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Numbers 21:1-21( Curse this People for Me)

Jun 16, 2019   //   by Charlie Garrett   //   Numbers, Numbers Sermons (written), Old Testament, Old Testament (written), Sermons, Torah, Torah (written), Writings  //  No Comments

Numbers 22:1-21
Curse This People for Me

I am Mesha, son of Chemosh-gad, king of Moab, the Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I have reigned after my father. And I have built this sanctuary for Chemosh in Karchah, a sanctuary of salvation, for he saved me from all aggressors, and made me look upon all mine enemies with contempt. Omri was king of Israel, and oppressed Moab during many days, and Chemosh was angry with his aggressions. His son succeeded him, and he also said, I will oppress Moab. In my days he said, Let us go, and I will see my desire upon him and his house, and Israel said, I shall destroy it for ever. Now Omri took the land of Madeba, and occupied it in his day, and in the days of his son, forty years. And Chemosh had mercy on it in my time. And I built Baal-meon and made therein the ditch, and I built Kiriathaim. And the men of Gad dwelled in the country of Ataroth from ancient times, and the king of Israel fortified Ataroth. I assaulted the wall and captured it, and killed all the warriors of the city for the well-pleasing of Chemosh and Moab, and I removed from it all the spoil, and offered it before Chemosh in Kirjath; and I placed therein the men of Siran, and the men of Mochrath. And Chemosh said to me, Go take Nebo against Israel, and I went in the night and I fought against it from the break of day till noon, and I took it: and I killed in all seven thousand men, but I did not kill the women and maidens, for I devoted them to Ashtar-Chemosh; and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel fortified Jahaz, and occupied it, when he made war against me, and Chemosh drove him out before me, and I took from Moab two hundred men in all, and placed them in Jahaz, and took it to annex it to Dibon. I built Karchah the wall of the forest, and the wall of the Hill. I have built its gates and I have built its towers. I have built the palace of the king, and I made the prisons for the criminals within the wall. And there were no wells in the interior of the wall in Karchah. And I said to all the people, ‘Make you every man a well in his house.’ And I dug the ditch for Karchah with the chosen men of Israel. I built Aroer, and I made the road across the Arnon. I took Beth-Bamoth for it was destroyed. I built Bezer for it was cut down by the armed men of Daybon, for all Daybon was now loyal; and I reigned from Bikran, which I added to my land. And I built Beth-Gamul, and Beth-Diblathaim, and Beth Baal-Meon, and I placed there the poor people of the land. And as to Horonaim, the men of Edom dwelt therein, on the descent from old. And Chemosh said to me, Go down, make war against Horonaim, and take it. And I assaulted it, And I took it, for Chemosh restored it in my days.

That is the text of what is known as the Mesha Stele. It is an inscription by Mesha, king of Moab, who is mentioned in 2 Kings 3:4. The account he writes substantiates several names and places listed in the Bible, and it also shows us something that the Bible reveals concerning the gods of the nations.

Here he speaks of his god Chemosh, and he speaks of Israel’s God, Yehovah. Nations generally had then own god or gods, and at times, one nation would take the gods of another nation as their own. This even happened in Israel, where in 2 Chronicles 25:14, Amaziah defeated the Edomites, captured their gods, set them up, and bowed down to worship them – not the brightest bulb in town.

The point of this is that just because someone claims the Lord is their God, it doesn’t mean that is true. Balaam is a soothsayer and so for him to call on one god or another was what he did. If he could profit off of Yehovah, that was as good as profiting off of any other god of any other nation.

Text Verse: “Nevertheless the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.” Deuteronomy 23:5

As you have seen, Balaam had to be summoned twice before he actually went. Moses says that the Lord wouldn’t listen to Balaam. It is apparent from the verses today that Balaam either didn’t listen or he didn’t heed the Lord’s word either.

His first visit showed that he was obedient, but only partially so. This resulted in a second visit with a better offer. The Lord passively hardened his heart in this. The second visit, where he was allowed to go, left him overjoyed at the prospects which lay ahead.

However, by the end of his time with the king, he will lose his fee–reward altogether, he will become reckless, and he will bring about his own destruction. This won’t be evident for quite a while, but I’m apprising you now so that you will have a better idea of why Balaam is so looked down on from this point and forward, even to the book of Revelation. He is a curious figure, and we will be following him for a while.

