Reference: Numbers 24:1-9
Backstory: The Israelites under Moses’ leadership were making their way northeast immediately prior to entering the Promised Land. To get from the Sinai Peninsula to an area where they could cross the Jordan River, they had to pass through Moab. When the Moabites saw Moses and the children of Israel approaching their country, they were afraid the “horde’ was going to destroy the land, i.e., cut trees for firewood, consume pasture lands needed for their own livestock.
Story Line: To stop the Israelites, Balak, the Moabite king sent for the most renowned seer/diviner in the known world—Balaam. King Balak planned for Balaam to curse the Israelites. In ancient times people believed that cursing a person or people could influence their outcome. Balaam lived about 400 miles north of Moab near the Euphrates River. When Moab envoys first approached him, Balaam refused to accompany them to Moab because God told Balaam not to curse the Israelites. Then, the Moabites sent a more distinguished delegation to Balaam and offered him even more money. God allowed Balaam to go with the Moabites; however, God warned Balaam that he could only speak the words God gave him.
In Moab, Balaam gave five separate oracles or parables directed at the Israelites. Much to King Balak’s disappointment, the parables didn’t curse the Israelites. In fact, Balaam’s oracles blessed the Israelites! An example of one of these oracles/parables is:
How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. — Numbers 24:5-7 NIV
Pondering Relationships: King Balak was frightened and often frightened individuals, even kings, make bad decisions. King Balak wanted to turn the Israelites away from Moab. The problem was that Moab didn’t have a standing army to fight against the Israelites. Until recently Moab was subjects of the Amorites. Moab was only freed from Amorite control when the Israelites successfully defeated Sihon, the Amorite king.
King Balak was king over a people who were relatives of the Israelites. Lot was the ancestor of the Moabites. Lot was Abraham’s beloved nephew. The Israelites likely considered the Moabites as extended family. Had King Balak made an effort to speak with Moses likely God would have told Moses to make some accommodation with the Moabites to protect their land. Instead in his fear Balak spent huge amounts of money on a renown curser (Balaam) who refused to curse the Israelites.
Reflection: Just like fear caused King Balak to make a bad decision, fear causes us to make bad decisions. If you are afraid of something, what is a constructive plan for a Christian?
Copyright: May 2, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth