From Eternity Past


Chapter 40—Balaam Tries to Curse Israel

This chapter is based on Numbers 22 to 24.

In preparation for the immediate invasion of Canaan, the Israelites encamped beside the Jordan above its entrance into the Dead Sea, just opposite the plain of Jericho, on the borders of Moab. The Moabites had not been molested by Israel, yet they had watched with troubled forebodings all that had taken place in the surrounding countries. The Amorites, before whom they had been forced to retreat, had been conquered by the Hebrews. The territory the Amorites had wrested from Moab was now in possession of Israel. The hosts of Bashan had yielded before the mysterious power enshrouded in the cloudy pillar, and the giant strongholds were occupied by the Hebrews. EP 309.1

The Moabites dared not risk an attack upon them, but they determined, as Pharaoh had done, to enlist sorcery to counteract the work of God. The people of Moab were closely connected with the Midianites, and Balak, the king of Moab, secured their co-operation against Israel by the message, “Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.” Balaam of Mesopotamia was reported to possess supernatural powers, and his fame had reached Moab. Accordingly, messengers were sent to secure his divinations and enchantments against Israel. EP 309.2

The ambassadors at once set out on their long journey. Upon finding Balaam they delivered the message of their king: “Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure ... I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.” EP 309.3

Balaam was once a prophet of God. But he had apostatized and given himself up to covetousness. When the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and dismiss the ambassadors. But he ventured to dally with temptation and urged the messengers to tarry that night, declaring that he could give no answer till 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 thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.” The bribe of costly gifts excited his covetousness, and while professing obedience to the will of God, he tried to comply with the desires of Balak. EP 310.1

In the night the angel of God came to Balaam with the message, “Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” EP 310.2