Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9): Weekly Portion. The Narrative Section (18 June, 2013, Tammuz 10, 5773)
Duration 23.17 minutes
King Balak of Moab hired Balaam the pagan high priest to curse Israel. The Almighty forced Balaam to bless Israel instead of cursing them.
Balak King of Moab hired Balaam to try and curse Israel. Instead of cursing Balaam was forced by God to utter Prophetic Blessings.
For our purposes two aspects of the portion exist:
(1) Narrative. We have the story of King Balak and Balaam the pagan magician with his talking ass, and everything else that happened.
(2) Prophecy. The Prophecies of Balaam are very important from the point of view of identifying the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel in our times.
This present article concentrates on the Narrative account. See also the Prophecies of Bilaam.
The Narrative Action
Balak Numbers 22:2-25:9
The Portion of Balak is named # Balak # after the King of Moab who is mentioned in the opening verse.
The portion speaks of Balaam who prophesied concerning Israel in the future. Balaam intended to curse Israel but God forced him to bless them instead.
The Israelites had just conquered the Amorite lands of Sichon and Og east of the Jordan. All of the area from the Nile to the Euphrates had been promised to Israel.
The present-day areas now occupied by Egypt (at least east of the Delta), Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria should belong to Israel.
Moab, Amon, and Edom were to be left (for a time) in small enclaves surrounded by Israelite territory. Nevertheless these nations may not have been pleased with this planned arrangement and probably did not trust it.
Balak King of Moab together with the elders of the neighboring kingdom of Midian took counsel. They were afraid of Israel.
Balak sent a delegation from Moab and Midian to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor on the Euphrates River.
Pethor in Hebrew has the same meaning and is probably the same word as "Peter".
There are those who have suggested that Balaam held a position parallel to that once held by the Pope.
The name #BALAAM# is found on an inscription from Succoth (Modern #Dir Ala# in Jordan), which after an earthquake in 750 BCE was repaired so it must have existed well before then. Succoth is in territory which was ascribed to the Israelite Tribe of Gad (Joshua 13;27). The inscription was written in a local Hebrew with peculiarities of its own as well as Aramaic influence. It has two incompletely preserved sections. In the first section it speaks of Balaam the Gentile prophet who was hired to curse the Children of Israel (Numbers chapters 22-23) and in the second of #NeTSeR# The inscription is illustrated and explained in an article by Shmuel Achitov [#Ancient Inscriptions of the Peoples East of the Jordan# (Hebrew) in #HaYarden VeAtaryiah#, 1995, Jerusalem].
We have also given our own explanation of the text.
The major difference between our version and that of Achitov is that Achitov assumes that numerous gods are being referred to whereas we do not see why One Deity could not be the intention. The singularity of the Deity expressed appears to accord with the existing text. This is despite the fact that belief in the existence of other lesser gods or spiritual forces is quite evident. The whole passage reveals an attitude similar to that of fertility cults as existed in Ancient Canaan and Scandinavia. We shall see how Balaam will try to curse Israel but be forced to bless them and then go away in disgrace. IMMEDIATELY AFTER, the Israelites will begin to fornicate en masse with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1) and Midian (Numbers 25:6) as part of pagan ceremonies. They will be in danger of extermination as a result of this immorality but will be saved. Traditionally it was accepted that Balaam knew that through immorality there was a chance of overcoming Israel so he advised the Moabites and Midianites to prostitute their daughters. Balaam was associated with promiscuous immorality. The mention of Balaam on the above inscription (connected with a fertility cult) receives added significance in the light of the vile advice he gave.
Balak asked Balaam (Deuteronomy 18:20-22) to curse Israel so THAT I MAY DRIVE THEM OUT OF THE LAND. According to its simple meaning he means that he may drive them away if not destroy them altogether. Why however does he use these words? The Commentary "Netivot Shalom" says that he meant the Land of Canaan (i.e. Land of Israel) that they were about to enter. When Israelites dwell in their own land they realize their inner being. They have more strength. Their true potential begins to express itself. Balak was afraid of the Israelites entering the Land of Canaan and becoming themselves and therefore changing the world for the better.
