Thursday, June 07, 2007

Numbers 24:20–25

Numbers 24:20–25: Balak and Balaam—Balaam’s Final Oracles

Synopsis

As we’ve been reading, Balak asked Balaam to come and curse Israel, and the LORD caused Balaam to bless them instead. Three times in a row. When Balak got angry and sent Balaam home, Balaam issued another “parting” oracle, which dealt specifically with how Israel was going to beat Balak’s nation.

In this chapter, Balaam issues his final oracle, before finally leaving. Except that, in my mind, it’s actually three oracles. God gives him some little mini prophecies, about some of the other nations in the area.

First, the Amelekites:

Then Balaam saw Amalek and uttered his oracle:
  “Amalek was first among the nations,
  but he will come to ruin at last.”

(verse 20)


This one’s not really that specific, but it might still have been surprising for those who heard it. When he says that Amalek “was first,” but will come to ruin, it indicates to me that the Amelekites were very powerful, at the time. Whenever there is a very powerful nation, it’s always a bit unbelievable to imagine them coming to nothing. (Although it’s happened to every great nation that ever existed. Take note, America!)

Balaam next sets his eyes on the Kenites:

Then he saw the Kenites and uttered his oracle:
  “Your dwelling place is secure,
  your nest is set in a rock;

yet you Kenites will be destroyed
  when Asshur takes you captive.”

(verses 21–22)


This one is a bit more specific, because he actually tells us which nation will take the Kenites captive.

Finally, he issues one more oracle, about Asshur and Eber:

Then he uttered his oracle:
  “Ah, who can live when God does this?

Ships will come from the shores of Kittim;
  they will subdue Asshur and Eber,
  but they too will come to ruin.”

(verses 23–24)


So just in case the nation of Asshur—the “Asshurites?”—is tempted to get too cocky, they should be aware that they too will be subdued, by the Kittimites. Who should also not get too cocky, because they too will “come to ruin.”

Finally, after all of this, Balaam returns home. I’m sure Balak thinks it’s not a moment too soon.

Thoughts

Again, I don’t know how soon these prophecies are going to take place. (I don’t claim to know my Old Testament history that well.) We’ll just have to keep reading—or I’ll have to keep blogging—to find out.
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