Balak
Numbers 22:2-25:9
Micah 5:5-6:8
1 Corinthians 1:20-31

       Balak was no friend to God’s people. He was afraid and hated them. ‘Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites. The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” Numbers 22:2-4a.
     
However, there are two interesting statements in this parsha:
Numbers 23:8-9 ‘How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? For from the top of the rocks I see him, And from the hills I behold him. There! A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations.

Numbers 23:10-11 Who can count the dust of Jacob, or  Or number one fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous,
And let my end be like his!”

    In regards to Numbers 23:9-10, ‘There! A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations’ - it is argued that Israel’s destiny is to be isolated, friendless, hated, abandoned and alone as if antisemitism were somehow written into the script of history. It is not. None of the Prophets said so. To the contrary, they believed that the nations of the world would eventually recognize Israel’s God and come to worship Him in the Temple in Jerusalem. 
     We see this in Zechariah 8:23 when the prophet foresees the day when: “ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jewish man by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” This is of course a prophesy of the Messiah and the 10 men represent the descendants of the Northern Ten Tribes that were dispersed.  Zechariah 14:16 ‘And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.’
       We also see this in Ruth 1:16, ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’
     There are nations with many religions just like there are different religions governing many nations: Christianity and Islam are obvious examples. Only in the case of Israel is there a one-to-one correlation between religion and nationhood. It is the Torah of God that connects the people with God directly. It is essentially governed by Him. Balaam was right. God’s people really are unique.
     What makes God’s people “a nation dwelling alone, not reckoned among the nations,” is that their nationhood is not a matter of geography, politics or ethnicity. It is a matter of being in God’s covenant, being an example of a nation among the nations made distinctive by its faith and way of life. When we walk in the ways of Elohim, we too become a nation not reckoned among the nations.
     The other statement reminds the nations how great the people of God were and how great they are. ‘Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel?’ Numbers 23:10. 
   
Are we great and strong when we stand alone? No, we are not when we stray from the righteous word of Adonai. That’s exactly what the people did. They were like pawns, wandering to and fro.  Having failed to curse them, Balaam eventually devised a plan that worked. He suggested that Moabite women seduce Israelite men and then invite them to take part in their idolatrous worship. 24,000 people died in the subsequent plague that struck the people, Numbers 25 and Numbers 31:16.
     And yet, God’s protection over His people and His complete truth are the witnesses to proof of His steadfast love.  In Numbers 23 God gives a message to Balaam to give to Balak; ‘The Lord met with Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”  So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the Moabite officials. Balak asked him, “What did the Lord say?”
18 Then he spoke his message:
“Arise, Balak, and listen;
    hear me, son of Zippor.
19 God is not human, that He should lie,
    not a human being, that He should change His mind.
Does He speak and then not act?
    Does He promise and not fulfill?
20 I have received a command to bless;
    He has blessed, and I cannot change it.’ Numbers 23:16-20.
Hebrews 6:18
 ‘So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
Titus 1:2 ‘In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began…’
Malachi 3:6 ‘For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.’
John 4:24 ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Isaiah 55:11 ‘So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’
      When we don’t stand with and for the entire word of Adonai, we live in confusion.  We travel to and fro in muddy waters, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. We waffle.
1 Chronicles 16:11 ‘Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!’
Ephesians 6:10 ‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.’
1 Corinthians 16:13  ’Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.’
Ephesians 3:20-21 ‘Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’
Deuteronomy 31:6 ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Proverbs 18:10 ‘The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.’

Balak
Numbers 22:2-25:9
HafTorah Micah 5:6-6:8
Brit Chadasha 1 Corinthians 1:20-31

A Nation of People That Dwell Alone…

Numbers 23:8-9
Complete Jewish Bible
“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.”

 

NKJVersion
“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?
And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
For from the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him;
There! A people dwelling alone,
Not reckoning itself among the nations.”

 

Stone Edition Tanakh
“How can I curse? God has not cursed. How can I anger? God is not angry. For from its origins, I see it rock-like and from hills do I see it. Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations,”

