Balaam’s Obedience


Numbers 23-24


Question: Balaam who was listed as killed in Numbers 31:8, seems blameless in advice-giving. He did not curse Israel as requested by Balak in Numbers 23-24. So, why kill him? Also, what does Moses mean in Numbers 31:16: Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord?


Answer: Balaam isn’t as blameless as we think. He may have stayed pure in his oracles, but his heart just wasn’t in it. Balaam the man dearly wanted to co-operate with Balak.


What can I compare it to today? Picture a four-year old child. The child is trained to do the father’s will, but has not been trained to react graciously. He wants a bowl of ice cream, and his father refuses permission. He repeats his request in hope that his father misheard him. The father again refuses. A “please”, followed by a lyrical “PLEASE”, and again followed by a round of various permutations of “please.” The father demands silence. For the rest of the day, the child communicates in pantomime. The father gets the message, and soon, so does the son.


It’s not perfect, but work with me.


Numbers 22:1-7 – Balak’s elders approach Balaam.

Numbers 22:8-11 – With obvious interest, Balaam asks God.

Numbers 22:12 – God declines.

Numbers 22:13-14 – Balaam tells the elders, and the elders tell Balak.

Numbers 22:15-17 – Balak sends the elders back, with an offer to increase the fee. (Normal business procedure on Balak’s part)

(While I’m here, how many blameless prophets charge a fee?)


Numbers 22:18 – Balaam tells them price isn’t the issue.

Numbers 22:19 – (This is the beginning of Balaam’s downfall.) Balaam agrees to ask God again.

Now the words Balak speaks are sanitized: “that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.” Is there any doubt that this is code for “I’ll ask Him again”? The Lord said what He said. There wasn’t any more to say.


Numbers 22:20 – God gave Balaam up to the lust of his heart. Numbers 22:22 – God was angry with Balaam even though he was acting with permission.


All this is to show the mind and heart of Balaam as he was technically obeying. The record of Numbers 23 and 24 shows the words of Balaam were obedient. Passages such as Numbers 23:5 suggest that Balaam’s will was set on cursing Israel. But when Balaam opened his mouth, a blessing came out. It was in the same manner that the donkey had spoken. Neither the donkey nor Balaam knew what words would come out when they open their respective mouth. Balaam was no longer in obedience, any more than the child was obeying when the father padlocked the freezer door.


Revelation 2:14 discloses an account not discussed in Numbers: “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.”


Balaam told Balak that a curse was out of the question. But off the record, he told Balak that if he paraded certain types of women before them, the Israelites would cast a curse onto themselves. Either way, Israel was cursed.


Answer: Numbers 31:16, “Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord.”


Numbers 31:15 introduces “all the women” as the topic of Numbers 31:16. “These” in Numbers 31:16 is “these women” – the ones the army let live. Balaam’s advice to “these women” was to seduce the Israelite men – a task they were evidently quite happy to comply with. The men were accountable to God in Numbers 25. Balaam was accountable to God for orchestrating it (Numbers 31:8). And the Midianite women were accountable to God for being so eager to put Balaam’s plan into action (Numbers 31:16).


On the record, Balaam was blameless in action, but not in thought. Only Revelation shows what went on off the record, and the effect it had.


© 2012, On Beyond Sunday School, All Rights Reserved.