Numbers 22:1-25:9: God sent emissaries to the Gentiles too

The prophet Bilam (Balaam) is not an isolated individual, an anomaly in Scripture. He was not the first or last emissary to the Gentiles. God did not leave them without guidance. Bilam is a foreshadowing of the ministry of Saul of Tarsus, aka the apostle Paul, whose experience on the road to Damascus echoes the account in the Torah reading בָּלָק Balak of Bilam’s experience with a “recalcitrant” she-donkey.

We don’t know much about the history of Bilam (Balaam), except that he was a Gentile from the nation of Aram, the area where Abraham and his family had settled 400 years before. Rivka (Rebekah), Rachel and Leah were all from Aram as well. The people of Aram knew the LORD, even if they were not as loyal to Him as were Abraham and his descendants through Yitzkhak (Isaac). Bilam might be a distant cousin of Israel himself.

Moab is not a large nation. They are a brother nation of the nation of Ammon. Moab and Ammon share descent from Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The people of Amalek and Edom are also neighbors. All of these nations share descent from Abraham.

The Amorites, which also lived in the area, were a very strong nation, and they were militarily defeated by the people of Israel. Moab sensed their own vulnerability and want to strengthen their hand against Israel.

This is why Balak, the king of Moab, reached out to the nation of Midian and both nations agreed they needed Bilam’s help against their mutual enemy, Israel. When Bilam was not able to curse Israel outright, he taught the Moabites and the Midianites how to infiltrate the people of Israel and tempt them to commit idolatry and fornication. Bilam know this would make God angry with Israel and weaken their bond.

“Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”” (Numbers 22:11–12 NASB)

Balak asked Bilam to curse Israel to destroy them but God tells Bilam not to even speak evil of Israel and certainly not to curse them. Bilam has it in his heart to curse and destroy Israel anyway because he was a greedy man.

“So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak’s leaders, “Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” The leaders of Moab arose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”” (Numbers 22:13–14 NASB)

Bilam leaves the door open, purposefully for Moab to make him a better offer, send higher ranking emissaries and more money. After all, this is Bilam’s line of work, to curse and bless. He was handsomely paid to make people’s lives look better than they were. His job was to destroy people and he was good at it.

God knows this and God “allows” Bilam to leave with Balak’s emmissaries and yet sends the Angel of the Lord to oppose him.

The number three in the context of a life and death scenario is a parable of Messiah Yeshua in one way or another. When Bilam’s female donkey began “acting up”, Bilam beat her several times, which is a parable in action since the donkey is a symbol of the people of Israel, who were given the burden of carrying the Torah. Bilam’s commission from Balak is to “beat up” Israel with curses.

Bilam should have died in each of these occasions but his female donkey saved him.

The male donkey is symbolic of the first born of men, the female donkey is symbolic of the entire nation of Israel. Baalam is riding a female donkey, beating and persecuting her, even as she is saving his life. The donkey, as Israel, saw the Angel of the Lord all three times. Bilam only saw the Angel the third time.

Israel is the source of Bilam’s salvation. It is through Israel that the Messiah of all the nations will arise.

There is nothing typical or normal about Israel, as we hear in every prophesy Bilam speaks later.

Saul of Tarsus and Bilam were both on the same kind of seek and destroy mission. Both of them were on their way to destroy God’s people and both were being paid handsomely by high ranking people to do so.

Both Bilam and Saul were traveling withd an entourage and most likely only Bilam and Saul were able to clearly hear and converse with the donkey and/or the Angel of the Lord. Just as Bilam talks with the donkey and the Angel of the YHVH, Saul of Tarsus spoke with Yeshua Himself.

I can imagine that both Bilam and Saul of Tarsus’ “babbling” looked very foolish in the eyes of their fellow travelers.

“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”” (Acts 9:10–16 NASB)

Both Bilam and Saul/Paul were sent as emissaries to the Gentiles. Bilam said that he “sees but not yet.” Bilam’s prophesy ends when Saul/Paul’s mission begins.

Bilam’s story is not included in Scripture as an arbitrary bad guy story. What Bilam tells Balak (and us) is that Israel has a special mission, so special, that even the Gentiles are supposed to know about it and receive a blessing from it.

““As I see him from the top of the rocks, And I look at him from the hills; Behold, a people who dwells apart, And will not be reckoned among the nations.“Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, And let my end be like his!”” (Numbers 23:9–10 NASB)

The first blessing on Israel is that they will not be “reckoned among the nations” or to be counted among the nations. They will remain elevated above the other nations.

““He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; Nor has He seen trouble in Israel; The LORD his God is with him, And the shout of a king is among them.

“God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox.

“For there is no omen against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel; At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what God has done!

“Behold, a people rises like a lioness, And as a lion it lifts itself; It will not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain.”” (Numbers 23:21–24 NASB)

The second blessing from Bilam is that God sees no iniquity, perversity or sorcery in the people of Israel. This generation has left all the Egyptian baggage behind during the course of their 40 year sojourn in the wilderness.

We all have to discern what is right and wrong. We have to discern if what we are hearing is from God, a man or from the demons.

When Bilam speaks in vision, he is speaking God’s words, not his own. Each attempt Bilam makes to curse Israel simply heaps more blessing on them which infuriates Balak more.

In a final coup de grace, Bilam gives Balak a final prophesy for free, and proclaims a final prophesy. Bilam heaps even more blessings on Israel and the Kenites, who were a branch of the nation of Midian, who were in-laws of Moses. The Kenites attached themselves to the nation of Israel and received an eternal blessing because of that.

Bilam also curses the nations around Israel, including Moab, Edom, Midian, Amalek, etc. He even predicts their future capitulation to Assyria and Kittim (Greece).

Both the prophet Bilam (Balaam) and apostle Saul/Paul were very important persons in Scripture. We see how valuable the Gentiles are to God. Heaven personally sent prophets to speak to Gentiles and teach them about the LORD.

Banner Photo: Cartoon of Balaam and Balak, the King of Moab by Jack Foster of via Creative Commons License. 

Summary: Tammy. 

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