Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Numbers 23:13–26

Numbers 23:13–26: Balak and Balaam—Balaam’s Second Oracle

Synopsis

In the last passage, Balaam gave his first oracle from the LORD, and Balak was understandably displeased with it. (Well, it’s partially his own fault; Balaam warned Balak over and over that he could only say what the LORD put in his mouth.) In this passage, however, they’re going to give it the ol’ college try, and have another go at it.

Balak brings Balaam to a different place, where he can look out and see a different portion of the Israelites. Again, they build seven altars, and offer a bull and a ram on each one. Again, Balaam goes off to meet with the LORD, and again, He puts a message into Balaam’s mouth, to deliver to Balak. So he goes back to deliver it.

Then he uttered his oracle:
  “Arise, Balak, and listen;
  hear me, son of Zippor.

God is not a man, that he should lie,
  nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.
  Does he speak and then not act?
  Does he promise and not fulfill?

I have received a command to bless;
  he has blessed, and I cannot change it.

“No misfortune is seen in Jacob,
  no misery observed in Israel.
  The LORD their God is with them;
  the shout of the King is among them.

God brought them out of Egypt;
  they have the strength of a wild ox.

There is no sorcery against Jacob,
  no divination against Israel.
  It will now be said of Jacob
  and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’

The people rise like a lioness;
  they rouse themselves like a lion
  that does not rest till he devours his prey
  and drinks the blood of his victims.”

(verses 18–24)


This oracle worries Balak even more than the last one. In fact, in verse 25 he basically tells Balaam to stop uttering oracles at all: “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!” But Balaam’s answer is still the same: he must do whatever the LORD tells him to do.

Thoughts

We’ve seen, thus far in the Old Testament, that one of the reasons the LORD saved Israel out of Egypt, and has chosen them to be His people, is so that He can display His might and glory to them and to the surrounding nations. We see a bit of that in the story of Balak and Balaam. God is not just refusing to curse the Israelites (and refusing to let Balaam curse the Israelites); He is also teaching Balak—and others, who would eventually read this story—a bit about Himself, and His nature.

This isn’t to say that the Israelites are invincible, or that they’ll never lose a battle; they will, in fact, lose some battles, in future books and chapters. But the reason they win or lose is always the same: It’s the LORD’s will. When He is on their side, they win, but when He abandons them, they lose.
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