Balaam’s Dilemma

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Bible illustration of the angel meeting Balaam with a sword (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

These last few months we have been living through the events and developments that we read of in the Torah from the portion of Balak. The appearance is not the same but the substance is very close to what we read this Shabbat in the Torah.

The reading this Shabbat is from the book of Numbers 22:2 – 25:9. From the prophets we read from the book of Micah 5:6 – 6:8. From the New Testament we read from Romans 11:25-32.

If you read these three texts at home and read them out loud you will hear yourself reading the word of God from the Torah, the prophets and from the New Testament. You will suddenly understand why tradition has chosen to read these three particular texts on this Shabbat. You will understand the logic of the tradition of reading the Torah on Shabbat.

What do we have in Parashat Balak?

We have a king of a very powerful nation east of the land of Israel whose goal in life is to destroy the Jewish people. He wants to delete the nation of Israel from the face of God’s earth.

The Torah doesn’t say why he wants to do this harm to Israel. Balak is a king of a powerful nation, a rich nation. Israel has no intention to harm that nation or to wage war or conquer that nation east of the God-given borders of our land.

However, Balak has set in his mind that Israel has to be eliminated. Balak can’t do it alone because he understands that Israel has been able to enter the land west of the Jordan River and settle it and make it into a garden and drive their enemies away. Balak understands that there is a much greater force on Israel’s side than the vast military force that stands on his side.

He thinks that with magic, sorcery, and powerful help from outside, Israel can be subdued. So, Balak, King of Moab, goes to the United Nation’s most powerful master of witchcraft, Dr. Balaam, the son of Beor. This Balaam son of Beor is a talented, wise, greedy, and a crafty politician with an international reputation of success in derailing nations.

Balak goes to this Balaam and invites him to come and destroy Israel by witchcraft and sorcery. Balaam wants to come and get the mountains of gold and riches that Balak is offering him.

Balaam also knows the reputation of the God of Israel as the most powerful God that reigns both in Heaven and on Earth. This puts Balaam in a dilemma. On the one hand, he wants to get the riches offered to him for his services against Israel. On the other hand, Balaam knows the power of God and the blessings with which God has blessed Israel. Balaam also knows how to communicate with the God of Israel.

What a dilemma Dr. Balaam has to resolve. How to get the riches that Balak is offering him and still stay on God’s good side. We have nations like these today. We have nations to the North and East of us that for no rational reason want to destroy us.

They can’t do it alone, so they seek powerful allies to support them and enrich them and provide witchcraft and weapons of destruction to destroy this small but blessed nation of Israel. The power of Israel has never come from our army, or the number of our soldiers, or the power of our weapons.

It has always been little boy David against the giant Goliath. It has always been a battle by the defense of the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Our victories and survival have always been dependent on the mercy and promises of God Himself.

Our enemies hate us, not because we have a desire to destroy them, because we don’t have such a desire. The only desire that Israel has, is simply to live in peace in this small God-given corner of the Levant. Our borders have not been shaped by our desire to expand, but by the promises of God to Abraham our father.

This irrational hate against us doesn’t come because of what we do. What we have done since the birth of this nation when Abraham heard God’s voice speaking:

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2,3 [NKJV]

The clear and blessed fact of history is that Israel has been a blessing to the whole world. The words of Balaam the sorcerer that open every worship service at every Jewish Synagogue in the world are true:

“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!” – Numbers 24:5 [NKJV]

These words of evil Balaam are historically true. The Jewish nation has been a blessing to the whole world from day one of our history. Here is a very short list of the blessings that the Jewish nation has been to the whole world:

  • Joseph saved Egypt from hunger.
  • We preserved and held the Word of God for the whole world.
  • The number of modern contributions to the world are so numerous that several large volumes would not be sufficient to enumerate them. Just think that this small nation of less than 10,000,000 people (less than seven million of whom are Jewish), has more Nobel Prize winners than nations that have billions of inhabitants.
  • Israel settled the small land of Canaan that was divided between seven nations that had come here from various parts of the ancient world, Jebusites, Girgashites, Amorites, Philistines, Prizites, Canaanites, and more… These nations were in constant war with each other. Israel, after the conquest of the land of Canaan (that was an Egyptian province at the time), brought stability to the region.

Who stopped Balaam from using his witchcraft against Israel? His donkey did! Because that big-time Dr. Balaam with the big-time international Re-Putin-nation, was stopped by his donkey. The donkey could see the angel of the Lord, with a sword in his hand, trying to stop Balaam, but Balaam could not see or hear the angel of the Lord.

The story is long and here are some things from the New Testament that show us that among the early disciples, and in the days of the early church, and I believe even today, the spirit of Balaam still existed:

“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness…” – 2 Peter 2:15 [NKJV]

“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” – Jude 1:11

“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” – Revelation 2:14 [NKJV]

I am stopping here because the end of the reading portion of Balak is connected with next week’s portion of the Torah, Pinchas (Phinehas). There is only one other thing that is of great importance to me, and that is the reading from the New Testament from Romans chapter 11:25-32.

Please read it. You will know and understand that in the end, this small nation of Israel which settled and is nested in this small piece of land, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, will be saved, blessed, and a light to all the nations of the world.

Stay on the faithful side and with God’s people, and don’t trust all the fake world politicians that want to destroy and uproot the Jewish nation of Israel from God’s promises. The goals of the greedy and power mongering world famous politicians are the same as the goals of Balak, King of Moab, and Balaam, the son of Beor.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.