alive.  He fears Elohim enough to admit his sin.  He offers to turn around and go home, but the angel tells him to go with the men, but only say what he is told to say.

Balak meets Balaam at the Arnon border at the far end of his country.  He is quite frustrated with Balaam and asks what has taken him so long to arrive. 

“Here, I’ve come to you! But I have no power of my own to say anything. The word that God puts in my mouth is what I will say” (Numbers 22:38).

First Word of Elohim

Balak takes Baalam to the high places of Ba’al so he can see some of the Israelite camp.   He believes if Balaam can actually see Isra’el, he can curse them. Baalam builds seven altars and offers sheep and cattle on the high places of Ba’al.  He seeks the word of Elohim and makes his first pronouncement:

“Balak, the king of Mo’av, brings me from Aram, from the eastern hills, saying, ‘Come, curse Ya‘akov for me; come and denounce Isra’el.’  How am I to curse those whom God has not cursed? How am I to denounce those whom Adonai has not denounced? From the top of the rocks I see them, from the hills I behold them — yes, a people that will dwell alone and not think itself one of the nations. Who has counted the dust of Ya’akov or numbered the ashes of Isra’el? May I die as the righteous die! May my end be like theirs!” (Numbers 23:7-10)

Balak is angry that Balaam has blessed those he was hired to curse. 

Second Word of Elohim

Balak takes Balaam through the field of Tzofim to the top of the Pisgah Range so Baalam can see a “some of the Israelites, but not all of them.”   Tzofim means ‘watchers’ in Hebrew and what the fallen angels are called in the book of Enoch.   Pisgah means ‘cleft’ in Hebrew, like the ‘cleft of the rock’ where Moshe was hidden by Elohim. Again, Balaam builds seven altars and sacrifices a bull and ram .  He tells Balak to wait by the burnt offerings while he inquires of Elohim.  He makes his second pronouncement:

“Get up, Balak, and listen! Turn your ears to me, son of Tzippor! God is not a human who lies or a mortal who changes his mind. When he says something, he will do it; when he makes a promise, he will fulfill it. Look, I am ordered to bless; when he blesses, I can’t reverse it. No one has seen guilt in Ya’akov, or perceived perversity in Isra’el; Adonai their God is with them and acclaimed as king among them. God, who brought them out of Egypt, gives them the strength of a wild ox; thus one can’t put a spell on Ya’akov, no magic will work against Isra’el. It can now be said of Ya‘akov and Isra’el, What is this that God has done?’Here is a people rising up like a lioness; like a lion he rears himself up — he will not lie down till he eats up the prey and drinks the blood of the slain” (Numbers 23:18-24).

Balak responds that if Balaam won’t curse them, then he certainly shouldn’t bless them!

The first two times Balaam sets out to curse Isra’el, he builds seven altars and sacrifices sheep, cattle, rams and bulls.  These offerings are not done at the command of Elohim.  He is using the sacrifices to divine false gods (or ‘watchers’) to enable him to curse Isra’el, but each time he is disappointed because he can only speak the words of Elohim and bless Isra’el.

Third Word of Elohim

Balak takes Balaam to see the entire Israelite camp where he believes Balaam can curse them.  They go to the top of the mountain of Ba’al P’or overlooking the desert.  This time Balaam does not rely on divination, but “looked out and saw Isra’el encamped tribe by tribe and the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke his message” (Numbers 24:1-2).  He makes his third pronouncement: 

“This is the speech [prophecy] of Bil‘am, son of B’or; the speech of the man whose eyes have been opened; the speech of him who hears God’s words; who sees what Shaddai sees, who has fallen, yet has open eyes: ‘How lovely are your tents, Ya’akov; your encampments, Isra’el! They spread out like valleys, like gardens by the riverside, like succulent aloes planted by Adonai, like cedar trees next to the water. Water will flow from their branches, their seed will have water aplenty. Their king will be higher than Agag and his kingdom lifted high. God, who brought them out of Egypt, gives them the strength of a wild ox. They will devour the nations opposing them, break their bones, pierce them with their arrows. When they lie down they crouch like a lion, or like a lioness — who dares to rouse it? Blessed be all who bless you! Cursed be all who curse you!” (Numbers 24:3-9)

Balak blazes with anger against Balaam.  He strikes his hands together and says, “I summoned you to curse my enemies.  But here, you have done nothing but bless them – three times already!  Now you had better escape to your own place.  I had planned to reward you very well, but now Adonai has deprived you of payment” (Numbers 24:10-11).  Balak did not appreciate that this renowned prophet, who even through divination could not curse his enemies for profit.  He is so angry that he sends Balaam back to his own country.

