Chapter 24

NUMBERS CHAPTER 24

Balaam’s Third Prophecy Continued

    • Since Balaam realized that the Lord only intended to bless Israel, he didn’t resort to divination as he had done before. Instead, he turned and looked out toward the wilderness. Then, he saw the Israelites’ camp arranged tribe by tribe. The Spirit of God descended upon him and he prophesied the following message:

      • This is the prophecy of Balaam, son of Beor, the prophecy of the man whose eyes see clearly, who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls to the ground, and whose eyes have been opened: O Jacob your tents, your homes, are so beautiful. They spread out before me like valleys, like gardens by the river, like aloe trees planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the water. Water will flow from their buckets and their children will have plenty of water. Their king will be greater than Agag and their kingdom will be exalted. God brought them out of Egypt and they are as strong as a rhinoceros. They will devour the hostile nations that oppose them, break their bones, and shoot them with arrows. Israel crouches like a lioness, who will dare to rouse her? Those who bless you O Israel will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed.”

        • HCSB says, “The Spirit of God descends upon Balaam; and in an ecstatic visionary encounter his eyes are fully opened to a vision of God Almighty, his ears are fully open to the revelation, and he falls upon his face in reverent servitude. The utterance forecasts the Lord’s blessing upon the land with abundance of water rendering it highly productive, and with a powerful kingship surpassing the might of Agag the Amalekite. But the strength of Israel was in the strength of her God. God’s blessing is so powerful and irrevocable that even the most sought after divination expert of the day could not counter its effectiveness.”

        • On Agag the NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Agag was an Amalekite king defeated by Saul (1 Samuel 15:7-9, 32-33).”

      • Guzik writes, “Each of the first three prophecies, it has gotten worse for Balak. In the first one, Balaam fails to curse Israel; in the second, he blesses Israel, and in the third, he curses Balak! How much worse can it get for the king of Moab?”

    • At this point, Balak was enraged with Balaam. He clapped his hands together in an angry outburst and said, “I called you to curse my enemies, but now you have blessed them three times! Go back home! I promised to pay you well, but the Lord has prevented you from receiving your reward.”

    • Balaam responded, “Didn’t I tell your messengers from the beginning that even if you were to give me all the silver and gold that you have I would still be powerless to do anything that goes against the will of the Lord? I can only say what the Lord tells me to say. I’ll go back home, but first I’m going to warn you what these people will do to yours in the future.”

Balaam’s Fourth Prophecy

    • Then, Balaam declared the following prophecy:

      • This is the prophecy of Balaam, the son of Beor. The prophecy of the man whose eyes see clearly, who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls to the ground, and whose eyes have been opened: I see him, but not here now, I perceive him in the distant future. A star will come from Jacob- a scepter will rise from Israel. He will crush the heads of the Moabites and crack the sculls of the Shethites. Edom and Seir will be defeated by their enemies, but Israel will be victorious. A ruler will rise up from Jacob and he will destroy the city’s survivors.”

        • HCSB notes, “In a visionary encounter similar to that of the third oracle, Balaam utters a predictive prophecy about the more distant future of Israel. The parallel references to ‘star’ and ‘scepter’ are symbols of a glorious and powerful kingship that would subdue Israel’s enemies, typified as Moab and Edom.”

        • HCSB continues by noting that this prophecy (similar to some others) has a dual fulfillment, “In the early Israelite monarchy David would fulfill this prophecy in defeating and subjugating both Moab and Edom (2 Samuel 8:1-12). But when later Israelite kings failed to obey God’s instructions, and oppression and exile followed, this passage would be interpreted messianically to refer to a coming glorious King. This is evident in the literature of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This community whose life was dedicated to preparing for the coming messianic kingdom included Numbers 24:17 in a collection of verses they considered messianic. The model of the just and righteous king was brought to ultimate fulfillment in Jesus’ establishment of the kingdom of God.”

        • On the Shethites, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible includes the following, “The people of Sheth were probably the ancient Sutu, though it might refer to Edom/Seir, Ir (or Ar) of Moab, or Amalek, one of Israel’s earliest and most persistent enemies.”

    • Then Balaam looked in the direction of the people of Amalek and declared the following prophecy:

      • Amalek was the greatest of the nations, but destruction is in their future also.”

    • Next, Balaam looked in the direction of the Kenite people and declared the following prophecy:

      • Your home set in the cliffs is secure, but you will be destroyed when Asshur takes you captive.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible includes the following information about the Kenites and Asshur, “A nomadic clan living in the eastern Sinai region; their roots are traced Biblically to the descendants of Cain and are associated with metallurgical craftsmanship (Genesis 4:17-22). In Judges 1:16, the association is made between the Kenites and Moses’ in-laws (the Midianites), the descendants of whom settled in the Negev near Arad…Asshur probably refers not to the later Assyrian Empire of the ninth to seventh centuries BC, or even the Middle Assyrian peoples of the Late Bronze Age, who seldom ventured west of the Euphrates. Rather, this denotes the relatively unknown Ashurites, a nomadic group of the Negev region mentioned in Genesis 25:3, 18; Psalm 83:8. They were the descendants of Abraham and his concubine Keturah.”

    • Balaam ended by declaring this final prophecy:

      • Who can survive when God does this? Ships will come from the coast of Cyprus. They will attack Assyria and Eber and they will also be destroyed.”

        • On the invaders from Cyprus the NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The oracle ends with a word about the rise and fall of invaders from Cyprus (Hebrew Kittim; this term probably referred to a number of Mediterranean people groups.”

        • Regarding Eber, the same sources notes, “…spelled the same as the ancestor of the Hebrews (Genesis 10:21-25; 11:10-16), possibly refers to a people beyond the Euphrates River, a region that fits the parallel reference to Assyria (Joshua 24:3; Isaiah 7:20).”

    • After this, both Balak and Balaam got up and each went toward his home.

      • HCSB notes, “Balaam began his trek homeward, but as 31:8 suggests, he was killed in the Midianite campaign, having been instrumental in instigating idolatrous enticement of Israel related in chapter 25.”

      • Deffinbaugh concludes his article with a very important truth we can learn from Balaam’s example, “Balaam teaches us a very important lesson. Being close to God is not enough. As I read through these chapters in the Book of Numbers, I see Balaam getting closer and closer to the truth. He even speaks some of the most beautiful words of prophecy we could ever hope to read. And yet in spite of all this, we know that Balaam never comes to faith. He, like Balak, will perish because of his sin. It is not enough to be close to God. It is not even enough to speak words of truth about God. Balaam never really trusted in the God of Israel. Are you close to God? Do you attend church, and perhaps even read His Word? You might even teach a Sunday school class. But have you responded to the words of salvation which you have read and taught? It does not matter how close you have gotten to salvation if you have not received Jesus Christ by faith, the One of whom Balaam spoke, but in Whom he never trusted.”