Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: “Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me!” (Numbers 22:5)
Balak’s hatred for Israel compelled him to hire the talents and skills of a renowned heathen prophet by the name of Balaam. According to rabbinical scholars, the name Balaam is thought to be a shortened version of Ba’al Ha’Am — “lord of the people” — suggesting that, not only was he well known, but was also highly respected. Jewish literature contends that Balaam was a descendant of Laban who, according to tradition, taught Balaam the black arts. It is a fact that the Babylonian region was rife with demonology and that many ancient nations held a firm belief in curses and blessings. Thus Balak’s appeal to Balaam to “Come now…and curse this people.”
The story of Balaam is one of the most intriguing and, somewhat puzzling, accounts in Scripture. First, it demonstrates the futility of man in that he attempts to undermine God’s purposes for Israel. The story also speaks to the fact that people, like Balaam, possess genuine gifts but lack the virtue to refrain from misappropriating those gifts. It is very likely that, even though he was from Mesopotamia, Balaam knew of the one true God, yet he was regarded as a heathen sorcerer. In other words, he had a God-given gift and knowledge of the truth but, for personal gain, perverted it all.
In the end, Balaam, along with the likes of Amalek and Haman, is forever regarded as an enemy to Israel and, more importantly, the God of Israel. He and those who have followed in his footsteps are people with a haughty mind, a proud spirit and an evil eye. Scripture addresses this type of person saying, “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15). They are linked with villains like Cain and Korah (Jude 1:11) and are warned by the Messiah to abandon this mindset and way of life.
In short, we must diligently guard against the seductions of this world and never allow the gifts and calling of God to be prostituted for personal gain. To the contrary, we are here to advance His Kingdom and purpose and, thus, use the gifts He has bestowed upon us in ways that please Him. So whenever Balak calls, don’t answer.
Blessings and Shalom,