The story of Balaam, and what he says and does, are a marvelous part of God’s superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Who Are These Men with You? (verses 1-14)

Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab

The last recorded details of Israel’s march toward Canaan brought them into battle with Sihon and Og where they took possession of the land of both kings. Now it says that the children of Israel moved on from there, camping “in the plains of Moab.”

Here is a new word in Scripture, aravah, translated as “plains” because it is in the plural here. It is a steppe, or a desert plain. It comes from the verb arav, meaning to become evening, or grow dark. In this, it signifies a wilderness area. The word is often prefixed by an article, and thus it speaks of a specific desert often called “the Aravah.”

In Psalm 68:4, the word is used when referring to where the Lord rides, and so some translations will say “clouds,” or “heavens,” which is how the NKJV translates it –

“Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
By His name Yah,
And rejoice before Him.” Psalm 68:4

Here in Numbers, it is simply referring to the wilderness of Moab.

1 (con’t) on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho.

Where they are now is right at the doorstep of Canaan. As it says, me’eber l’yarden yerekho, or “on the side of Jordan Jericho.” The Jordan is the dividing line. When they cross over that, they will be in Canaan, the land of Promise. The name “Jordan” signifies “Descender.”

It is given this name because it goes from the high mountains all the way down into the Dead Sea. However, when the Jordan is used in typology, it signifies the advent of the Lord. He is the Descender who has come from the heights of heaven and descended even to the pit of death in order to redeem man.

As Israel is on one side of the Jordan, it signifies they are on one side of Christ’s advent. It is anticipatory of them crossing over and into what is Promised by going through Christ. This is the typology to remember as we advance towards the book of Joshua when that actually occurs.

Where they are is at the Jordan, across from Jericho. Jericho is introduced into Scripture now. It will become common in the OT from here, and it will also be referred to in the NT synoptic gospels and Hebrews.

The name Jericho is based on one of two roots, yareakh, or “moon,” or ruakh, meaning “smell.” The first would indicate “City of the Moon,” or the other would be “Place of Fragrance.” In fact, the similarity in the roots probably means that there is an understood duality in the name where both meanings equally apply.

The exact travel to where they are, and the spread of their encampment, is recorded in Numbers 33:48, 49 –

“They departed from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho. 49 They camped by the Jordan, from Beth Jesimoth as far as the Abel Acacia Grove in the plains of Moab.”

Thus, they are on the east of the Jordan in the plains of Moab. But, this is land that was taken in battle from Moab and which Israel then took from the hand of those who took it from Moab.

Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.

Here Balak the son of Zippor is introduced. The name Balaq comes from the verb balaq which signifies “waste.” In this, the name means something akin to Devastator, Empty, or Wasting. Zippor comes from tsippor, a little bird. It is the same root as the name of Moses’ wife Zipporah.

It may be, then, that this person, though being in Moab, is a Midianite, bearing a name similar to other Midianites, named after birds and animals. He saw what Israel did to the Amorites, and he is fearful of encountering them himself. Therefore…

And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many,

Here the word gur is used to describe the people. It means to sojourn or dwell among others. In this, you get the sense of people huddling together in fear because of the multitudes of Israel. This is then expanded on with…

(con’t) and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel.

Here the word quts, or dread, is used. It is the same word used to describe how the Egyptians felt at the expansion of Israel right at the beginning of the book of Exodus –

“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel.” Exodus 1:12

The translation, “because of the children of Israel,” gets the meaning across, but it lacks the substance of the Hebrew. The word is mi’peneh, “from the face.” And so it more literally reads, “and Moab was sick with dread from the face (meaning the presence) of the children of Israel. It is as if the collective whole, made up of a great multitude, is staring at them in the face, and they shrink back, cowering together in fear.

In what is an interesting parallel, the first time mi’peneh was used in the Bible was in Genesis 3:8 where it said –

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

There Adam and Eve who were “from Father,” having been created by God, hid in fear from the presence of the Lord. Now, Moab, or “from Father,” shrinks back in fear from the presence of Israel.

So Moab said to the elders of Midian,

This is a possible indication that Balak is not a hereditary king of Moab, but is rather a king such as Herod was over Judah. Herod was an Idumean and Balak appears to be a Midianite. Midian means, “Place of Judgment.” Midian was descended from Abraham through his wife Keturah, and so they are actually more closely related to Israel than the Moabites.

