September 24



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Numbers 22-24

We are in the World Stream reading from the Lexham English Bible.

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Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis

Lord, thank you for these reminders today of what we don’t want to end up like in our pilgrimage. It’s odd and it’s sobering but that is why there are so many unpleasant stories of hearts gone wrong in the Bible. It reminds us of what to pray for protection against. Therefore, deliver us from evil. Amen.

This is a strange story told with Balak, the King of Moab, as the core motivating figure today. Balak’s motivation is that he is in utter terror surmising that his land and people will be completely lost to the Israelites whose army of fighting age men stands at around 600,000. Vastly outnumbered and with no hope of staving off the Israelites, he resorts to hiring a professional cursor to put a bad curse on the Israelites. In Balak’s mind, this will throw the Israelites into duress and confusion. So Balak hires Balaam to do this dubious deed and offers to pay him a camel’s-load full of money to do so.  Balaam, enroute to meet with Balak encounters an angel who warns him, [barring the path] to not go and engage in such an endeavor.  Strangely enough, Balaam’s donkey sees the angel but Balaam didn’t – for awhile! The talking donkey had you feel like you were back in Narnia there didn’t it?!  Something we want to be clear on is that Balaam is not an Israelite.  He is from the region where Abraham had come from 700 years or so prior.  That area was known for its diviners, astrologers, magicians; people well-versed in the dark arts. You can see why God needed Abraham OUT of there if God was going to work with him and start a nation that was going to be a “Star”; a Light to the Gentiles. That area today is still a source of religion gone amok, save for the Kurds among whom many are Christian.  Those who care to search our Balaam’s origins, his family, his father, his home region – the hunt takes one rather quickly right into a world that the Bible urges us not to venture into; witchcraft.  Thus, this is Balaam, whom Balak wanted on the job to cast a bad spell and see Israel cursed so that misfortune would come over them.

The scene is certainly a peculiar development with multiple offerings and oracles and intended curses from Balak turning into inevitable blessings being foretold over Israel. And Balaam does not stray from what God ordered him to declare!  So Balak tries again and Balaam intends to remain principled and keeps prophesying for God when perhaps he should have just departed the venue. Be that as it was Balaam/Balak tarried and offered more sacrifices and responded again to Balak’s apparent desire to see Israel cursed. And yet again, only blessings are declared for Israel. How could it be any different?  Israel is finally coming to the Promised Land after centuries of longing and waiting and only an ignoramus would think that God is going to change his agenda now based on the misaligned and dark desires of a pagan king who comes from a line of descendants that trace back to disgrace (Gen. 19:30ff <–reread that is you can stomach it). The entire episode ends with Balak is chagrin over his inability to change Israel’s fate. Balak’s agenda is quite apparent. Balaam’s agenda, on the other hand, is a bit more latent, and not so easy to detect. The story ends today and the two B-boys go their separate ways.  But it isn’t over.  Moab acts like Moab as the girls end up luring Israelite men into their behavioral pattern.  We’ll read that next week as the secondary agenda’s of these two jokers stunts; Balak and Balaam lead to some unintended consequences that maybe weren’t so unintended after all.

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