Beginning of the End


Balaam Tries to Curse Israel

This chapter is based on Numbers 22 to 24.

Preparing to invade Canaan immediately, the Israelites camped beside the Jordan river above its entrance into the Dead Sea, just across from the plain of Jericho, on the borders of Moab. The Moabites had not been harassed by Israel, yet they had watched with troubled uneasiness everything that had happened in the surrounding countries. The Amorites, who had forced them to retreat, had been conquered by the Hebrews. Israel now possessed the territory the Amorites had taken from Moab. The armies of Bashan had fallen before the mysterious power hidden in the cloudy pillar, and the Hebrews occupied the giant strongholds. BOE 216.1

The Moabites dared not risk launching an attack, but as Pharaoh had done, they determined to use magic to counteract the work of God. The people of Moab had close connections with the Midianites, and Balak, the king of Moab, gained their cooperation against Israel by the message, “Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” Balaam of Mesopotamia had a reputation of having supernatural powers, and his fame had reached Moab. So messengers were sent to get him to use his divinations and enchantments against Israel. BOE 216.2

The ambassadors set out at once on their long journey. When they found Balaam they delivered the message of their king: “Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth and are settling next to me! Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” BOE 216.3

Balaam was once a prophet of God, but he had backslidden and given himself up to covetousness. When the messengers announced their errand, he knew very well that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and send the ambassadors away. But he took a chance on lingering with temptation and urged the messengers to stay that night, declaring that he could give no answer until he had asked counsel of the Lord. Balaam knew that his curse could not harm Israel, but his pride was flattered by the words, “He whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” The bribe of costly gifts inflamed his covetousness, and while he professed to obey the will of God, he tried to go along with the desires of Balak. BOE 216.4

In the night the angel of God came to Balaam with the message, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” BOE 217.1