The term “elders” is a word which indicates being old. It comes from a word meaning a beard. And so it is someone who is known for his beard, and thus an elder. If the same people, these men are called the “five kings of Midian” in Numbers 31.

(con’t) “Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”

The word used, qahal, speaks of Israel not as a group of individuals, but as an organized whole. It is one mass of people who are now likened to an immense ox which consumes so much that nothing is left when he is finished.

Here is a new word, lakhak, or lick. It is used twice here, and it will be seen just four more times in the Bible.

(con’t) And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.

As the Moabites came to the elders of Midian, it would appear that they are under the kingship of Midian, with Balak as the head. It could be the other way around, but this is the more likely scenario. Whichever way, he now takes action…

Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor,

The name Bil’am is a bit hard to pin down, but it may mean “Destroyer of the People,” or “Confuser of the People,” or “Swallowing up the People.” Regardless, in each, there is something negative which occurs with the people. There is a connection of this name directly to the Nicolaitans who are found in Revelation 2:14-16

“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”

Nicolaitan comes from two words signifying “victory,” as in conquering, and “people.” Thus, “Destroyer of the People” seems to be the intent of both, one Hebrew and one Greek. This is seen in Revelation elsewhere such as Abaddon & Apollyon, and Satan & Devil.

These Nicolaitans are equated to Balaam because they tried to trip Christians up by committing sexual immorality, just as Balaam did to Israel in Numbers 31. However, Balaam is also equated by both Peter and Jude as one who followed after profit –

“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.” 2 Peter 2:15, 16

“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” Jude -11

Balaam here is called to be a destroyer of the people through a curse. That will fail. Later he will be used in an attempt to destroy the people through interbreeding and sexual immorality. The name fits the character.

His father’s name, Beor, comes from baar, “a burning.” And so it means someone like “Burning,” as in a lamp. Pethor means, “Interpreter,” as in one who interprets dreams or visions. The names seem to indicate that his father was also a diviner and the place where they dwell is known for divination.

(con’t) which is near the River

The River is the Euphrates. Here and in other places, it is simply called ha’nahar, or “the River,” due to its eminency. That this is speaking of the Euphrates is confirmed by Deuteronomy 23:4. However, the next clause may also confirm this…

(con’t) in the land of the sons of his people,

Here it says, eretz bene ammo, “land sons of his people.” However, a good number of Hebrew and other manuscripts all say eretz bene ammon, or “land sons of Ammon.” That would be in accord with Deuteronomy 23. Either way, “the River” means “Euphrates.”

(con’t) to call him, saying: “Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me!

Here is a phrase seen only three times in the Bible. It doesn’t say, “the face of the earth.” Rather, it says, “the eye of the earth.” It was first used in Exodus 10:5 when speaking of the locusts which covered everything. Now, it will be used twice in this chapter in regards to Israel.

Israel is so numerous that it would be as if the “eye” of the land would be darkened by them, just as the eye of the earth in Egypt was completely covered by the locusts. All the white is swallowed up by the masses.

The fact that the same term is used, and that he says these people have come out of Egypt, even though that was forty years earlier, is not to be missed. A direct connection between Israel being redeemed from Egypt, and Israel being led to a land of promise, is being made.

The eye of the earth had been covered to bring forth Israel, and now Israel – who had been brought forth – covers the eye of the earth. The same people, with the same God who established them, is now at his own doorstep. If God is on their side, to him there is only one possible remedy to their plight. He now seeks it…

Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me.

Although the king of Moab believes that a curse upon the people by Balaam would be a satisfactory weapon against Israel, he apparently doesn’t believe that such a curse was powerful enough to work unless he was right there with him.

Today, we may get an email from a person in Australia who wants prayer, and so we pray. Location means nothing when speaking to the omnipresent God. But Balak doesn’t understand, or he doesn’t accept, this premise. And so he summons someone he believes can effectively curse Israel in order to diminish their power, which far exceeded his own…

(con’t) Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land,

In cursing Israel, he would be limiting their power. As each nation had its own gods, apparently he believes that the curse of Balaam was sufficient to weaken the God of Israel. So confident is he in this that he acknowledges it as an almost omnipotent ability…

(con’t) for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

The reputation of Balaam preceded him, and he was renowned for his ability. This is a close comparison to another man in the New Testament who was given the same high regard –

“But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.” Acts 8:9-11

Misplaced trust in the ability of man, regardless as to who he is, inevitably turns out to be a disaster for the one who was at first so confident. Such is the case with Balak now. But onward he goes…

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand, and they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak.

Here it specifically says that elders of both Moab and Midian were members of the summoning party. The two groups are united in purpose and intent against Israel. With them, they bring qesemim, or divinations. The word qesem, or divination, is introduced here. In stating it in the plural, qesemim, it signifies payment for divination. With this diviner’s fee presented, they repeat the words of the king expecting that Balaam would come along without any delay. However…

And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the Lord speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.

The narrative is rather confusing to the reader, and it has been so all along. If Balaam were a true prophet, one would think he would have known Israel to be the chosen people of the Lord and to send the emissaries away immediately.

But, he says specifically that he would relay to them whatever the Lord, meaning Yehovah, spoke to him. Thus, he has a knowledge of the God of Israel. But this doesn’t mean it was any more than a “knowledge of name” knowledge. In Exodus 18:1 it says –

“And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.”

Jethro had a name knowledge, and wanted to increase it to an understanding of who Yehovah was and what He was in relation to Israel. The same is true with Rahab the harlot –

“Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: ‘I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.’” Joshua 2:8-10

It is obvious that the name of Israel’s God went before them, and it had gone as far as Mesopotamia, where Balaam dwelt as well. What appears to be the case is that Balaam sought out whatever god of whatever land he was asked to seek out. Yehovah is the God of Israel, and therefore, to the God of Israel, meaning Yehovah, he will make his petition. In this case, he seeks out Yehovah, not because he knew him, but because he knew of him. In the night, that begins to change…

Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?”

Here it says, v’yabo elohim el bil’am – “and came God to Balaam.” When He comes, it is with a question. It doesn’t mean God is curious. Rather, it is a common way that God introduces Himself when attempting to elicit a cognitive process in the one He is speaking to.

He asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”, when He wanted Elijah to consider his spiritual state. He asked King Hezekiah, through Isaiah, a series of questions concerning his actions towards the Babylonians. This was to get Hezekiah to consider what he had done in his prideful display before them. The same is true here.

It very well may be that Balaam didn’t expect any answer from Him, but it was a pretense to get them to think he was actually able to communicate with the other-world of the gods. It is even possible that he could have grifted them for a higher fee by claiming this was a special case.

Whatever the reality of the situation, the Lord is not inattentive to it. However, in not knowing how Yehovah deals with men, meaning at times in the form of an interrogative, Balaam now assumes that Yehovah is not omniscient. Rather, He needs to be informed concerning the matter.

It is a way of hardening Balaam’s heart without him even realizing it. “Yes, Yehovah is a ‘God’ but He doesn’t know everything. I have to explain to Him the details.” However, in this question by God, Balaam should have immediately realized that the God of Israel was not limited to where Israel was.

Rather, He was with Israel, and yet could extend Himself beyond their location in knowledge of events which concerned them. Emissaries are there, and they are there because of His people, Israel. Due to the question of Elohim, Balaam realizes that Elohim requires a proper answer, which he then provides…

10 So Balaam said to God,

Elohim, or God, is mentioned six times in this chapter. This is the only time the word is prefixed by an article. It says, v’yomer bil’am el ha’elohim – “And said Balaam to the God.” It is a clear indication that the God to whom Balaam spoke is the true God, whether Balaam realizes this or not. This does not make Balaam a true prophet of God. It simply means that he is a diviner who has now had an encounter with the true God.

God revealed Himself to Pharaoh in a dream. He did so to Nebuchadnezzar as well. Both were for the benefit of the people of the Lord, not because they were prophets. The same is true here.

If he had demonic encounters in past divination, he could readily assume that those were also “gods” along with the God he is now speaking to. Regardless as to how he views Yehovah, he answers…

10 (con’t) “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying,

There is an abruptness in the Hebrew. The word “saying” is not in the original. It seems to show that Balaam is caught off guard by being questioned as he is, as if it was actually unexpected.

11 ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth.