     What a profound statement made by the pagan prophet Bilaam. To not think itself one of the nations, to not reckon among the nations, to dwell alone and in solitude – Israel was set apart, even Bilaam saw it. 
      God’s people were to be outsiders, different, distinctive, a people who swam against the tide and challenged the idols of the age. Largely, God’s people, Judah remained Judah and refused to assimilate to the dominant culture or convert to the dominant faith.
     R. Sacks mentions: “They suffered as a result – but what they taught was not for themselves alone. They showed that a nation does not need to be powerful or large to win God’s favor. They showed that a nation can lose everything else – land, power, rights, a home – and yet still not lose hope. They showed that God is not necessarily on the side of great empires or big battalions. They showed that a nation can be hated, persecuted, reviled, and yet still be loved by God. They showed that to every law of history there is an exception and what the majority believes at any given moment is not necessarily true.”
       Without the completeness of the Brit Chadasha, this is where this excellent commentary stops.
     Israel is a complicated entity which includes the land, the people, the Torah, The God of Israel, and God’s people in the Diaspora, which are the people of God’s covenants. We are a people that will not assimilate. We must remain a people that will not assimilate.
      Joshua 23:6-8 “Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.”
      Yeshua narrows the path on which we walk - to be people of the covenant that does not reckon itself with the ‘nations’.
     Romans 12:2 ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

     1 Peter 2:9 'But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’
    
  John 17:15-18 'I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As you sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.’
  
   John 15:19 'If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.’
  
  Ephesians 2:10 'For we are his workmanship, created in Messiah for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’
     2 Corinthians 6:14-18 ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Messiah with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’
     Leviticus 20:26 ‘You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.’
      Remember the teaching of Hebrews 6:15 about Abraham, “And so, after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise.”
     It is through enduring that we gain strength to keep enduring. What did he endure?  Keeping himself separate from the nations while he lived among the nations. Living in the Diaspora presents many obstacles that we have to maneuver around, to honor His Shabbat, His foods, His holy days. We are surrounded by Sunday, Easter, pagan idols and the most major holiday – Christmas. It takes endurance to keep oneself away and separate from life in the nations that so easily creep into our world. We live in this world, but we are not of this world.
   


 

בָּלָק
Balak / Destroyer
Numbers 22:2-25:9
HafTorah Portion Micah 5:6-6:8
Brit Chadasha Romans 11:25-32

     “In the path that man wishes to follow, he is led.” Chesbon HaNefesh.
     This parsha opens with Balak, the king Moab realizing the strength of the Israelites. Numbers 22:3 states: ‘…and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites….This horde is going to lick up everything around us as an ox licks up the grass of the field.’
    In Numbers 22:6 Balak sends men to Balaam with a message to ‘come and put a curse on these people because they are too powerful for me’ an apparently effective military strategy of the ancient world. Balaam tells the messengers to spend the night and he will return with the answer that God will give him.
     This is where the test for Balaam begins.  In Numbers 22:9 God asks Balaam who these men were.  That seems so ironic as surely God knew, the question was for Balaam.  Balaam tells the messengers he cannot go for the Lord has refused to let him go.  Balak sends a greater caravan with princes and a promise for a reward if he will just come and curse the people.  This is the beginning of the failure of Balaam.
    Balaam feigns righteousness as he answers the princes ‘that even if Balak gave me his palace filled with gold, I could not do anything.’  That should have been the end of the conversation, as God had already told me not to go and curse the Israelites. Yet, Balaam tells the messengers to spend the night and he will find out what God will tell him to do.  God had already told him that, however, Balaam’s true character is being revealed.
     In Numbers 22:36 Balak goes to meet Balaam at the border of his territory and complains ‘Why didn’t you come to me?’ (22:37). This is evident of Balak’s impatience as Balaam had already arrived.   Balak sacrifices cattle and sheep, giving some to Balaam and the princes of Moab. Balaam should have refused the offering of the pagan sacrifice, but he partook.
     God knew the heart of Balaam.  He knew the idols of his heart. God didn’t need Balaam, nor did He wonder who the men were at the first encounter. God allowed Balaam to enter into this drama to show the nations that He is always in control, even thru people.
    Are we allowing God to rule our lives or are we pretending to make our own paths. Are we someone’s pawn? Or are we God’s servant.
      Romans 16:18  ‘Such people are not serving Yeshua our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.’
      Peter 2:1 ‘But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.’
      Luke 16:15 ‘He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.’
     Galatians 1:10  ‘For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Messiah.’

     Balak, the king of Moab was following and continued to follow his own practices, his own path. Numbers 24:25 ‘Then Balaam got up and returned home and Balak went his own way.’    But prior to these two departing from each other, Balaam offers the fourth blessing from Adonai.  Which is the Messianic promise.  Is it so strange that God would use this prophet for a Messianic promise.
Numbers 24:17-19
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult.
18 “And Edom shall be a possession;
Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession,
While Israel does valiantly.
19 Out of Jacob One shall have dominion,
And destroy the remains of the city.”
     There are many questions about the story of Balak and Balam and the would-be curses that turned into blessings. Was Balaam a true man of God, or was he a fraud, a magician, a sorcerer, a practitioner of dark arts? Did he really have powers to curse?  It is interesting that the entire episode occurred away from the Israelites. No one from their side, not even Moses, was there to witness it. The only witnesses were Balak, Balaam, and some Moabite princes. Would the Israelites have engaged in immorality and idol worship with the Moabite woman had they know how evil the Moabites were?  
      In Joshua 24:9-10, when Joshua came to renew the covenant, gave a summary of Israelite history, singling out this event for attention: “When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.”
     The prophet Micah, said in the name of God, “My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered  “He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:5
    
