Words in italic type have been added for clarity. They are not found in the original Hebrew or Aramaic.
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The year is 1406 BC and the Hebrews travel from Mount Hor to Mount Nebo. This is the final and 40th year of the children of Israel’s “wandering in the wilderness”.
Aaron died on the first of Av (Approx. July 26, 1406 BC) and is buried on Mt. Hor. It is the fifth month into the Jewish calendar. There are yet another seven months left in the 40th year.
- Numbers 33:38 Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the Lord, and died there in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month.
From Mt. Hor they travel north through Edom and into Moab country.
They were persecuted in Egypt because of their multitudes, and now Balak, king of Moab says their multitudes “cover the earth”. They have camped in Moab’s back yard.
Balak is terrified. The Hebrews have conquered and destroyed the surrounding nations including Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and Og of Bashan, the last giant.
Moab trembles and is in anguish because of them. What is Balak to do?
Balak Sends for Balaam
Numbers 22:1 Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho.
Numbers 22:2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
Amorites came from Canaan who came from Ham while the Ammonites and Moabites came from Lot, the son of Haran, Abraham’s brother. Lot was Abraham’s nephew.
Numbers 22:3 And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel.
- Exo 15:16 Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O LORD, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased.
Numbers 22:4 So Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this company will lick up (consume) everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
Moab met with the leaders to see what could be done.
Numbers 22:5 Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River (The Euphrates) in the land of the sons of his people (Or the people of Amau), 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!
They sent messengers all the way to the Euphrates river in order to retrieve Balaam.
Numbers 22:6 Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. 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.”
Numbers 22:7 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.
Numbers 22:8 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.
Numbers 22:9 Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?”
Numbers 22:10 So Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.’ ”
Balak said “they cover the face of the earth”. The Pharaoh in Egypt feared for their multitudes. This is the number of Hebrews which came out of Egypt and managed to avoid the murderous intentions of the Pharaoh, only due to the invention and miracles of God.
Numbers 22:12 And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
Numbers 22:13 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.”
Numbers 22:14 And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”
They are traveling all the way back to Moab without Balaam.
Numbers 22:15 Then Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable (distinguished) than they.
Now they are making a second trip but Balak is sending messengers of higher prestige to make sure Balaam will come, which means more money.
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; 17 for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.’ ”
Numbers 22:18 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. 19 Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
Balaam wants the money and he wants God to give permission. Fine! God replies, but not one word will come out of your mouth that I do not put into it.
Numbers 22:20 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.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.
Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel
Numbers 22:22 Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.
Why is God angry that he went?
1. His motives and hence his heart was dark.
2. It is similar to Kadesh Barnea, they can go…but God is not happy about it.
Numbers 22:23 Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road.
Who is not on the right path? Balaam, the holy mute (dumb) ass, or the donkey?
Numbers 22:24 Then the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side.
The Angel of the Lord is blocking Balaam’s way, figuratively and literally.
- 2 Peter 2:15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
- Jude 1:11 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.
Numbers 22:25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again.
Numbers 22:26 Then the Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
Numbers 22:27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
Numbers 22:28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”
Numbers 22:29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused (mocked) me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!”
Numbers 22:30 So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed (accustomed) to do this to you?”
And he said, “No.”
Numbers 22:31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face.
Numbers 22:32 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you (as an adversary), because your way is perverse (contrary) before Me.
Numbers 22:33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”
Balaam would have killed the donkey and the angel would have killed Balaam.
Numbers 22:34 And Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it [Lit. is evil in your eyes] displeases You, I will turn back.”
Numbers 22:35 Then the Angel of the Lord (Yᵊhōvâ) said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. Notice! the Angel (from an unused root meaning to dispatch as a deputy) of the Lord (Yᵊhōvâ) said “Only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.”
Review Numbers 22:20 which said it was God who said, “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.”
Therefore; the Angel was dispatched by Yᵊhōvâ.
Numbers 22:36 Now when Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the border at the Arnon, the boundary of the territory.
Numbers 22:37 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not earnestly send to you, calling for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?”
Numbers 22:38 And Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak.”
Numbers 22:39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kirjath Huzoth. 40 Then Balak offered oxen and sheep, and he sent some to Balaam and to the princes who were with him.
Balaam’s First Prophecy
Numbers 22:41 So it was, the next day, that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might observe the extent (the farthest extent) of the people.
As they look out from the highest place, where the idol Baal is established, only then can they see the complete size of the Hebrew multitude.
Let’s figure this out. They are standing beside their great god “Baal” and they ask the prophet of the Hebrew God to fix their Hebrew “problem”??