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At first glance one may consider the Sages harsh when they write of Balaam. After all, he refused the diabolical offer from Balak at least a couple times, he only spoke the words G-d told him, and G-d actually spoke to him! A closer look at the story reveals more reason to believe Balaam strayed from the ways of G-d. The Bible all but entreats the reader to reexamine the story of Balaam after this clear statement found later in Numbers:

“Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD.” Numbers 31:16

One interesting parallel at the beginning of this week’s portion provides a glimpse of the actions to follow.

“And God came to Balaam and said, ‘Who are these men with you?’” Numbers 22:9

It is obvious G-d was not asking Balaam this question to learn the answer. Where is the first time G-d asks a rhetorical question? Right after Adam and Eve sinned.

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3:9

Can you hear the voice of a gracious father who is disappointed at the choice of his son? It seems as if G-d was using a similar approach. The reason the parallel is interesting is because G-d’s rhetorical question came after Adam and Eve sinned. But how did Balaam sin to provoke the question? By fellowshipping and keeping company with diviners for the evening instead of immediately driving them away. As it is written:

“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.” Leviticus 19:26

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer” Deuteronomy 18:10

Allowing the wicked elders to stay with him may have influenced his own actions or perhaps Balaam was already involved in divination, which resulted in lax standards. Either way look at how Balaam is described later in Joshua:

“Balaam also, the son of Beor, the one who practiced divination, was killed with the sword by the people of Israel among the rest of their slain.” Joshua 13:22

The most important truth from the story of Balaam is that G-d can use what was meant for evil and treachery to save his people. In this case, Balak demanded that Balaam curse Israel in hopes it would weaken them enough to destroy Israel. Instead Balaam pronounced blessings from G-d and even prophecies.

Balaam’s Prophecy:

“…The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them.” Numbers 23:21

Parallel:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9

Balaam’s Prophecy:

“Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the LORD has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.” Numbers 24:6-7

Parallel:

“And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.” Zechariah 14:7-9

Balaam’s Prophecy:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” Numbers 24:17

Parallel:

“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’” Hebrews 1:8

This portion contains bountiful illusions to Messiah Yeshua none of which should be overlooked. Study very carefully. Just as the prophet Micah spoke:

“O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” Micah 6:5

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