Balaam is specific with his words. He says, “the people have come out of Egypt.” The article specifically identifies them. He knows that Yehovah is their God, and so he is directing his words with that in mind. He then repeats that they cover “the eye of the earth.” The connection to the locust plague of Egypt, and the immense size of Israel as an assembly, is repeated back to the Lord. The earth is darkened with them. Because of this Balak had said…

11 (con’t) Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.’”

Here is a word not seen before in Scripture, qavav. It will be seen eight times, all in the account of Balaam being asked to curse Israel from Numbers 22-24. It comes from a root meaning “to scoop out.” Thus, it means to malign someone, stabbing them with words. In essence, the words would scoop out their power and allow them to become overpowered. In this, Israel would be driven out.

12 And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”

God now explains, rather clearly, that there is no point in Balaam going, and so he tells them he is not to go. Balak had said to him, “…he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” But God tells him that they are, in fact, already blessed. His maligning them would mean nothing. But after receiving this information, he fails to convey it to the emissaries…

13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go back to your land, for the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you.”

The words here show us that Balaam is a cunning operator who is looking to profit off of this deal. He knows Israel is blessed, and he knows that his words would be ineffectual against them – he has been told as much. But he never conveys this to his guests.

Instead, he says, that Yehovah has simply not given him permission to go with them. This leaves open the door that he would have gone with them if he had permission. In his words with the Lord, he never asked what he should do, or any relevant question.

Thus, he was not seeking the Lord’s counsel at all. And to tell them what the Lord had said would have ended the matter. Instead, his words don’t just leave open the door for Balak to return with a greater reward, rather, it assures it…

14 And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”

The words God spoke to Balaam were his words. Balaam’s words to the emissaries included the directive of the Lord, but not the substance of His words. Now, the word of the Lord is completely missing. It is man’s word alone which Balak receives, and it has nothing in common with what was conveyed by Yehovah. Because of this, the expected result follows…

Please curse this people with a curse
Bring them to ruin with the words you speak
Bring them down to a lowly state, or even worse
Take away their power and make them weak

They are too powerful for me and I need relief
Curse them so that over them I can prevail
Curse them and bring them to sorrow and grief
Bring them low; no longer the head, but only the tail

I will reward you for your effort, curse them now
In your words, I will gain the victory
Curse them and with woe please them endow
Curse them for they are too powerful for me

II. Rise and Go with Them (verses 15-21)

15 Then Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable than they.

Balak understands that Balaam wasn’t actually unwilling to come, but that in order to do so, he would need to be enticed more than the first time. If not, he would have simply given up on the matter. In sending greater dignitaries, it meant greater honor and prestige for Balaam. It is what any head of state would do in such an instance. The word “honorable” here is kaved. It signifies that which is weighty or heavy. Thus, they are heavy with honor and abounding in dignity.

16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me;

The recorded words are more formal than before. They specifically state the full name of their king, indicating that they are under his authority, and are speaking his exact words. And the words of Balak are firm in their intent. It is a royal invitation, but it is also a royal appeal, and it comes with a royal promise…

17 for I will certainly honor you greatly,

Again, the word kaved is used, kaved akavedkha meod – honoring you, I will honor you greatly. The superlative nature of the words indicates that the weighty nature of the emissaries will be outmatched by the dignities he is to be extended by the king.

17 (con’t) and I will do whatever you say to me. 

It is a word like that spoken by King Ahasuerus to Esther, or that of King Herod to Herodias’ daughter when they promised them up to half their kingdom. What Balaam desired, he would receive.

17 (con’t) Therefore please come, curse this people for me.’”

It is the second time he has used the word qavav, meaning to malign Israel with words. But Balak now reintroduces his supposed piety before the Lord, and dismisses the promised honors as if they were nothing to him…

18 Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.

Balaam reveals where his heart is with these words. He translates the idea of honor into silver and gold, and he fails to say that he has already been told that cursing Israel would be pointless. And then he says Yehovah elohai, “Yehovah my God.” Yehovah is Israel’s God, and so he is, in effect, aligning himself with Israel.

Now that he has done this, and because his curse would be ineffective anyway, he can trust that he will indeed receive a great reward from Balak, and neither he nor Israel will be harmed, but he will be immensely more wealthy when his calling is complete.

