Parashah 40: Balak
Numbers 22:2 through 25:9
Parashah 40: Balak; Numbers 22:2 through 25:9.
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): Micah 5:6 through 6:8.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): 2 Peter 2:1-22; Jude: 11; Revelation 2:14-15.
Tanach Scriptures are from Stern's Complete Jewish Bible; B'rit Chadasha Scriptures from the AENT.
Welcome "newbies" and "oldies!" As you all know, Torah was written by Moshe (Moses) and consists of the first five Books of the Bible which contain God's original Divine Instructions in Righteousness. Since this is a Netzarim (Nazarene/Messianic) website, we refer to God by His proper Name: Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, transliterated into English as YHWH, and most likely pronounced "Yah-way" (see Exodus 3:13-15). His Son's Name is Y'shua (most likely pronounced "Ye-shoo-ah"). Enjoy this week's Torah portion!
Not too long ago, we saw that those who tried to set up an alternate priesthood other than the Aaronic priesthood established by YHWH (which is what Korach did), were dealt with very harshly. As the last few parashahs unfolded, we saw YHWH clearly paving the way for the Aaronic priesthood to serve Him. In this Torah portion, we will see what happens when someone decides to come against the Israelites by trying to bring curses on them....
Numbers 22 begins with the Israelites being in approximately their 38th or 39th year into the Exodus, with the people of Israel camping in the plains of Mo'av after taking over/destroying many cities in their paths whose leaders had forbidden them to pass through. The people of Mo'av including their king, Balak, were very afraid of the Israelites because YHWH had caused the Israelites to take over/destroy many pagan cities in order to be able to camp on their land. Therefore, King Balak (attempting to take matters into his own hands) sent messengers to Bil'am, a sorcerer/false "prophet for hire" (Jude:11) to put a curse on the Israelites.
A quick note: We know it had been 38 or 39 years by the time we reach this Torah portion, and we know YHWH's people did not move frequently because, with 6 million people to move, it took considerable time to break camp. But, they did move when YHWH moved!
How do we know it had been 38-39 years in the desert by this time in Numbers? Well, in Numbers 15-21 we learn of their travels, but what we have difficulty grasping is that they apparently spent a great number of years in the Kadesh area.
We learn that later in Deuteronomy 1:46-46 "You returned and cried before ADONAI, but ADONAI neither listened to what you said nor paid you any attention. 46 This is why you had to stay in Kadesh as long as you did." The rabbis say the people stayed at Kadesh for as long as 38 of the 40 years! After all, all the original adults, except for Caleb and Joshua had to die off because YHWH was not to allow them to see the Land....
In brief, this Torah portion revealed the following: Bil'am, the sorcerer discovered the hard way that the people of YHWH could not be cursed from without. However, they definitely could bring a curse upon themselves by allowing themselves to be seduced by the carnal and/or sensual temptations of the culture that surrounded them.
The same thing holds true for us today. Just think how many enticing things are thrown into our paths on a daily basis: Sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, credit cards with endless credit limits...the list goes on and on. But YHWH's people are told that, in order to belong to Him, they must be "set apart" - holy. And how can one be holy? By obeying His Torah - as is reiterated time and time again through Scripture! This is confirmed in several places in the Brit Chadasha - for instance:
1 John 2: 3 The way we can be sure we know him is if we are obeying his commands. 4 Anyone who says, "I know him," but isn't obeying his commands is a liar - the truth is not in him. 5 But if someone keeps doing what he says, then truly love for God has been brought to its goal in him. This is how we are sure that we are united with him. 6 A person who claims to be continuing in union with him ought to conduct his life the way he did.
Before we move on, here's an interesting tidbit: Moav (or Moab) means, "Seed of the father" and the Moabites are the descendents of Lot, by incest, from Lot's eldest daughter. According to the Genesis story, the Moabites were related to the Israelites, with both sides tracing their descent back to Terah, who is named as the father of Abraham and Haran, and Haran being the father of Lot (Genesis 19:30-38).
