THE ISRAELITES’ time in the wilderness is drawing to a close. Today, we discuss instructions from Yahweh to Moses about vows to the Lord, the military operation against the Midianites (which resulted in the death of the prophet-for-hire, Balaam son of Beor), and the decision of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh to take their inheritance east of the Jordan River rather than in the land of Canaan.
Tag Archives: Balaam
JUST AS Israel seemed to be on a spiritual high, the people found a way to squander the blessings of God. Again.
Last week, we looked at the effort of Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites through Balaam, a pagan prophet-for-hire. Instead, Yahweh pronounced three blessings on Israel. But before Balaam left, he apparently counseled Balak on ways to entice the Israelites to curse themselves, which led the Israelites “to whore with the daughters of Moab.”
The Israelites began to worship Baal of Peor, whose rites were apparently sexual. This provoked the wrath of Yahweh, who sent a plague that killed 24,000.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Zimri, a prince from the tribe of Simeon, brought a princess from Midian into the camp and had relations with her–possibly inside the Tent of Meeting itself. (Remember, Baal was a fertility god.) Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, grabbed a spear and killed the couple in the act, which turned back God’s wrath.
This is an incident identified by skeptics as proof of the murderous nature of Yahweh. That shows only that they don’t understand the spiritual war being fought by the rebellious bene elohim or the high stakes involved–no pun intended.
HOW CAN one curse whom God has not cursed? Today we learn about a unique person in the Bible, an acknowledged prophet who apparently didn’t always get his messages from Yahweh.
Unlike other Old Testament prophets, Balaam son of Beor was a prophet for profit. The frightened king of Moab, Balak son of Zippor, hired Balaam to curse Israel so that his tiny nation would not be overrun. Instead, Balaam blessed Israel three times because, as he told Balak, “All that Yahweh says, that I must do.”
We also discuss the bizarre incident in the desert with the fiery serpents (saraph nachash, Numbers 21:6) and the Israelites’ defeat of the giant Rephaim kings of the Amorites, Sihon of Heshbon and Og of Bashan.