 Ezra and Nehemiah after the Babylonian exile, Nehemiah had the Torah read to the people, reminding them that an Ammonite or Moabite may not enter “the assembly of the Lord” because “they did not meet the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.” Nehemiah 13:2.
    The answer may be in the final oracle of Balaam – The Messianic Promise.

 


 

בָּלָק
Balak / Destroyer
Numbers 22:2-25:9

 

     The Torah portion Balak opens with dread and fear. In Numbers 22 it states that Balak saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites and that Moab was ‘exceedingly afraid’ and ‘sick with dread’ continuing with their self-imposed fear, they speak: that the Israelites will consume everything as ‘an ox licks up the grass…’ So Balak, consumed by the influence of fear and dread sends a message to Balaam to - ‘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 22:6.
     This parsha continues with God questioning Balaam and then commanding: ‘You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” Numbers 22:12.
     Balak assumed that the power was within Balaam himself. However, when God told Abraham, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse,’ we understand that the fate of Moab was already doomed for the one who tries to curse Israel will himself be cursed.
    God commanded Balaam not to go as in: 'do not be influenced by this evil of cursing My people.' At first Balaam seems to obey, however Balaam starts requiring a different answer from God, hoping that God will change His mind, and then he leaves anyway. The famous story of the donkey ensues, and Balaam continues with the journey regarding his ‘way’.   He did not obey the ‘no’ of God, for he assumed he heard a yes because that is what he wanted to hear. As the sages of the midrash put it: “Man is led down the path he chooses to tread.” 
     God was not going to let Balaam proceed as if he had Divine Words.  Instead God shows the most amazing example of the difference between a true and false prophet. The false prophet speaks of his own words. The true prophet speaks of God’s Words. The false prophet tells people what they want to hear. The true prophet tells them what they need to hear. The false prophet believes in his own powers. The true prophet knows that he has no power, for God has and is the power. A false prophet does not live by the words of the Torah where as a true prophet will be in and living in The Torah of God.  Deuteronomy 18:15-22.
     Both Balak and Balaam considered themselves mighty men and were consumed with false images of themselves, totally lacking any humility. Regarding the midrash: ‘Man is led down the path he chooses to tread’, influences will direct our paths. Is our influence that of Yeshua and Torah? Or are the influences that we succumb to that of arrogance and pride of our ego?
1 Corinthians 15:33 ‘Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."
Proverbs 13:20 ‘He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.’
Proverbs 14:7 ‘Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.’
Psalm 26:4-5 ‘I do not sit with deceitful men, nor will I go with pretenders. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.’
Psalm 1:1-4 ‘How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.’
     2 Peter 2:15 speaks of false prophets; ‘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; 16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.’
      Balak was resorting to cursing the people of Israel, calling upon the prophet Balaam. Balaam was shown directly and indirectly by God to not follow the path of Balak, and yet he still ‘directed his own way’.
Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ‘“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.’
   In Numbers 24 God revisits the people of Israel through the human voice of Balaam.  Did God need Balaam to bless His people? No, of course not. This was the show of strength and absolute Divine Word coming from The Lord Himself; the words of blessings towards His people and the words of doom towards Balaak all spoken by Balaam, the very man Balak wanted to hire to curse the Israelites.
     Numbers 24:1-9 ‘And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
Then he took up his oracle and said:
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob!
Your dwellings, O Israel!
Like valleys that stretch out,
Like gardens by the riverside,
Like aloes planted by the Lord,
Like cedars beside the waters.
He shall pour water from his buckets,
And his seed shall be in many waters.
“His king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
“God brings him out of Egypt;
He has strength like a wild ox;
He shall consume the nations, his enemies;
He shall break their bones
And pierce them with his arrows.
‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’
“Blessed is he who blesses you,
And cursed is he who curses you.”
       And in Numbers 24:15-17 the Messianic prophecy and the doom of God’s enemies.
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened;
16 The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
And has the knowledge of the Most High,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
17 “I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult.’
    Balaam dies by the sword as told in Joshua 13:22.

May you be blessed as you study Balaak ~ Rabbi Jay Howard