“May those who bless Isra’el be blessed and those who curse Isra’el be cursed!”  These words came out of the mouth of a diviner from a nation who hated Isra’el. El Shaddai would not allow him to use his ‘prophetic’ gift to curse His chosen people. In fact, the words that Balaam spoke through the Ruach Elohoim have been repeated millions of times over the centuries.  Those nations who curse Isra’el will be cursed, those nations who bless Isra’el will be blessed.

With the Ruach Elohim on him, Balaam lost the ability to speak his own words as El Shaddai spoke through himBalaam’s spiritual eyes were opened to see the ‘tents of Jacob, the dwelling place of Isra’el’ as Yahweh saw them: a garden beside a river, like aloes, and cedars planted by waters.  He didn’t see the barren desert, but the living water of the Ruach Elohim flowing through the camps.  Because Balaam had blessed Isra’el, the blessing came back upon him.

Fourth Word of Elohim

Before Balaam is allowed to return home, El Shaddai has the last word.  He gives Balaam a prophetic vision for the acharit-hayamim [last days],

“This is the speech [prophecy] of Bil‘am, son of B’or; the speech of the man whose eyes have been opened; the speech of him who hears God’s words; who knows what ‘Elyon knows, who sees what Shaddai sees, who has fallen, yet has open eyes: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon — a star will step forth from Ya’akov, a scepter will arise from Isra’el, to crush the corners of Mo’av and destroy all descendants of Shet. His enemies will be his possessions — Edom and Se‘ir, possessions. Isra’el will do valiantly, From Ya‘akov will come someone who will rule, and he will destroy what is left of the city” (Numbers 24:15-19).

Balaam is blessed with a vision of the coming Messiah, the redeemer who is the star from Jacob and the scepter from Isra’el.  The Hebrew word for ‘star’ is kochab and refers to Abraham’s descendants being as numerous as the stars.  The scepter symbolizes the tribe of Judah from which King Messiah will come.  According to the Mishna,  there are two redeemers mentioned in this passage: King David who Balaam sees, but not now who will save Isra’el from her enemies; and King Messiah who Balaam beholds, but not soon who will save Isra’el at the end of time.

The ‘angel of Elohim’ is the same ‘angel of Elohim’ that wrestled with Jacob before his name was changed to Isra’el.  The ‘angel of Elohim’ says Baalam was “rushing to oppose me.”  Balaam was not rushing to oppose an angel, a messenger of Elohim.  In the prophecy, Balaam says, “I behold him.”  In Hebrew, the word is chazah and means ‘perceive with the eyes.’  Baalam had perceived with his eyes,  Yeshua, the commander of Yahweh’s armies blocking his path and holding the sword of His word.

Amalek will eventually be destroyed and Canaan, though feeling confident in its heritage from Cain, will be wasted and taken captive to Assyria near the Tigris River.  Even Assyria and Eber will be destroyed.  Moab will be destroyed by King David (2 Samuel 8:2).

When Balaam was done prophesying, he went home; Balak also went his own way.

The Plague of Abominations

“They yoked themselves to the Baal of P’or and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods…” (Psalm 106:28).

Soon after Baalam’s prophecies, Isra’el began committing sexual sins with Moabite women and eating foods sacrificed to idols.  They sacrificed to Ba’al P’or, a Canaanite god, whose worship involved complete depravity consisting of defecating on the god-idol.   There is one account of  Ba’al P’or referenced in the Talmud when a Jewish man defecated at the idol and then wiped himself on its nose.  Those who worshipped Ba’al P’or considered this action a high act of worship though it was an abomination to Yahweh.

