Regular nibbles from the Bible. . .come for a bite, leave with an appetite

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight. (Psalm 19:14, MSG)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

BALAAM, SAINT OR SINNER? (Numbers 22-25)

Balaam is best remembered for his talking donkey. God gave a donkey a human voice! (I've always been more surprised that Balaam answered when the donkey spoke, as if it didn't surprise him.)

But I can't quite decide how I feel about the man. The king of the Moabites, Balak, called Balaam to pronounce curses on the Israelites.

Nothing strange about that. Israel's kings called in God's prophets, to hear God's word on the subject of their enemies. At times, the prophet didn't say what the king wanted to hear, any more than Balak wanted Balaam to bless Israel four separate times.

Although the Moabites worshipped Baal, it appears that Balaam worshipped Israel's God. He asked for seven whole-burnt-offerings (very levitical of him). He inquired of GOD, not of god, and pronounced the blessing God had for the Israelites.

Balak refused to pay Balaam, since he had failed to deliver.  The man suffered for doing God's will.

Up to this point, Balak sounds like a hero to me. Yes, he was willing to accompany Balak, to accept his money, but in the end, he gave God's message.

Definite hero material.

Then we get all the way to Revelation, where Jesus says to the church at Pergamum, "There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality."

That part of the story is left out of Numbers. Perhaps greedy for the money Balak had promised him, Balaam pulled him aside. "I can't curse the Israelites. God won't let me. But this is what you can do to get them to bring God's anger on them all on their own. . ."  And he outlined his plan for the Moabite women to seduce the Israelite men. It worked brilliantly, and 24,000 people died.

Almost a hero . . . but he failed in the end.

No wonder Joshua and the Israelites killed him when the conquered the promised land.

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