Israel is in her 40th year of wandering in the wilderness and has finally moved into the plains of Moab (Numbers 21) with the intention of conquering the people who are inhabiting Canaan, the land that was promised to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). When Balak, Moab’s king, heard about Israel conquering the Amorites (Numbers 21:21-31) he became fearful that his people and land would also be destroyed (22:2-4) so he sent for Balaam, a pagan prophet, and offered him money to pronounce a curse on Israel (22:5-7). Balaam’s journey to meet Balak was halted by a bizarre encounter between his donkey and the Angel of the Lord. The Angel permitted Balaam to continue on his journey to meet Balak, but he commanded him to only speak the words that He gave him (22:35).
After Balaam arrived in Moab to meet Balak, both of them went to the “high places of Baal,” which is the place where pagan sacrifices and sorcery were often practiced (22:41). Balak’s ultimate goal in bringing Balaam to the high place was so that he could pronounce a curse on Israel in order to prevent them from conquering his people and land. Upon their arrival at the high place, Balaam commanded Balak to offer sacrifices while he went to a desolate place to hear from the Lord (23:1-3). Balaam would receive four separate prophecies directly from the Lord to give to Balak: Numbers 23:4-12, Numbers 23:13-26, Numbers 23:27-24:14, and Numbers 24:15-25. Balaam’s first prophecy (Numbers 23:4-12) revealed that the Lord would not curse Israel, whom He had prospered. Balak was angered by the words of Balaam and said, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!” (23:11). Balaam responded to Balak by simply declaring that he was only speaking the words God had given to him (23:12). Balak made another attempt to get Balaam to curse Israel (23:13-18), which resulted in Balaam’s second prophecy (Numbers 23:13-26). This prophecy of Balaam stated that even though Israel had repeatedly sinned against Him (23:21), God was determined to bless them and give the nation of Israel victory over all of their enemies (23:18-24). After hearing this second prophecy, Balak asked Balaam to neither bless nor curse Israel (23:25), but Balaam admitted that he could only do what God told him to do (23:26). Balak pleaded with Balaam a third time to curse Israel (23:27-30); however, Balaam finally realized that it was in God’s plan to bless Israel (24:1). ”And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him” (24:2), which brought about Balaam’s third prophecy (Numbers 23:27-24:14). It was at this point that Balaam finally understood the truth of God and gave testimony to His eyes being opened by the Spirit of God regarding Israel (24:3-7). Furthermore, Balaam also declared God’s plan in delivering Israel from bondage and eventually giving her a Messiah, who would bring blessing upon the world (24:8-9). The third blessing on Israel greatly aroused Balak’s anger against Balaam, but the prophet answered that he was only speaking the words of God (24:10-13). Balaam then told Balak that he was going to reveal what would happen to his people in the future, which is Balaam’s fourth prophecy (Numbers 24:15-25). In this final prophecy to Balak, Balaam predicts the coming of Israel’s king, whom he refers to as “a Star out of Jacob” and a “Scepter” who will rise out of Israel (24:17a). This future king of Israel will destroy Moab and be victorious over Edom (24:17b-19). Balaam also prophesies that Amalek will perish (24:20), the Kenites will be taken captive by the Assyrians (24:21-22), and ships from Cyprus would afflict Asshur and Eber (24:23-24). After speaking these four prophecies, Balaam returned home and Balak also went on his way (24:25). This is an amazing story of how God used a pagan prophet to declare good on Israel, even when others wished evil upon them. Balaam simply spoke the words of God and revealed God’s future plans for Israel and her coming King.
Dear God, use me to speak on Your behalf. May I only declare the words that You have given me.