Lot's son Moav is described as being born from an incestuous relationship between Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37) after the destruction of Sodom. The Moabites are described as descendants of Lot's son Moav. References to the religion of Moab are scanty, but most of the Moabites were polytheists like the other early Semites, and the Book of Numbers says that they induced the Israelites to join in their sacrifices.
This is just another example where man (in this case woman), instead of trusting God, took matters into their own hands. Lot's daughters were afraid they would end up living in a cave for the rest of their lives, with no husbands and no offspring. So, they decided to use their own father....
The thing is, in Lot’s time as far as we know, YHWH had not yet prohibited incest (sex between relatives). The prohibition on incest was not mentioned until much later, as the world became more populated (as we see in places like Leviticus 18:8-18 and 20:11-21, and also in Deuteronomy).
But the bottom line was, the offspring of the illicit union between Lot and his daughters amounted to nothing. It was not ordained by YHWH and He didn't bless it - EVER! He has always allow mankind free will, but in the end, it all boils down to obedience to HIS Divine Rules that show us how to live holy, set apart lives.
Let's find out what happened when King Balak sought revenge on YHWH's people:
Numbers 22: 6 Therefore, please come, and curse this people for me, because they are stronger than I am. Maybe I will be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is in fact blessed, and whomever you curse is in fact cursed." 7 The leaders of Mo'av and Midyan left, taking with them the payment for divining, came to Bil'am and spoke to him the words of Balak.
Numbers 22: 9 God came to Bil'am and said, "Who are these men with you?" 10 Bil'am said to God, "Balak the son of Tzippor, king of Mo'av, has sent me this message: 11 'The people who came out of Egypt have spread over the land; now, come and curse them for me; maybe I will be able to fight against them and drive them out.'" 12 God answered Bil'am, "You are not to go with them; you are not to curse the people, because they are blessed." 13 Bil'am got up in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Return to your own land, because ADONAI refuses to give me permission to go with you."
Neither Balak nor Bil'am were "good people" and it is interesting to see how YHWH turned their original plans against them - because no stranger had the power to damage Israel - ever! Only Israel itself could bring misfortune on itself...by doing what? Separating themselves from YHWH and Torah!
True to his human nature, however, Balak refused to back down, and insisted that Bil'am do his bidding:
Numbers 22: 14 The princes of Mo'av got up, returned to Balak and said, "Bil'am refuses to come with us." 15 Balak again sent princes, more of them and of higher status than the first group. 16 They went to Bil'am and said to him, "Here is what Balak the son of Tzippor says: 'Please don't let anything keep you from coming to me. 17 I will reward you very well, and whatever you say to me I will do. So please come, and curse this people for me.'"
But the pagan Bil'am, having personally been granted the ability to hear YHWH's Voice, refused to give in to Balak's demands:
Numbers 22: 18 Bil'am answered the servants of Balak, "Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of ADONAI my God to do anything, great or small. 19 Now, please, you too, stay here tonight; so that I may find out what else ADONAI will say to me." 20 God came to Bil'am during the night and said to him, "If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them; but do only what I tell you." 21 So Bil'am got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Mo'av. 22 But God's anger flared up because he went, and the angel of ADONAI stationed himself on the path to bar his way.
While it seems a bit confusing as to why YHWH's anger flared up when Bil'am clearly obeyed His command to go with the princes of Mo'av, reading "between the lines" (and cross checking with other scripture references such as Jude:11, 2 Peter 2:14-17, and Revelation 2:14) it seems that YHWH was actually angry because he knew Bil'am's heart; because Bil'am was only using his "righteousness" for gain. Let's take a quick look at the scriptures that confirm this:
2 Peter 2: 14. having eyes that are full of adultery and sins that never end; seducing unstable souls; and having a heart exercised in greed; children of cursing: 15. And, having left the correct path, they have wandered and gone in the way of Balaam the son of Beor who loved the wages of iniquity, 16. and who had for the corrector of his transgression a mute mule which, speaking with the speech of men, rebuked the madness of the prophet.
Jude: 11 Woe to them, in that they have walked the road of Kayin, they have given themselves over for money to the error of Bil'am, they have been destroyed in the rebellion of Korach.
Revelation 2: 14. But I have a small matter against you. You have there them who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel that they might eat the sacrifices of idols, and might commit sexual sin.
Now watch what happens next when YHWH enables a donkey to teach Bil'am a lesson:
Numbers 22: 22 He (Bil'am) was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of ADONAI standing on the road, drawn sword in hand; so the donkey turned off the road into the field; and Bil'am had to beat the donkey to get it back on the road. 24 Then the angel of ADONAI stood on the road where it became narrow as it passed among the vineyards and had stone walls on both sides. 25 The donkey saw the angel of ADONAI and pushed up against the wall, crushing Bil'am's foot against the wall. So he beat it again.
26 The angel of ADONAI moved ahead and stood in a place so tight that there was no room to turn either right or left. 27 Again the donkey saw the angel of ADONAI and lay down under Bil'am, which made him so angry that he hit the donkey with his stick. 28 But ADONAI enabled the donkey to speak, and it said to Bil'am, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" 29 Bil'am said to the donkey, "It's because you've been making a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand; I would kill you on the spot!" 30 The donkey said to Bil'am, "I'm your donkey, right? You've ridden me all your life, right? Have I ever treated you like this before?" "No," he admitted.
31 Then ADONAI opened Bil'am's eyes, so that he could see the angel of ADONAI standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, and he bowed his head and fell on his face. 32 The angel of ADONAI said to him, "Why did you hit your donkey three times like that? I have come out here to bar your way, because you are rushing to oppose me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside these three times; and indeed, if she hadn't turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and saved it alive!" 34 Bil'am said to the angel of ADONAI, "I have sinned. I didn't know that you were standing on the road to block me. Now, therefore, if what I am doing displeases you, I will go back."
Please note in verse 31 above, that Bil'am fell on his face. He did not "fall backwards" as many do in churches whenever they are bopped in the forehead by their pastor for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit. Throughout Scripture we see people falling forward in a prone position....
35 But the angel of ADONAI said to Bil'am, "No, go on with the men; but you are to say only what I tell you to say." So Bil'am went along with the princes of Balak. 36 When Balak heard that Bil'am had come, he went out to meet him in the city of Mo'av at the Arnon border, in the farthest reaches of the territory. 37 Balak said to Bil'am, "I sent more than once to summon you! Why didn't you come to me? Did you think I couldn't pay you enough?" 38 Bil'am replied to Balak, "Here, I've come to you! But I have no power of my own to say anything. The word that God puts in my mouth is what I will say."
As an aside, have you ever wondered why Balak ordered 7 altars to be set up? The 7 day week was kept throughout most of the Middle East, including Moab (Egypt was an exception). There are pagan rites associated with the number 7 and the number 3.
Balak was NOT doing sacrifices to HIS gods, but to YHWH. He would have heard about how these numbers were also sacred to the Hebrew and would have been a way to get YHWH to change His mind...Ironic given the fact in that same chapter we are told He does NOT change His mind!
Balak was a pagan king of Moav - with many gods. He sought the "help" of the God of Israel because his gods were not helping. Numbers 22:2-3 "Now Balak the son of Tzippor saw all that Isra'el had done to the Emori. 3 Mo'av was very afraid of the people, because there were so many of them; Mo'av was overcome with dread because of the people of Isra'el." So Balak (mistakenly) thought he could "use" the God of Israel for his own gain.
Continuing our study into the next chapter, Numbers 23, we see the awesome Power of YHWH at work as He forces into the opposite direction the whole scheme to curse Israel!
This chapter shows that, as a nation, the Israelites are of YHWH, for YHWH and obedient to YHWH - regardless of their occasional carnality and human natures. They are blessed, yet the world - then and today - was and is completely blind to how blessed they actually are and what it truly means to "be blessed" by YHWH! Instead of realizing how special the Israelites are to YHWH (and specifically, "the Jews" who were commissioned to bring Torah to the world - Genesis 49:10, Micah 4:2), "the world" despises them to this day....
