Thursday, July 2, 2015

Balak (“Devastator”) Num 22:2-25:9

The name of this parasha  comes from the second verse of this week’s reading, which says, “Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites” (Numbers 22:2). Balak was the name of a Moabite king in the days of Moses. This week’s Torah reading we find Israel encamped along the borders of Moab, east of the Jordan River, finally ready to enter the Promised Land, in this portion it also tells the story of how Balak hires the occult prophet Balaam to lay a curse on Israel. On the way, Balaam is berated his donkey, who sees, before Balaam does, the angel that God sends to block their way. Three times, from three different vantage points, Balaam attempts to pronounce his curses; each time, blessings issue forth instead. Balaam also prophesies on the end of the days and the coming of Messiah (last reading).

First I would like to look into this non-Israelite prophet Balaam who has a special ability to tap into some aspects of prayer and communication with God. And then speak on the last reading of this parsha, which have messianic referencing’s. I would like to point out a recent archaeological discovery that has added significant information about Balaam. “In 1967, a Dutch expedition under H. J. Franken discovered fragments of inscriptions written on plaster at a Transjordanian site named Tell Deir 'Alla, located about 5 mi. east of the Jordan, not far from the northern bank of the Jabbok  river that flows into the Jordan. In the O.T. this area is known as "the valley of Sukkoth" (Ps. 60:8, 108:8, cf. Gen. 33:17, Judg. 8, I Kings 7:46). Many of the plaster fragments were restored in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle, and the resulting "combinations" were published by J.A. Hoftijzer and G. van der Kooij in 1976. Composed in a language similar to biblical Hebrew, and dated in the late ninth to early 8th centuries B.C., the inscriptions attest the name of a seer, blʿm brbʿr – "Balaam, son of Beor"– for the first time in an extra-biblical source of the biblical period. “ Online source.

 From within some of the Jewish sages of the past we read “Balaam, was a prophet to the nations, God in His wisdom, ordained that the gentile nations should have a prophet who would be comparable to Moses- though much inferior to him- so that they would not be able to contend that if only they had had someone could communicate to them the will of god, they would have been righteous as Israel” this is from Ramban on his notes to Deuteronomy 34:10 from Artscroll Stone Edition of the Chumash. Also in Talmudic writings according to Tanchuma; Berachot 7a “Balaam knew the precise hour to invoke God’s anger and used the correct invocation to invite God’s judgment” This seems to be why Balaam had the ability to have somewhat of a direct line to God  as we see in this parsha. The problem is not that he can communicate with God, but he does with this special gift at theend. It’s his ungodly desires to uses his God given talents for his own use and purposes to gain for his personal profits this is the problem, that even Balak hires him for a wicked scheme against God’s people. In Deu 23:3-6 Balaam is condemn as a spiritual hireling who sought to corrupt the people of God. The Apostolic writings in 2 Pet 2:15 speaks of “the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing”, Jude 1:11 “Balaam’s error” and Rev 2:14 “the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel”. It’s these characteristics that we should try to avoid and they are of being double minded, antagonistic to the way of truth, unrepentant and defiant, all for selfish interest, with no intention of honoring God.

 Second, we will see Balaam attempting to pronounce curses on Israel, but God turning them into blessings. 1 Sam 2:30 …..'Far be it from me! The one who honors me I'll honor, and the one who despises me is to be treated with contempt. It’s in the last reading of Num 24:14-19 that we find “acharit hayamin” (end of days) that gives us a messianic prophecy. “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a scepter shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth.” Num 24:17, according to Rashi “The star is a king, and the scepter is the royal power to overcome opposition and bring everyone under his sway.” This Jewish king will defeat the entire world! Ramban also interprets this passage with references to Messianic times, he states “Messiah is called a “Star”-   more likely a shooting star, or meteor- because he will have to flash across heaven, visible to the whole world, as it were, to gather in Jews from the dispersion.” Also from the Ramban in the Mishneh Torah we read “In the story of Bilaam is it spoken of, and there it is prophesied of the two “anointed ones”: the first Mashiach, which is David, who save Israel from its enemies; and the last Mashiach, who shall be of his descendants, who will save Israel in the end. There he says: “I see him, but not now”- this is David; “I behold him, but he is not near”- this is King Mashiach; “There shall shoot forth a star out of Jacob”- This is David; “And a scepter shall rise out of Israel”- this is King Mashiach; “And he shall smite the corners of Moab”- this is David, as it is written (2 Sam 8:2), “And he smote Moab, and he measured them with a line”; “And rule over all the children of Seth”; this is King Mashiach, as it is written (Zec 9:101), “And his dominion shall be from sea to sea”

 So the bottom line is that God is always working behind the curtains/scenes sort of speak, at a certain point in time Israel will overcome their enemies (David’s reign), but in the end days Israel will be victorious through King Mashiach, who we know to be Yeshua! May we take heed to God’s counsel in His word and not be like Balaam, but acknowledge and live a life honoring King Yeshua Ha'Mashiach, who brings life to the world, now and forever!

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