Balak sends for Balaam

The American Banking Association in their training program to help tellers never look at a counterfeit bill. All they do hour after hour, day after day, is handle authentic currency until they are so familiar with the true that they can not possibly be fooled with the false. This … More


The key person in this passage is a mysterious soothsayer named Balaam. He was a Gentile who lived at a place called Pethor near the Euphrates River (v. 5). He had a reputation for receiving hidden knowledge and the use of occult power to grant blessing or cursing and sold his services to all who would pay his fee. Peter warned against “the way of Balaam,” Jude against “the error of Balaam” and John against “the doctrine of Balaam” (II Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14).God evidently considers these warnings necessary and appropriate for Christians even today. Yet Balaam, in his day, was a genuine prophet (note II Peter 2:16), possessed great knowledge concerning God, and even received direct revelations from God. What, therefore, were his way, his error, and his doctrine?

  1. The way of Balaam” was a readiness to use his high spiritual gifts and privileges for “The wages of unrighteousness” (II Peter 2:15), being willing to preach something contrary to God’s Word for personal gain.
  2. The error of Balaam” was his willingness to compromise his own standards of morality and truth in order “greedily” to accommodate those of his pagan friends (Jude 11).
  3. The doctrine of Balaam” which even in John’s day was already infiltrating the church, was to use his own teaching authority to persuade God’s people that it was all right for them to compromise their standards, even “to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14) with their idol worshiping enemies.

Balak, king of Moab became very frightened when he heard the reports of Israel’s victories over the neighboring nations and called on Balaam to use his powers with the God of Israel to place a curse on Israel, promising to pay any fee he asked, plus bestowing royal honors on him (vv. 2-6).


With his lips Balaam professed to obey the Lord, but in his heart he coveted the money and hoped that in some way he could circumvent God’s Will. Lord, help me to never be like this!

Numbers 22:1-21 (English Standard Version)

Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, "This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, "Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed." So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak's message. And he said to them, "Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the LORD speaks to me." So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. And God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?" And Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 'Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.'" God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you." So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us." Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these. And they came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: 'Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.'" But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more. So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me." And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you." So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

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