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Weekly Drash - Balak

Compliments of First Fruits of Zion
reprinted by permission of FFOZ

Balak - בלק : “Balak”
Torah : Numbers 22:2–25:9
Haftarah : Micah 5:6-6:8
Gospel : John 13-14 

Balaam and the LORD

Thought for the Week:

The Holy One, blessed be He, has consideration for the dignity of mankind and, knowing their weakness, He shut the mouth of beasts. For had they been able to speak, it would have been impossible to put them to the service of man or to stand one’s ground against them. For here was this donkey, the most stupid of all beasts, and there was the wisest of all wise men, yet as soon as she opened her mouth he could not stand his ground against her! (Numbers Rabbah 20:14)



Numbers 22: According to rabbinic legend and the Apostolic Scriptures, Balaam was wicked through and through. Though he may seem at times to be a godly and well meaning person—only speaking what the LORD puts into his mouth—we should not allow his fake piety to deceive us. When he set out, he had every intention of cursing Israel, and he did his best to do so. The blessings he spoke over Israel were inadvertent. The LORD placed them in his mouth against his will.

It seems surprising that he speaks to the LORD and not some pagan deity. Balaam’s relationship with the LORD is difficult to understand. How is it that a Mesopotamian diviner knows the LORD?

Balaam was probably a polytheist who regarded the LORD as one god in a pantheon of gods. He may have known the LORD to be the God of Israel, and therefore inquired specifically of the LORD regarding cursing Israel. Had he been hired by Israel to curse the Moabites, he may well have inquired of the god of the Moabites about his prospects for cursing Moab.

The story of Balaam demonstrates that not everyone who calls on the name of the LORD is necessarily a good guy. It is possible to have knowledge about God and even suppose that “God is on my side” and all the while be quite godless. Our history is marred with endless examples of zealous Christians who believed they were doing God a favor by persecuting Israel. Balaam is their forerunner. He talked God talk, but his heart was full of malice and greed.

Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name…” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22–23)

Not only was Balaam familiar with the LORD, but he considered himself to be a premier prophet of God. He refers to himself proudly as “the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty.” (Numbers 24:15–16) Balaam is the model of spiritual pride. He presumes to have God figured out. He supposes that He has a corner on truth and revelation. His donkey knew better. The story of Balaam is further evidence that it is possible to be utterly self-deceived about one’s relationship with God. Balaam is like the patron saint of spiritual pride.

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