All those who try to prevent Israelites from settling in the Land of Israel are against the existence of Israel and defy God Almighty.
President Obama in attempting to prevent Jews from Living in Judah and Samaria and from increasing and multiplying there is sinning against the Almighty. He should be warned and steps should be taken that he heed the warning!
[Numbers 22:11] BEHOLD, THERE IS A PEOPLE COME OUT OF EGYPT, WHICH COVERETH THE FACE OFÂ THE EARTH: COME NOW, CURSE ME THEM; PERADVENTURE I SHALL BE ABLE TO OVERCOME THEM, AND DRIVE THEM OUT.
#THE FACE OF THE EARTH#. Hebrew #ayin ha-arets# literally the #eye of the Land#. #Ayin# means #eye# and it is probably where the English word #eye# comes from. #Ayin# also means #spring# or natural fountain (of water). It could also perhaps indicate source of bounty. With the appearance of the Israelite nation matters were no longer to be conducted according to the natural order of things. From now on a Higher Authority was to become the determinative element. Divine Providence on a national level was to make its mark in international affairs. The People of Israel were to become the Determinative Element. They had covered over or replaced (or were about to do so) the previously accepted balance of power and economic distributions of wealth and resources.
More than half of the wealth in the world today comes from Israelite nations or nations in which those of Israelite descent are prominent. Even that portion of the world's bounty that the world does receive arrives largely through the intermediacy of Israelites. The rest of the world does not suffer from this. On the contrary. Nevertheless many of the heathen resent Israelite predominance. By Israelite we mean in this sense descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes..
Balaam asked the messengers to stay overnight. The Almighty appeared to Balaam and warned him not to go.
[Numbers 22:12] AND GOD SAID UNTO BALAAM, THOU SHALT NOT GO WITH THEM; THOU SHALT NOT CURSE THE PEOPLE: FOR THEY ARE BLESSED.
The Israelites were blessed. They were blessed and were to remain blessed despite whatever sins they may have committed. This was a fact that could not be undone. Balaam realized this and so, as we shall see, attempted to at least weaken or diminish the blessing given to Israel.
Balaam told the messengers that God did not allow him to come. The King of Moab consequently sent higher-ranking princes and offered Balaam greater honors. Again Balaam asked them to stay the night. God then permitted him to go but with instructions to say only what he would be commanded. Balaam set out in the morning with the princes of Moab. The Angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:22) was sent to prevent him.
At first the angel was seen only by the ass (female donkey) Balaam was riding. The ass turned aside from the path into an adjoining field. Balaam was angry and beat the ass forcing it back onto the path. They came to a section with walls of vineyards on each side of the track. Again the angel stood in the way with an unsheafed sword in its hand. The ass in order to avoid the angel tried to go around it and in doing so crushed the foot of Balaam up against the wall. Again Balaam beat the ass. They kept going and once more the angel stood in the way only this time there was no way to turn. The ass lay down. Balaam beat the ass with his staff. God opened the mouth of the ass and she asked Balaam what had she done to him? What had he beaten her three times already (Numbers 22:28)? There followed a dialogue at the end of which God opened the eyes of Balaam and he too saw the angel. The angel warned Balaam not to say anything concerning Israel other than what God would tell him.
They reached the place of Balak at Kiryat Hutsot i.e. the City of Streets, Numbers 22:39. Balak offered sacrifices. The next morning Balak took Balaam to the High Places of Baal overlooking a portion of the Israelite encampment. They built seven altars, offered up more sacrifices, etc. Balaam prophesied that the Israelites would be separate from others nations, be extremely numerous and blessed by the Almighty (Numbers 23:7-10). Balak was angry that Balaam had blessed Israel instead of cursing them. Balaam reminded him that he had warned beforehand that he would only be able to say what God put in his mouth (Numbers 23:12). Balak said perhaps they would have better luck from a different position. They then went to the Field of the Seers (Zophim) at the top of the Peak (Pisgah) and repeated the process. Balaam then prophesied that God is not a man, nor the son of man that he should change his mind (Numbers 23:19). The Israelites in the realization of their destined power are compared to a lion and unicorn the symbols of Great Britain [Numbers 23:20-24]. Again Balak was angry that Balaam had blessed Israel instead of cursing them and again Balaam reminded him that he had warned beforehand that he would only be able to say what God put in his mouth. Yet again Balak decided to make an attempt from somewhere else so they went to the Top of the Place of Defecation (Peor) looking out on Desolation (Yeshimon) [Numbers 23:28]. They repeated the process of building altars and making sacrifices.