Please note as you read Numbers 24, YHWH gave the pagan Bil'am a prophecy about Yeshua!
Numbers 24: 17 "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon -a star will step forth from Ya'akov, a scepter will arise from Isra'el, to crush the corners of Mo'av and destroy all descendants of Shet. 18 His enemies will be his possessions -Edom and Se'ir, possessions. Isra'el will do valiantly, 19 From Ya'akov will come someone who will rule, and he will destroy what is left of the city."
Numbers 24: 25 Then Bil'am got up, left and returned to his home; and Balak too went his way.
At the conclusion of this parashah we see what happens with the "next generation" of the Israelites during the final days of the Exodus toward the Promised Land, as the infamous episode of Ba'al Peor unfolds, in which the Israelites go astray by pursuing Moabite women and attaching themselves to an idolatrous cult:
Numbers 25: 1 Isra'el stayed at Sheetim, and there the people began whoring with the women of Mo'av. 2 These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, where the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 With Isra'el thus joined to Ba'al-P'or, the anger of ADONAI blazed up against Isra'el. 4 ADONAI said to Moshe, "Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them facing the sun before ADONAI, so that the raging fury of ADONAI will turn away from Isra'el." 5 Moshe said to the judges of Isra'el, "Each of you is to put to death those in his tribe who have joined themselves to Ba'al-P'or."
6 Just then, in the sight of Moshe and the whole community of Isra'el, as they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting, a man from Isra'el came by, bringing to his family a woman from Midyan. 7 When Pinchas the son of El'azar, the son of Aharon the cohen, saw it, he got up from the middle of the crowd, took a spear in his hand, 8 and pursued the man from Isra'el right into the inner part of the tent, where he thrust his spear through both of them -the man from Isra'el and the woman through her stomach. Thus was the plague among the people of Isra'el stopped; 9 nevertheless, 24,000 died in the plague.
After being guided and supernaturally fed and clothed for almost 40 years by YHWH Himself, many people of this new generation began rebelling by "whoring" with pagan women! (Similar to what's happening among God's people today!) There's a reason why YHWH wanted His people to stay away from pagans; if we consort with the "carnal" we will become like them: If we lie down with pigs, we will get dirty! As we saw: The Israelites themselves became their own worst enemies by abandoning YHWH and His Torah - their values and rules for holy living. But once again YHWH showed them exactly who was in charge....
By the way, in next week's parashah we will learn that the man and woman who were killed in Numbers 25:8 (above) were children of the leaders of Midiyan clans:
Numbers 25: 14 The name of the man from Isra'el who was killed, put to death with the woman from Midyan, was Zimri the son of Salu, leader of one of the clans from the tribe of Shim'on. 15 The name of the woman from Midyan who was killed was Kozbi the daughter of Tzur, and he was head of the people in one of the clans of Midyan. 16 ADONAI said to Moshe, 17 "Treat the Midyanim as enemies and attack them; 18 because they are treating you as enemies by the trickery they used to deceive you in the P'or incident and in the affair of their sister Kozbi, the daughter of the leader from Midyan, the woman who was killed on the day of the plague in the P'or incident."
The messages in this week's Haftarah and B'rit Chadashah portions are excruciatingly powerful, providing a warning to all to "get right with God or else!" Be sure to read and study the portions all the way through!
Micah 5: 7 Then the remnant of Ya'akov, surrounded by many peoples, will be like dew from ADONAI, like showers on the grass, which doesn't wait for a man or expect anything from mortals. 8 The remnant of Ya'akov among the nations, surrounded by many peoples, will be like a lion among forest animals, like a young lion among flocks of sheep - if it passes through, tramples and tears to pieces, there is no one to rescue them. 9 Your hand will be raised over your enemies; all your adversaries will be destroyed.
Micah 6: 6 "With what can I come before ADONAI to bow down before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings? with calves in their first year? 7 Would ADONAI take delight in thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Could I give my firstborn to pay for my crimes, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 8 Human being, you have already been told what is good, what ADONAI demands of you - no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God.
