All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

An Unexpected Outcome
Based on Numbers 22

Israel is camped on the plains of Moab, ready to invade Canaan. Their encampment causes gut-wrenching fear to the Moabites, since God had delivered the Hebrews from Egypt, and recently given them victory over the powerful kings of the neighboring Amorites.

Pagan king Balak’s solution is to call the renowned diviner, Balaam, from Mesopotamia, to curse Israel. Balak’s princes travel 400 miles to offer Balaam great rewards for his services. Balak believes that Balaam, through his divination practices of studying animal entrails or observing natural phenomena, can determine the will of the gods and place a curse upon the Israelites.

Obviously, Balaam has been a prophet of the Lord, because he tells the princes he cannot “go beyond the word of the Lord my God.” However, he’s clearly covetous of the gifts, and wants to go with the princes. p He asks them to spend the night, but the next morning, tells them that God refuses to let him go.

However, Balak is desperate, and sends back more princes of higher rank with promises of greater rewards. Once again, Balaam insists they stay, and God tells Balaam to go with them, if they come to him in the morning. They do not come, but Balaam rebelliously saddles his donkey and pursues them, anyway.

Suddenly, his donkey turns into a field because it sees the Angel of the Lord with a sword in His hand, blocking the way. Balaam strikes the donkey, but later, the Angel stands in a narrow path, between two walls. This time, the donkey crushes Balaam’s foot against the wall in an effort to avoid the angel, and he beats the poor animal again.

Finally, the Angel blocks the way completely in a narrow place, and the donkey lays down in terror. This infuriates Balaam, and he beats his donkey with his staff. Suddenly, the Lord opens the mouth of the beast, and she asks, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”

“Because you have abused me,” Balaam rages. “I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!”

Suddenly, God opens Balaam’s eyes, and he sees the Angel. Struck with fear, he throws himself down on his face. “I have come out to stand against you,” the Angel says, “because your way is perverse before Me.” Then He says that if the donkey had not turned aside, He surely would have killed Balaam and let her live. The Angel instructs him to go to Balak, but warns him to only speak the words He gives him.

Curses Turned to Blessings

When Balaam arrives, Balak meets him and offers sacrifices in preparation for the cursing. The next day, he takes him to the high places of Baal, overlooking the camp of Israel. Seven altars and sacrifices are made while Balaam goes to a desolate place to receive the word of the Lord. He returns and delivers a prophecy that blesses the Hebrews. Balak complains, but takes Balaam to the top of Mt. Pisgah, where just a portion of the camp is visible. Maybe smaller numbers might aid in the cursing. But seven more altars and sacrifices later, Balaam blesses and further emphasizes Israel’s unique relationship with God.

Finally, Balaam is taken to the top of Mount Peor, where Baal is worshiped. Again, seven sacrifices are offered, but Balaam blesses Israel and prophesies the coming Deliverer and their future dominion.

Balak is furious and apparently sends Balaam home without pay. In retaliation, Balaam adds four more prophecies, telling Balak how the Lord will destroy Moab and his neighbors!

Notice God’s number seven is repeatedly emphasized—seven altars, bulls, rams, and prophecies. The number three is also used throughout the Bible to emphasize something very significant, and with the three blessings, it surely indicates how precious Israel is to God.

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