Study Notes

Numbers 22:1-24:25

22:1-4 The Moabites

You may remember after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah that Lot escaped along with his two daughters. The women, believing that they were the only people left alive on earth, got their father drunk had children with him. Moab was the first result of this immoral union. The Moabites were the descendants of Moab.

Their king was Baw-LAWK, the son of Tsip-PORE. And when the king saw two or three million Jews camped next door, he was afraid for both their safety and their natural resources.

22:5-6 Balaam

Bil-AWM the son of Beh-ORE, lived near the river at Peth-ORE. Balaam was a prophet, according to the apostle Peter. Balaam knew God, and God would speak to him. Apparently, it was well known that he could bless and curse in the name of God, and the things he said would come to pass.

King Baw-LAWK sends messengers to Balaam saying, "Come and curse these Israelites for me"

22:7-13 Off To A Good Start

It seems Balaam is off to a good start. He could have said, "show me the cash, and I'll utter the curse." But instead, he immediately seeks the Lord before making any decision.

Unfortunately, in spite of this victory, Balaam is going to yield to temptation. He is mentioned only three times in the New Testament: each as an example of apostasy. For example, in Jude:

Jude 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

The way of Balaam; the error of Balaam, and the teaching of Balaam. All terribly negative inferences to a man that at this point seems to be off to a good start.

22:14-19 A Second Request

This time, the messengers were more numerous and more distinguished. The reward was larger, the temptation greater. Notice that Balaam said,

Num. 22:18 ..."Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God.

Although what he says sounds good, you can tell by his words that now he's thinking about it. He's letting his mind wander to the possibility of great riches.

And that's where he made his first mistake. James tells us

James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Sin starts in your mind, when you deal with a temptation by thinking about it, pondering it, mulling it over, instead of taking your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

Balaam, although God had already given him an answer, says,

Num. 22:19 "...I will find out what else the LORD will speak to me."

Wrong choice. When God gives you an answer, the matter is established.

22:20-22 Permissive Will?

God is angry at Balaam over his lust for riches. He says, "Fine, Balaam, go. But don't you dare curse the Israelites." Many people would call this God's permissive will. We have come to accept the idea that God has a perfect will and a permissive will.

The idea of God's perfect will comes from Romans 12, which says,

Rom. 12:1-2 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, {which is} your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

People have latched onto that, saying that God has a perfect will. Now, this is simply saying that God's will is perfect - it is good, it is acceptable. But the inference people get is that God also has an imperfect will. If this were the case, He would have an acceptable will and an unacceptable will. He has a good will and a bad will.

What we call God's permissive will is not God's will at all. It is us in sin. It is us being stubborn children demanding our own way. And God will allow us to go down this path, but we shouldn't pass our sin off on God as some sort of permissive will. Of course, these things have all been in His plan - our sin doesn't take Him by surprise. But when we're not in God's perfect will, we're not in His will at all. And right now, Balaam is not in God's will.

22:23-30 The Prophet And The Donkey

The donkey saw the angel of the Lord with sword in hand, waiting to kill Balaam. She tried to avoid the angel, but Balaam beat his donkey for leaving the path and going into the field. Then he beat her again for smashing his foot into the wall. The third time, he beat her for laying down underneath him. All she was doing was trying to save his life, and he's beating her for it.

So the Lord opens the mouth of the donkey to speak. Balaam is so angry, he doesn't seem to be surprised by the words coming out of the donkey's mouth.

22:31-35 Eyes Opened

Balaam sees the angel of the Lord and prostrates himself. He offers to go back, but the angel tells him,

Num. 22:35 ..."Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I shall tell you."...

Now why wasn't Balaam told to turn around and go back home? Very often our flesh leads us into situations in which there is no turning back, and the only thing we can do is try and be godly and obedient from this place. Christians find themselves in prison. Their flesh brought them there, and there's no turning back. Their obligation in Christ is to live righteously at that point. Your flesh brings you and your spouse into a heated argument in which hurtful things have been said. There's no taking them back - you can only live righteously from that point on. A fleshly decision brings you to a place where you've bought something you shouldn't have, or committed yourself to something you shouldn't have. There's no turning back - you can only walk righteously from that point on.

It was too late for Balaam to turn back, but the angel told him, "You had better walk in godliness from this point on."

22:36-38 The Word That God Puts In My Mouth

It seems like Balaam's on the right track again. He says, "Hey, I can't say anything unless the Lord tells me to."

22:39-41 Sacrifices

Balaam accompanies Balak to Keer-YATH Khoots-OHT. Balak offers up sacrifices, presumably to his god BAH-al, and encourages Balaam to offer sacrifices to his own God.

The next day, Balaam is brought up to the high places of BAH-al. The false gods were often worshiped in high places, at the tops of hills. For up there, Balaam would be able to see part of the camp of the Israelites.

23:1-3 A Bare Hill

Balaam goes to a bare hill, one on which the altars of BAH-al had not been erected. He is determined to say and do what the Lord says.

23:4-10 The First Blessing

Balaam says what God tells him to: "God hasn't cursed or denounced Israel. They are a holy people, dwelling apart from others, and aren't going to counted or judged among the nations. I'd love to be blessed like Israel is blessed!"

23:11-24 The Second Blessing

There was another place to see the Israelites from - Balak hopes that with a new perspective, Balaam will have a new curse.

But he says, "God doesn't change his mind like a man does. He's promised to bless, and bless He will. Israel is walking in obedience to their God, and He isn't going to curse them."

23:25-30 A Third Try

Balak figures to try again. A third place to view Israel may yet bring a curse.

24:1-9 The Third Blessing

Balaam knows that God is on Israel's side, so he doesn't even attempt to ask God again. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Balaam, and he began to prophesy.

24:10-11 The Lord Has Held You Back

Balak tells Balaam that he could have been rich, but God has kept him from it. Have you ever been told that or felt that way? "Man, I could have made a killing in business if I hadn't become a Christian." "Do you know how much money you could be making if you weren't so set on being in the ministry?" That's a bad place to be. Jesus said,

Mark 8:36-37 "...What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

So you might have been rich. You might have been famous. But you also might have ended up in hell. Which would you rather have?

24:12-24 Prophecy To Balak

Balaam now speaks prophecy of the future to Balak, saying how the Israelites would conquer all of these nations.

24:25 Epilogue

It would seem that Balaam had victory in the Lord. That after meeting with the Angel of the Lord, he straightened up and did right. But the temptation of those riches that Balak had promised him was more than he was willing to bear. Peter tells us,

2Pet. 2:15-16 forsaking the right way they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the {son} of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but he received a rebuke for his own transgression; {for} a dumb donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.

He loved the wages of unrighteousness, and found a way to get them. Jesus told John in Revelation 2,

Rev. 2:14 'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit {acts of} immorality.

Balaam realized that he could not curse when God hadn't cursed. But he also knew that God would curse unrighteousness. He explained to Balak how he could make the Israelites bring a curse upon themselves. How to put a stumbling block of idolatry and immorality in their path.

As we pick up chapter 25, we will see

Num. 25:1-3 While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel.

There is no better way to bring curses upon your own blessings that to walk in rebellion against God's commandments.

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