We all need to continuously ask ourselves: "With what can I come before YHWH to bow down before God on high?" Many take this to mean Torah is useless because all that matters is "believing in Jesus"; but that is not the case because, as verse 8 shows, we have already been told what is good and what YHWH demands of us! And what is that? "...No more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God."
This begs the question: How does one "walk in purity with God" unless they are obeying Torah? Without Torah we would have NO blueprint for moral, holy living (1 John 3:4)!
Brit Chadasha portion:
Moving on, we see what happens to those who ignore God - back then and right now, today:
2 Peter 2: 1. But in the world there have been also false prophets, as there will likewise be false teachers among you who will bring in destructive heresies denying Master YHWH that bought them; thus bringing on themselves swift destruction. 2. And many will go after their profaneness on account of whom the way of truth will be reproached. 3. And in the greediness of raving words they will make merchandise of you: whose judgment of a long time is not idle; and their destruction never sleeps.
4. For if Elohim spared not the Messengers that sinned but cast them down to the infernal regions in chains of darkness and delivered them up to be kept to the judgment of torture; 5. And (if Elohim) did not spare the former world but preserved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness when he brought a flood on the world of the wicked 6. (and) burned up the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and condemned them by an overthrow, making them a demonstration to the wicked who should come after them; 7. and also delivered righteous Lot who was tormented with the filthy conduct of the Torahless; 8. For that upright man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing from day to day, was distressed in his righteous soul by their Torahless deeds; 9. Master YHWH knows how to rescue from afflictions those who fear him, and he will reserve the wicked for the day of judgment to be tormented, 10. and especially them who go after the flesh in the lusts of pollution, and despise government. Daring and boasting without cause they do not quake with awe while they blaspheme; 11. as opposed to the Messengers, greater than they in might and valor, do not bring against them a reproachful judgment.
12. But these, like nasty beasts that by nature are for slaughter and corruption, while engaging in evil speech regarding things they don't know, will perish in their own corruption; 13. they being persons with whom iniquity is the reward of iniquity, and by them rioting in the daytime is accounted delightful; defiled and full of blemishes (are they), indulging themselves at their ease while they give themselves up to pleasure; 14. having eyes that are full of adultery and sins that never end; seducing unstable souls; and having a heart exercised in greed; children of cursing: 15. And, having left the correct path, they have wandered and gone in the way of Balaam the son of Beor who loved the wages of iniquity, 16. and who had for the corrector of his transgression a mute mule which, speaking with the speech of men, rebuked the madness of the prophet. 17. These are wells without water, clouds driven by a storm, persons for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness.
18. For, while they utter astonishing vanity, they seduce with obscene lusts of the flesh, them who have almost abandoned these that walk in error. 19. And they promise them liberty while they themselves are the slaves of corruption: for, by whatever thing a man is vanquished, to that is he enslaved. 20. For if, when they have escaped the pollutions of the world by the knowledge of our Master and Redeemer Y'shua the Mashiyach, they become again involved in the same and are vanquished, their latter state is worse than the former. 21. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after having known (it), to turn back from the Set Apart Commandment that was delivered to them. 22. But the true proverb has happened to them: the dog returns to his vomit and the pig that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.
The message in the passages above could not be any clearer: Our sin natures will always win out if we don't take care to keep our eyes on YHWH! Torah teaches us how to be holy. The choice, however, is up to us....
As you could clearly tell, today's Torah portion revealed that YHWH has a definite plan for His People, and He will allow NOTHING to get in the way of that. It's too bad the world doesn't yet realize this.
But they soon will!
The next parashah reading:
Parashah 41: Pinchas (Phineas); Numbers 25:10 through 30:1 (29:40).
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): 1 Kings 18:46 through 19:21.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): Matthew 26:1-30; Mark 14:1-26; Luke 22:1-20, John 2:13-22; 7:1-13; 37-39; 11:55-12:1:1; 13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14; Acts 2:1-21; 12:3-4; 20:5-6; 16; 27:9-11; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; 16:8; Hebrews 11:28.