Numbers 23 Commentary

Numbers 23 Commentary: Balaam blesses Israel

The king of Moab (Balak) has three sets of altars built, at three different locations, from which he hopes Balaam can curse Israel. Instead of cursing Israel Balaam pronounces a blessing on the nation of Israel. Like a donkey, Balaam is simply a conduit of God’s message. He cannot say anything else.

The first set of seven altars are erected at Bamoth Baal. From there Balaam is able to see part of the Israelites down in the valley (Chapter 22). The first prophecy or oracle comes from this place: “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?” Numbers 23 verse 8.

Having failed to secure a curse on Israel, Balak shifts camp. Perhaps the results would be different from a different location. Another set of seven altars is setup. From here Balaam gives us his second prophecy:” God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19 NIV. It is from the mouth of this witchdoctor that we hear these great declarations concerning the character of God.

It is difficult to guess what this incident meant to Israel at the time. But for Israel shortly after this and for us today, we can look back and appreciate the LORD’S tender-loving watch over Israel. The LORD using a donkey and a witchdoctor to speak, is indicative of Israel’s failure. It is Israel that should have stood up to make these declarations about a God they had experienced in person. It is even more damning of Israel that a pagan prophet should be wishing to have a life and privileges that Israel hardly appreciated.

Verses 19-24 contain some very deep declarations the saint today needs to reflect on regularly. There is no witchcraft against Israel. There is no misfortune against Israel…these are great foundational statements concerning the saints. Israel stood protected from witchcraft. All these transactions were happening without Israel knowing about them. The LORD was busy at work on the mountain, contending with Balak and directing the witch Balaam…even making the donkey speak! May the LORD contend with your enemies today!

Angry Balak cannot stand this anymore. He orders Balaam to neither curse nor bless Israel. The project has failed. But we still have another location and another set of seven altars. This takes us into chapter 24.

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Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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