Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Balak

Bamidbar 22:2 - 25:9

Nearing the end of their forty years of wandering through the wilderness, Israel camps along the Jordan across from Jericho. The sidra begins “Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.” In fact, Balak the King of Moab was struck with such fear of the Israelites that he felt the need for divine intervention from their own prophet, Balaam, to rescue the Moabite nation. It is taught in Rabbinic teachings that Balaam was a prophet from HaShem to the Gentiles. Throughout this sidra we see that HaShem indeed speaks to and instructs Balaam. In Ch.22 v.18 Balaam states “I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God,” Thus acknowledging YHVH has his Elohim. But we will see later that Balaam may have been just a temporary tool for HaShem during this time.

When Balaam is first summoned to Moab to meet with Balak, Balaam requests time to hear an answer from HaShem. HaShem is quick to deny any travel to Moab. Upon Balak’s second attempt to retrieve Balaam, HaShem grants Balaam permission to go to Balak under the strict command that he only do what HaShem tells him. As I meditated on this parasha I became quite confused with this next section. HaShem had previously granted permission to go to Moab but we see in V.22 that “But God was very angry when he went,”. How could HaShem give the impression that He is all right with the journey to Moab on one day and the next day be angry. Scripture does not reveal or imply any change of situational attitude but indeed there is. The attitude of Balaam my have been a cause of concern. Ch22 V.21 states “Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.” The Chumash offers one suggestion that to me seems reasonable. Chumash P.860, “The sages (Sanhedrin 105b) describe Balaam’s enthusiasm contemptuously. Hatred causes to violate norms of conduct. Surely it was not fitting for a man of Balaam’s stature to saddle his own donkey, but he hated Israel so much that he did not let dignity stand in his way, and even got up early in the morning to do it. God said, “wicked one, their forefather Abraham preceded you, for he got up even earlier and saddled his own donkey to do My will and take his beloved Isaac to the slaughter!” Furthermore, the verse says that he went with Balak’s people, implying that he wholeheartedly subscribed to their desire that he curse Israel (Rashi).

During Balaam’s journey, he is confronted with what he perceives as a disobedient donkey. After he beats his donkey a third time, the donkey defends herself with human words. You would think that this would surprise most people, but not Balaam. At the moment Balaam answer’s his donkeys question he is able to see the angel of the Lord before him. The angel of the Lord responds to Balaam in V. 32 by saying “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.” Balaam’s response helps to support the views given in Chumash, V.34, “I have sinned, I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased I will go back.” From this dialogue it could be perceived that what Balaam was hiding in his heart to do was not hidden from HaShem. The angel then states in V.35 states “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” This is now the second time that Balaam is told to speak only what he is told. I find it interesting that throughout this sidra the topic of speaking dominates. Even to the point that a donkey speaks. It would appear that the miracle of having a donkey speak would show that HaShem has the power to even have an animal speak in human language to prove that if He can do that, that he can also make the human speech flee from the mouth of any human if necessary. The appearance of the Angel of the Lord seemed to be necessary to some extent to force Balaam to speak only what HaShem puts in his mouth. How many times have we read in the Messianic scriptures of Yeshua stating that “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me,” John 14:24. Whether humbly obedient as in the life of Yeshua or forcefully obedient as in the life of Balaam, HaShems words will be has He desires.

Balaam is asked three times, during which seven altars and sacrifices of a bull and a ram on each altar are offered, to curse Israel. HaShem will not allow this and ordains blessings to be spoken to Israel.Balaam reminds Balak on all three occasions that “I must speak only what the Lord puts in my mouth.” In the end Balak’s anger burns against Balaam and then orders him to return home.

Now if Balaam cannot convince HaShem to curse His children Israel, there must be another way. An attempt to bring the Nation of Israel into idolatry worship is made in Ch 25. This seems to be the best way to turn the nation against itself and turn HaShem against His people. Bamidbar 25:1-3 states, “While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.” HaShem commands Moses to have the idolaters killed and to expose them before the nation. This was probably done as somewhat of a public execution spectical to be used as a reminder of the results of idolatry worship. The story now begins of one Levite man who would show his zealousness to HaShem by his actions during this horrible back slidden time of the Israelites. This mans name is Pinehaus, and due to his actions, will in the future, set the standard or what it means to be a true Zadok. The attempts against Israel to be involved in idolatry worship with the Moabites can be connected to Balaam from Bamidbar 31:16 which states, “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people.” This ultimately lead to the death of Balaam.

Balaam’s journey through this sidra shows that he was able to be used by HaShem to bless the nation of Israel while being tempted to do the opposite. Balaam’s character would have had him do the opposite when he was granted permission by HaShem to journey to Moab, presumably for monetary gain. He may have been so blinded by his greed and desires to not even acknowledge the miracles of a speaking donkey if not for the presence of the Angel of the Lord to reveal himself to Balaam and apparently expose the evil that was deep seated in his heart. Although HaShem choose to show mercy to Balaam by having him be a spokes person for Him, Balaam in the end could not resist temptation and due to his actions was cut short for life of this world. Let us not be fooled into thinking that HaShem can’t use bad people to accomplish His will. Or like wise be fooled into thinking that if HaShem is using us for a divine purpose that we may still not be in right standing before our Elohim. Let the words of Yeshua warns us of this deception from Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord.’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

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