בָּלָק
Balak / Destroyer
Numbers 22:2-25:9

 

     The Torah portion Balak opens with dread and fear. In Numbers 22 it states that Balak saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites and that Moab was ‘exceedingly afraid’ and ‘sick with dread’ continuing with their self-imposed fear, they speak: that the Israelites will consume everything as ‘an ox licks up the grass…’ So Balak, consumed by the influence of fear and dread sends a message to Balaam to - ‘therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me…’Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.’ Numbers 22:6.
     This parsha continues with God questioning Balaam and then commanding: ‘You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” Numbers 22:12.
     Balak assumed that the power was within Balaam himself. However, when God told Abraham, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse,’ we understand that the fate of Moab was already doomed for the one who tries to curse Israel will himself be cursed.
    God commanded Balaam not to go as in: 'do not be influenced by this evil of cursing My people.' At first Balaam seems to obey, however Balaam starts requiring a different answer from God, hoping that God will change His mind, and then he leaves anyway. The famous story of the donkey ensues, and Balaam continues with the journey regarding his ‘way’.   He did not obey the ‘no’ of God, for he assumed he heard a yes because that is what he wanted to hear. As the sages of the midrash put it: “Man is led down the path he chooses to tread.” 
     God was not going to let Balaam proceed as if he had Divine Words.  Instead God shows the most amazing example of the difference between a true and false prophet. The false prophet speaks of his own words. The true prophet speaks of God’s Words. The false prophet tells people what they want to hear. The true prophet tells them what they need to hear. The false prophet believes in his own powers. The true prophet knows that he has no power, for God has and is the power. A false prophet does not live by the words of the Torah where as a true prophet will be in and living in The Torah of God.  Deuteronomy 18:15-22.
     Both Balak and Balaam considered themselves mighty men and were consumed with false images of themselves, totally lacking any humility. Regarding the midrash: ‘Man is led down the path he chooses to tread’, influences will direct our paths. Is our influence that of Yeshua and Torah? Or are the influences that we succumb to that of arrogance and pride of our ego?
1 Corinthians 15:33 ‘Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."
Proverbs 13:20 ‘He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.’
Proverbs 14:7 ‘Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.’
Psalm 14:7 ‘Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.’
Psalm 26:4-5 ‘I do not sit with deceitful men, nor will I go with pretenders. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.’
Psalm 1:1-4 ‘How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.’
     2 Peter 2:15 speaks of false prophets; ‘15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.’
      Balak was resorting to cursing the people of Israel, calling upon the prophet Balaam. Balaam was shown directly and indirectly by God to not follow the path of Balak, and yet he still ‘directed his own way’.
Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ‘“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.’
   In Numbers 24 God revisits the people of Israel through the human voice of Balaam.  Did God need Balaam to bless His people? No, of course not. This was the show of strength and absolute Divine Word coming from The Lord Himself; the words of blessings towards His people and the words of doom towards Balaak all spoken by Balaam, the very man Balak wanted to hire to curse the Israelites.
     Numbers 24:1-9 ‘And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
Then he took up his oracle and said:
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob!
Your dwellings, O Israel!
Like valleys that stretch out,
Like gardens by the riverside,
Like aloes planted by the Lord,
Like cedars beside the waters.
He shall pour water from his buckets,
And his seed shall be in many waters.
“His king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
“God brings him out of Egypt;
He has strength like a wild ox;
He shall consume the nations, his enemies;
He shall break their bones
And pierce them with his arrows.
‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’
“Blessed is he who blesses you,
And cursed is he who curses you.”
       And in Numbers 24:15-17 the Messianic prophecy and the doom of God’s enemies.
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened;
16 The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
And has the knowledge of the Most High,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
17 “I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult.’
    Balaam dies by the sword as told in Joshua 13:22.

May you be blessed as you study Balaak ~ Rabbi Jay Howard