Balaam prophesied and said the Israelites would be found in fertile, healthy regions and in many oceans as they are today. They would become the most powerful people on earth and rule the seas. They would be like a lion and unicorn and rule over other peoples. They who bless them will be blessed and they who curse them will be cursed [Numbers 24:5-9].
Balak was once again angry with Balaam and says he must return to his own land without receiving any portion of the great reward that Balak had intended to pay him. In reply Balaam prophesied again: A Messiah from Israel will arise in the Latter Days. He will destroy Moab and Seth and take control of Edom. The Amalekites will be destroyed. The Kenites (Rechabites from Jethro) who joined their fate with that of Israel will be taken into Assyrian exile with the Ten Tribes but they will also return with them. There shall be wars on the Seas in which Ships from Chittim, Assyria, and Eber will be involved [Numbers 24:17-24]. Balaam and Balak then parted.
After that the Israelites began to fornicate with the young women of Moab. Balaam had advised this policy as a means of undermining Israel. The females gave their bodies while inducing their paramours to worship idols. God was angry and commanded Moses and the elders to kill everyone who had committed idolatry. Before this command could go into effect, one of the more prominent Israelites (who we are later told was a Prince of Simeon) publicly took a Midianite princess to conjugate with. A plague broke out amongst the people. Phineas the son of Elazar son of Aharon brother of Moses took a lance and pierced the loving couple through their lower parts linking them together in an eternal embrace. The plague was stopped but 24,000 Israelites had already perished because of it.
In regard to the plague and Phineas (Numbers ch.25): The Israelites were fornicating with heathen women and worshipping idols. They were punished and then saved from disaster by the zealotry of Phineas the son of Eliezer son of Aharon. Phineas was a forerunner for the Messiah son of Joseph who will head the Ten Tribes. The Commentary, Nativot Shalom, comments on the above incident. He points out that the Messiah son of David will rectify the matter of correct Faith amongst all ISRAEL. Before the Messiah son of David comes there will appear the Messiah son of Joseph [who will be from Ephraim]. The Messiah son of Joseph will heal the Israelites of their sexual immorality. This will be necessary to prepare them to receive correct knowledge and true belief that shall be given them by the Messiah son of David. We shall return to this matter in the next portion that is named "Pinchas" transliterated in English as "Phineas".
Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers chapters 22,23,24) but Balaam was able to only pronounce blessings. Balaam was a kind of chief pagan priest. From the blessings he was forced by God to utter we learn what curses he had intended to make. Numbers 23:7 "Come, curse [Hebrew, "arah"] Jacob for me, And come, denounce [Hebrew, "zoama"] Israel!" according to Rabbi S.R. Hirsch the words translated as curse and denounce from the Hebrew actually imply that he intended to make a permanent division between 'Jacob' and 'Israel'. This can mean between the Ten Tribes and Judah. Such a division did occur but instead of a curse it was a partial blessing even though for the sake of our future WE ARE FORBIDDEN TO LEAVE IT IN A PERMANENT STATE!
For more comments and reflections on specific chosen verses see:
Balak-1: Balak and the anti-Zionist Barak Obama, Balaam the Pagan Prophet and the Talking Ass
Balak-2: Blessings to Israel. Proofs concerning the Lost Ten Tribes
A separate article or series of articles will be dedicated to a more detailed analysis of the Prophecies of Balaam.
See also the Prophecies of Bilaam.
The portion from the Prophets for Balak is taken from Micah 5:6-6:8.
See: The Lions of Judah and Ephraim. Micah chapters 5 & 6.