Like a fluttering sparrow or a flying swallow, an undeserved curse will not come home to roost. -- Proverbs 26:2, Complete Jewish Bible
Hello, Friends. We have reached the parsha of Balak, one that seems so simple compared to the lessons of other parshas -- this one is named after a man who takes up practically the whole parsha. The man who wanted to curse, but was not able to. Was the parsha showing us a miracle of the mouth, that although a donkey could open his and speak like a man, a man could not utter a curse over his enemy Israel? As the years go by, I see there remain much more in this parsha and this parsha should cause us to be alert, as it focuses not on the blessed Israel, but on those around Israel who have ability to influence natural Israel to go one way or another, and not by a verbal blessing or curse, which in turn influences our own end.
The Proverb above reminds us that Israel does not have to fear man's curses, because they will not settle upon them. In honesty, Israel is cursed by man continuously. It is not, therefore, like Balaam had some sort of real power to state a blessing or a curse that would stand above God's blessing; but now reading the parsha this cycle around, I'm seeing that maybe Balaam really did have a relationship with God, and for that God was trying to save Balaam's life. Remember, Israel is blessed as the chosen lineage of Abraham, and according to the covenant, whoever blesses them is blessed and whoever curses them will be cursed. I currently see that the inability of Balaam isn't so much to prevent Israel from being cursed (because they couldn't be by word, regardless on if he was able to utter the words) so much as it was God trying to prevent Balaam from being cursed for trying to curse and God, thereby, trying to save his life. We see evidence of this before Balaam makes it to Moab --
The angel of HASHEM said to him, "For what reason did you strike your she-donkey these three times? Behold! I went to impede you, for you hastened on a road to oppose me. The she-donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. Had it not turned away from me, I would not even have killed you and let it live!" -- Numbers 22:32, Translated from The Chumash
So in preventing Balaam from moving forward to verbally state curses over Israel, his donkey was a tool being used to save his life. Now one thing about this passage I saw as a pattern were the words, "these three times." These exact words appear again in the parsha.
Balak's anger flared against Balaam and he clapped his hands. Balak said to Balaam, "To curse my enemies did I summon you, and behold! you have continually blessed them these three times! Now, flee to your place. I said I would honor you, but -- behold! HASHEM has withheld you from honor." -- Numbers 24:10
By the 2nd set of the words, "these three times," we see that Balaam has blessed Israel. So the first time those set of words are used it is to prevent Balaam from being cursed and dead, and the 2nd time it is to actually bless him! Bless him? Yes, bless him, because in blessing Israel he is supposed to be blessed. Once again, I'm settling with evidence that Balaam did indeed have a relationship with God, regardless of the opinions we have about the purity of that relationship. The man confesses YHWH to be his God, though he is a diviner and spiritually prostituting himself, and God is talking to him. I venture to say there are many in the church that are already Balaams, mixing the most High with the gods of pagans as evidenced in their rituals, holy days, worship, etc. However, similarities to Balaam do not end there. The fact that we can see God attempts a relationship with Balaam (along with trying to actually save his life and bless him) is to the credit of His tender mercy, and He should be regarded as most kind and longsuffering.
Going back to the blessing of Balaam -- if Balaam blessed Israel, then we know that he should be a blessed man. However, in Numbers 31:8 he is slain with the sword. The man clearly was not blessed, which seems to contradict what should have happened to a man who blessed Israel. Friend, something happened between the third blessing and his slaughter that changed his fate. We do not have to go to the Talmud on this (we didn't), because there are some puzzle pieces in the book of Numbers that help us understand what happened, and how a man who blessed Israel with his mouth actually ended up cursing Israel, and not verbally (which has no merit) but truly cursing Israel.
Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorite. Moab became very frightened of the people, because it was numerous, and Moab was disgusted in all the face of the Children of Israel. Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now the congregation will lick up our entire surroundings. as an ox licks up the greenery of the field." Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the River of the land of the members of his people, to summon him, saying, "Behold! a people has come out of Egypt, behold! it has covered the surface of the earth and it sits opposite of me..." -- Numbers 22:2-5
We see that Balak is king of Moab and he speaks to the elders of Midian and then summons Balaam. I could not find a definite answer on if Balaam was a Midianite, though in another passage I see that he is named with them, and that is the passage that tells what eventually happened to him:
They (Israel) killed the kings of Midian, along with their slain ones: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian' and Balaam son of Beor they slew with the sword. -- Numbers 31:8
Balaam is mentioned in Numbers 22 in a way that seems like he is connected with the people of Midian, and again mentioned this way in Numbers 31. If we then determine that Balaam was coupled with the Midianites, we can understand his fate, because although Moab couldn't verbally curse Israel, Moab and Midian did find a way to curse Israel in our parsha.
Israel settled in the Shittim and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab. They invited the people to the feasts of their gods; the people ate and prostrated themselves to their gods. Israel became attached to Baal-peor, and the wrath of HASHEM flared up against Israel. HASHEM said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of the people. Hang them before HASHEM against the sun -- and the flaring wrath of HASHEM will withdraw from Israel." Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Let each man kill men who were attached to Baal-peor." Behold! a man of the Children of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman near to his brothers in the sight of Moses and in the sight of their entire assembly of the Children of Israel; and they were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. -- Numbers 25:1-6
For a moment I want to think upon the Lord and how He must have felt. I don't recall any part of Scripture that leads me to believe that Israel knew the nations around them in this parsha were trying to curse them at the time and that God was interceding and speaking to Balaam. So then after all He just did for them, they turned around and committed a gross harlotry with the same ones He just humbled for their sake. Many times I think of the battle in the heavenlies God has done for us, and then one His army battles comes up and bats an eyelash and we fail the faithfulness test. I've heard of many people cursing God because they could not pass such a test of their own faith, little did they know what He did for them by that point.
Balaam could not verbally curse Israel (nor would a verbal curse stand), but was a tool to curse Israel in causing Israel to stumble in their faithfulness to YHWH. Balaam's plot brought about the nations' ways of worship into the set-apart camp of Israel, perverting their Covenant with YHWH. Instantly, I'm reminded of the Christian who gets frustrated and doesn't understand why "Jews" won't accept the Messiah. Friend, they will not accept a Messiah that looks like, smells like, and worships like a pagan god dressed in the name "Jesus." You have to realize that "they" have been there -- Israel had long ago been in a position of taking the pagan gods and slapping the identity of YHWH onto them, they worshiped on the days that commemorated the baals and ashtar, and did so even in the temple (I know, blasphemous right? What do we think Easter and Christmas are, but invitation for pagan gods into the house of El?)...and they were severely punished for it. Actually, they were divorced, like an unfaithful spouse who repeatedly invites another into their marriage bed. In the eyes of these, I would say Christianity looks no different. Readers, this is a huge stumbling block to our calling towards those natural branches to come to the Messiah. Balaam was a tool that blessed Israel with his mouth but cursed them. This is likewise how the Christian can curse Israel all the while blessing them with their mouths. Most fittingly, here are some of the New Testament verses that went with this parsha --
...so also Isra'el has been disobedient now, so that by your showing them the same mercy that God has shown you, they too may now receive God's mercy. -- Romans 11:31, CJB
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: you have some people who hold to the teaching of Bi'lam, who taught Balak to set a trap for the people of Isra'el, so that they would eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and commit sexual sin. Likewise, you too have people who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore, turn from these sins. -- Revelation 2:14-16
Indeed, to the church who claims be to be wild and grafted-in branches, repent, and receive blessing.
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