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Summary: Can God speak through an imperfect individual? We are studying the life and "ministry" of Balaam to discover the pertinence of his life to our own lives.

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“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.' [1]

Like smoke, Balaam wafts through the pages of Scripture. In the New Testament, his name is invoked several times, never in a positive sense. For instance, in the General Epistles, we read a censure delivered both by Peter and by Jude. In his Second Letter to Jewish believers scattered in the Diaspora, Peter writes of false teachers, “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness” [2 PETER 2:15, 16].


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