We now come to the story of Balaam, the prophet who was asked by Balak, the king of Moab (for whom this parashah is named) to curse the Israelites encamped just outside his territory.
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Balaam, although a sorcerer and user of magic, apparently is also someone who knows the true God, and as such asked God for guidance regarding this request.
God says when it comes to cursing the Israelites, Balaam is not to do so because they are blessed.
In other words, they’re my people and you will not say anything against them.
Balaam tells the committee of princes sent by Balak that he cannot help them, and after they tell Balak, Balak sends more important men, with a greater promise of reward.
Here’s where Balaam’s faithful obedience begins to waver.
Even though God already told him “NO!” Balaam tells this second group that he will ask, again. God tells Balaam that if he is summoned, to go, but he is not to curse the people.
Well, Balaam goes to Balak and God, realizing that he is going with the intention to curse, anyway, sends an angel to stop him.
Balaam doesn’t see the angel, but his donkey does and three times goes off the path to avoid the angel. The third time Balaam beats the ass, and that’s when God allows the ass to speak; and, after the ass sets Balaam straight, the angel becomes visible.
Now Balaam realizes his ass saved his ass these three times, and says he will go home, but God tells him to keep going but say only what God tells him to say.
I believe God now intends to use Balaam to further bless the people and teach both Balaam and Balak a lesson.
Balak is happy to see Balaam, but after three separate attempts to get the people cursed, with Balaam obeying God and blessing them each time, Balak furiously sends Balaam home, without pay.
Before leaving, God gives Balaam a prophetic warning to Balak and the other kings there with him regarding the Acharit HaYamim (End Days).
So, nu? There’s a number of interesting issues here, but I am going to boil it down to reduce today’s lesson to one, simple message:
When God says something, that’s all there is to it.
Balaam at first did as God said, but when he was further tempted with more money, he tried to finagle a way for God to let him go. The Torah wording seems to say that God told him it was OK to go, but then sent an angel to kill him because he went!
When I first read this, I thought “What’s up with that?”
In Numbers 22:12, God tells Balaam “Thou shalt not go with them.” but after Balaam asks a second time, in Numbers 22:20, God says “If the men are come to call thee, rise up; go with them; but only the word which I speak unto thee, that shalt thou do”
I believe God now is telling him if he is summoned to go, i.e., if he is given a royal command to appear, then he shouldn’t disobey the king.
The Talmud states that Balaam’s second request wrested from God approval to go, but the statement God made about speaking as God says to is a warning that if Balaam really wants to disobey, go ahead and do so, but there will be consequences.
This makes a lot of sense, considering that God sent an angel to kill Balaam for having decided to go.
I said today’s message, or lesson (if you will) is simple: God means what he says. People don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do, but God isn’t “people”- he is God. He says what he means, and he means what he says, and besides that, he does what he says he will do.
That goes for punishment as well as forgiveness.
God’s instructions regarding how he wants us to live are given to all of us, by God through Moses, in the Torah. There is no other place, anywhere, throughout the entire Bible (Genesis through Revelation) where God specifically says to do certain things in a certain way.
What Paul says, what John says, or Peter, James, the Pope, the WCC, the Talmud… whatever and whoever within any religion that tells anyone to do anything other than what God said to do in the Torah, is a Balaam.
God tells us how to worship him and how to treat each other, and that is all we need to know. As I said before, when God says something, that is all there is to it.
In the Torah, God tells you, and me, and all of us how he wants us to live. You have the option to obey or reject what he says, but if you ignore it and chose to accept what some religion tells you to do instead, you are no better than Balaam trying to get God to change his mind about something he already told you to do.
God means what he says, and Balaam found out the hard way.
Later in Numbers we will see that Balaam still tried to win Balak’s favor, and that ended up costing him his life.
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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!