Saturday 26th June 2021 16th Tamuz 5781
PARASHAT BALAK Herschel
Numbers 22:2 – 25:9; Micah 5:6 – 6:8 (English 5:7 – 6:8); Matthew 21:1-11
2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites,
3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab
was filled with dread because of the Israelites.
Israel had just defeated the Amorite kings Og & Sihon. Rashi says that Balak
reasoned that that if the Amorite kings were powerless to stop the Israelites,
surely Moab was also in mortal danger. So, Balak’s strategy was to initially avoid a military battle. Jewish survival is governed by spiritual laws, and thus the only method to defeat them is with spiritual powers. And so, King Balak hires the greatest spiritual master of the non-Jewish world, a man named Bilaam, to wage metaphysical warfare against the Jewish people.
Numbers 22:4 - 6
4b So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time,
5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near
the River, in his native land. Balak said: "A people has come out of Egypt;
they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me.
6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful
for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the
country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse
The chutzpah (the nerve or cheek) of Balak in quoting Genesis 12 which is G-d’s promise to Israel. Apparently, Bilaam’s success lay in cursing and so, Balak mentions blessings as flattery to try and entice the sorcerer to take up the challenge. The other enticement was also the diviner’s fee.
7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination.
Bilaam is one of the most controversial personalities found in the pages of the bible. He was a well-known heathen sorcerer who apparently had the reputation of being able to successfully reign down curses on others. In one of the rare occasions in scripture, our parasha is named after an individual, (there are only 6 parashiyot out of the 54 annual readings that are named after individuals). One would imagine that a Abraham or a Moses warranted a parasha to be named after them.
But, no! Instead, we have a parasha named after Balak. Yitro is another example of a parasha named after a heathen, although, Jethro later proselytized.
It appears that HaShem, in His wisdom, ordained that the gentile nations should have a prophet who would be able to communicate to them the will of God and Balaam was that prophet. So, after the elders of Midian and Moab approach this prophet, bringing with them the diviner’s fee, we read Bilaam’s strategy.
8 "Spend the night here," Balaam said to them, "and I will bring you back the
answer the LORD gives me." So the Moabite princes stayed with him.
Notice that this sorcerer does not use the generic name of G-d. He doesn’t call
Him Elohim; Balaam calls HaShem by His sacred Name, YHWH! That a
renown heathen sorcerer even knows G-d’s ineffable Name and actually
pronounces it, is utterly remarkable, to say the least, bearing in mind that the
high priest could only pronounce this Name once a year on Yom Kippur.
9 God came to Balaam and asked, "Who are these men with you?"
10 Balaam said to God, "Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this
11 'A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come
and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and
drive them away.'"
12 But God said to Balaam, "Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on
those people, because they are blessed."
13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak's princes, "Go back to
your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you."
Huh‼ HaShem speaks to a heathen prophet and directs his ways? But this is exactly what transpires in our parasha. As much as Bilaam tries to curse Israel, thereby enhancing his reputation and receiving due financial compensation for his efforts, God thwarts His plans every step of the way.
And, Bilaam actually lands up blessing Israel. So significant and poetical were these blessings that they became part of the evening ma’ariv service. Here, we chant
‘Mah tovu ohavecha Ya’akov, mishnotecha Yisrael” - "How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel” ( Num 24:5)
There is so much in this story this is very unusual and unexpected.
And so, knowing that Balak persisted in his efforts to curse Israel, the sages ask why did wicked Balak deserve the honour to have a sidrah named after him? And they answer that he had at least one good character trait – he was honest! He made no attempt to conceal his fear and hatred of the Israelites and therefore, you knew exactly where you stood with him!
Bilaam on the other hand, did not even possess this quality. He was thoroughly duplicitous and double-minded, something that HaShem abhors. He really tried to please Balak in cursing Israel because he desired the monetary reward and the enhancement of his reputation. The very name Bila’am is a contraction of the words "Bi-lo Am," which means "without a nation." His loyalty was dictated by whoever offered the most money. But, what does Yeshua warn about?
24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the
other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot
serve God and mammon.
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust
destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust
destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
HaShem demands complete fidelity - you shall no other gods before Me! He alone must be first in our lives. The Shema has been historically translated as ‘Hear o Israel, the LORD our G-d, the LORD is One’. But, an equally acceptable rabbinic translation is ‘Hear O Israel, the LORD IS our G-d, the LORD alone! Out of the myriad gods that exist, we will worship and serve only the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the G-d of Israel! He must have the place of pre-eminence in our lives and the Psalmist frequently mentions this:
1 Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the
assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole
7 'Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with
their whole heart.
Furthermore, in his message to the ecclesia at Laodicea, G-d warns us against double mindedness.
15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.
16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit
you out of My mouth.
The Greek word for ‘lukewarm’ is used only once in the new covenant and it implies neutrality, which is an affront to G-d and His response is vivid – “I will spew or vomit you out..’. In fact, G-d says, if you are hovering with indecision about who is the Master of your life, I will help you make up your mind:
II Th 2:9-12
9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all
power, signs, and lying wonders,
10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they
did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should
believe the lie,
12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had
pleasure in unrighteousness.
You can understand then why the spirit of Bila’am is so offensive to G-d. It is a non-committal neutral spirit, playing both sides of the fence, waiting to see where the chips fell before taking a position. In Dev 30, G-d says “I set before you a choice, life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life”!
Family, you cannot remain neutral about Yeshua. He really is or He is not master of your life! You know that adage ‘there’s no such thing as being a little pregnant?’. You either are or you are not. Similarly, you either believe in Yeshua as Lord and Saviour of your life, in all circumstances, or you do not!
We see that in the new covenant, the spirit of Bilaam is portrayed as something to be avoided at all costs:
2 Pet 2:14-19
14 They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.
15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of
Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's
voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is
reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption;
for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.
11 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.
Rev 2:13-16 (congr at Pergamos)
13 "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you
hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which
Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan
14 "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.
15 "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which
thing I hate.
16 ' Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
The spirit of Bilaam and the spirit of the Nicolaitians is the same spirit and it has been loosened upon an unsuspecting world and more concerning, upon an unsuspecting ecclesia. It is a seducing, anti-G-d spirit that will try and draw G-d’s people away from the narrow way into compromise and lukewarmness.
This insidious spirit tries to weaken the people and the inherent pitfall of this deceiving spirit, is that it does not come clothed with horns and smoke pouring out of its nostrils. It doesn’t necessarily look how we imagine evil to look. This spirit can come as a man of the cloth.
2 Cor 11:13-15
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves i into apostles of Messiah.
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into
ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
How will you be able to distinguish between a true servant of G-d and one who disguises himself as an angel of light? “Whose end will be according to their works! Yeshua said ‘by their fruits will you know them’.
Family, I do not want to wait to the end to discover that I had been deceived. Neither do you! I want to caution you not to be swept away by clever talk or a person’s ability to quote scripture. Don’t get swept away by religious talk for the adversary can manifest as an angel of light. The Scriptures warns us to look to the fruit of their lives. You will know them by their fruit! Look at their relationships. Look how they conduct themselves especially when the heat is turned up!
And let us learn and take heed of, the lessons evident in Parashat Balak and test every spirit to see whether it is truly from God!