If this were not correct, he would have simply ended the talk with what was said to him the first time. But instead, he anticipates either no response from the Lord, or a favorable one. Now that the Lord is his God, how could he be turned down? And so he says…

19 Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”

The fact that he asks them to stay the night again indicates that he really wanted to go with them. If not, he would have simply repeated what he already knew, and he would have then excused them for their journey home, but instead, he anticipates that the Lord will have something new to speak out. This is evident with the words mah yosef, or “what more.”

20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do.”

The word “if” here should be “since.” They have come to call, and so, the Lord will send him on the journey to Moab, but he warns him that what he is instructed to speak, only that is he to speak.

There is no contradiction in now allowing Balaam to go. The prohibition was on cursing Israel, to which not going with the first emissaries was attached. Now, in fact, it is clear that Yehovah wanted all along for Balaam to go and bless Israel, turning what man had designed as man’s curse into what the Lord purposed as His blessing.

It is not correct that Balaam’s curse would become a curse upon Israel, but it is true that the Lord’s blessing through Balaam would be a blessing upon them. This was the Lord’s intent, regardless of the attitude of Balaam. His path is a reckless one, but the Lord’s is one which is set, and it is pre-determined, as we now see…

*21 (fin) So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

It is interesting that this is stated, and then in verse 22, we will see that Balaam is with two of his servants, but then much of the account after that is as if he is all alone in the world with just him and his donkey. This donkey will be seen fourteen times in this chapter, but not again in either Chapter 23 or 24.

Though it is an anxious place for us to stop, in the middle of the chapter, and just before the coming of one of the Bible’s memorable passages, it is good that we stop now. It will 1) instill in us a need to come back next week to continue on, and 2) it will also teach us patience as we wait.

Until then, we shall close with the thought that the Lord’s word is set and we are to live by it, we are to pass it on as we receive it, and we are not to add to it or subtract from it. The reason this is important, is because it tells us of our state before God, and the only way to correct that state. We have a defect in us, and that defect is sin.

Christ Jesus came to correct that, and He did just that, but we must act upon what He did by believing the message and applying it to our lives. We’ll close with that thought and be back here next week, the Lord willing, to continue on with the story of Balaam.

Closing Verse: “Let peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you.
Be master over your brethren,
And let your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
And blessed be those who bless you!” Genesis 27:29

Next Week: Numbers 22:22-41 It didn’t come by divination, through moans or creaks. Rather is came through an animal… (The Donkey Speaks) (44th Numbers Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Curse This People for Me

Then the children of Israel moved
And camped in the plains of Moab, it was there
On the side of the Jordan
Across from Jericho is where

Now Balak the son of Zippor, that was his ancestral rights
Saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites

And Moab was exceedingly afraid
Of the people because they were many, as the record does tell
And Moab was sick with dread
Because of the children of Israel

So Moab said to the elders of Midian
“Now this company will lick up everything around us
———-so says this rhyme
As an ox licks up the grass of the field
And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time

Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor
Which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people
———-so we see
To call him, saying: “Look, a people has come from Egypt
See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me

Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me
For they are too mighty for me, this situation is just the worst
Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them
———-and drive them out of the land
For I know that he whom you bless is blessed
———-and he whom you curse is cursed

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian
Departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand
And they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak
As we now understand

And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight
And I will bring back word to you
As the Lord speaks to me
So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam, so they did do

Then God came to Balaam and said
———-“Who are these men with you?”
So Balaam said to God, as requested to do

“Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab
Has sent to me, saying
‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt
And they cover the face of the earth. Thus he was relaying

Come now, curse them for me, I trust your clout
Perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out

And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them
———-so He to Balaam addressed
You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed

So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak
As he was instructed to do
Go back to your land
For the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you

And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said
“Balaam refuses to come with us. That end is dead

Then Balak again sent princes
———-more numerous and more honorable than they
And they came to Balaam and to him said
“Thus says Balak the son of Zippor:
‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me
———-hurry to me instead

For I will certainly honor you greatly
And I will do whatever you say to me
Therefore please come, curse this people for me
I’m desperately in need of you, can’t you see?

Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak
“Though Balak were to give me his house
———-full of silver and gold
I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God
To do less or more than just as I have been told

Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight
———-won’t you hear my plea?
That I may know what more the Lord will say to me

And God came to Balaam at night
And said to him words sure and true
“If the men come to call you, rise and go with them
But only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do

So Balaam rose in the morning; on this journey he took a stab
Saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab

Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true

We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to you for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

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