Yahweh’s anger blazed against Isra’el.  So that His anger would be turned away from them, He had Moshe gather the Israelite leaders together and hang them facing east, toward the sun. The judges of Isra’el were put to death along with everyone who had sacrificed to Ba’al P’or.

Yeshua and Pergamum

Revelation 2:2-17

Yeshua refers to himself in his message to Pergamum as the “one who has the sharp double-edged sword.”  The double-edged sword is a description of the Word of Elohim and how it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  When Balaam’s donkey saw the ‘angel of Elohim,’ he held this sword. 

Pergamum was a city in ancient Greece located in Asia Minor some miles inland from the Aegean Sea.  This city had multiple shrines for the worship of Athena, Dionysus and Zeus.  The Great Altar partially remains today on the Acropolis; the other part is in a museum in Germany.

Yeshua knows the Adversaryhas his throne in Pergamum and hates the Word of Elohim and abhors Isra’el.  Pergamum’s battle is with the Adversary and overcoming the twisting of Elohim’s word along with the hatred he spews towards His chosen people.   

The believers in Pergamum are commended for holding onto Yeshua’s name.  One thing Adversary has accomplished over the centuries is to change the Hebrew name of Yeshua into the Greek-English rendering, Jesus.  Using the Jewish Messiah’s name set people free from demons and the worship of other gods,  but it also brought the prospect of death.  This congregation watched a faithful man named Antipas die.  According to wikipedia,  Antipas was burned on a bronze bull-shaped altar that was used for casting out demons worshipped by the Pergamum population.

There were some believers in Pergamum, however, who held to the teachings of Baalam who taught Balak to set a trap for the Israelites.  This trap enticed them to take part in sexual immorality and eat food sacrificed to idols.  Even though Balaam knew he could not curse Isra’el, he knew he could teach Balak how to entice the Israelites into sin. 

When missionaries from western nations take a Jesus who doesn’t keep the Sabbath, doesn’t celebrate the Biblical holy days and indulges in all sorts of unclean foods, they entice Isra’el to sin.  Our family recently received a letter asking us to support a young woman who wanted to go into the mission field in Isra’el.   She needed to raise thousands of dollars to ‘take the love of Jesus’ to the Jewish people. However, she is steeped in anti-semitic doctrines and her message will only entice them to sin and reject the one who holds the double-edged sword.

The double-edged sword of Yeshua’s mouth will make war with those who curse Isra’el. Those who reject the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures and the eternal promises of Elohim to Isra’el curse the Jews for everything from killing Jesus to whatever happens in the stock market. Balak was warned about cursing Isra’el and the nations hostile to Isra’el today should heed that warning.  Isra’el is still Yahweh’s chosen nation, the Land is still His and His Name still resides in the eternal city of Jerusalem.  Those who curse Isra’el will be cursed; those who bless Isra’el will be blessed.   

Believers in Pergamum who overcome the teachings of Baalam and Balak will receive hidden manna.  Manna was kept hidden in a jar in the Ark of the Covenant as a testimony of Yahweh’s physical provision for the Israelites in the wilderness.  This manna is the spiritual nourishment of Elohim’s wordneeded for survival in the Adversary’s world.   In John 6, Yeshua reveals himself to be the ‘hidden manna.’

The overcomer in Pergamum will also receive a white stone with a new name on it.  A white stone was given to the victor of a race.  Believers in Pergamum were running a race, only it became hindered by the sins of sexual immorality and idolatry that need to be overcome in order to receive their reward.  A white stone was also used as a banquet invitation for a special guest.  This white stone with a new name could represent the invitation the overcomer receives to attend the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

Micah 5:6-6:8

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Jude 11

2 Peter 2:1-22

1 Corinthians 8

Midrash Balak: Romans 14

Discuss Romans 14  and its misuse to defend eating ‘unclean’ meat.   Dig deeper to  understand what Sha’ul is really about ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ believers and  food sacrificed to idols in the context of Balak, Baalam, and the message to Pergamum.

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