Balaam and Balak. God caused donkey to speak against getting beat.

Day 65 (March 6): Balak asks Balaam to curse Israel, God ensures Balaam’s readiness, donkey talks, Balaam aids Israel, Balaam shares Israel’s future

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 22-24
(1407 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 22:4): Has Balaam been mentioned in the Bible until now?  From today’s reading, he sounds like he is really close to God.  How come he has not been mentioned thus far, or did I miss something?

A. You did not miss anything.  This is the first time we have met Balaam, because he is not an Israelite.  This three-chapter interval in the story appears to have its origins in the fear of the Moabite king and a pagan prophet.

Q. (Numbers 22:22): I don’t understand why God was upset with Balaam for going to see Balak when God told him to go the night before.

A. Yes, this is tricky.  I would suspect that God’s anger with Balaam has to do with his motives.  God gives Balaam permission to go, but not to curse Israel, so perhaps that is what Balaam was planning to do that offended God, even after He had granted permission to go see the king.  I can see why a face value reading of the text would cause confusion, however.  There is quite possibly some sort of error in the text that presents itself as God contradicting His own order.

Q. (22:23-34): The understanding I have of this verse is that Balaam is in his own world.  He’s not looking up to see the angel of the Lord, so God knows that Balaam isn’t tuned in to him.  He sent the angel to give Balaam a wakeup call to make sure he is speaking God’s words?  Also, when Balaam is whipping the donkey, God makes the donkey talk, which made me think that God was trying to teach him a lesson that he needs to pay attention to others and not just himself.

A. I think that is very insightful.  Your suggestion could be another reason God was not pleased with Balaam and forbid him to go: he was only focusing on himself, and needed a “wake up call.”

Q. (23:1-6, 23:14) Rob, you have told us that when we see the number 7 in the Bible, it signifies completeness, how does this the seven altars signify completeness here?

A. You have correctly noticed another incident of 7.  The number apparently was significant in the minds of Israel’s neighbors as well, for they also see it as a significant number.  According to my commentary, Balaam is using a pagan technique of prophecy called liver divination, and this many animals sacrificed would surely have given Balaam plenty of organs to examine (a lovely image, isn’t it?).  This type of divination would have been specifically forbidden to the Israelites, but was commonplace for professional pagan prophets (say that 5 times fast) like Balaam.

O. (23:7-12) I can imagine how totally ticked off King Balak would be.  I guess this is God’s version of humor.  It works for me!

Q. I just wonder if Balak, after hearing the blessings prophecies, changed his mind if God would change his fate?  Or, is it already predetermined?

A. That’s a tricky question.  In the short term, Moab is NOT one of the nations that will be conquered by Israel: they are not in in the Promised Land, but are rather outside of it.  The vision that Balaam has about a specter rising to crush Moab is probably that of King David, who will conquer many of the surrounding nations.  As we keep reading, however, I think you will see the Moabite reaction to Israel.

For further reading: What reminders can we glean from the talking donkey story?

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 25-26

Creation is All Around Us

On a recent flight, my mind began to wonder, as it has so many times before riding the skies, just how in the world is this mega steel boat get its huge body off the ground, not by a few feet, but thousands of feet?  And, how amazingly intelligent are all of those experts from the Wright Brothers to today’s flight engineers?  All of that shared information has gotten millions of people around the world millions of times.  My mind went to how many rivets are required for the metal plates so they don’t fly off going 500 mph.  And, how the plane goes up and down and stops.  Look at a diagram of airplane parts to see how many it takes to control the beast.

How far the world has come in the 20th century!  To think that the Wright brothers flew their plane in 1903 and planes were used in war as early as 1911.  Today, we have spacecraft going to who knows how many parts of the universe.  And, satellites relaying so much information.  I wonder what is next!  I think, in my lifetime, that car manufacturing may be nearly obsolete and the Jetson’s scenario of hovercraft will be the norm.  Hopefully, I am not around for teleporting.  

Had to be a mastermind

So there has been some pretty impressive thought processes and trials and errors to figure out air travel.  Now, let’s take a look at things we did not create.  Our planet is so intrinsically made.  Consider gravity, wind direction and speed, air currents.  Aircraft engineers have to address all of these factors.  I took a class where we talked about the design of the earth and how it just didn’t magically happen.  Something intelligent had to be there to start it all.  One cell can’t just decide to tell itself that it will be lung tissue in a mammal or a component of dirt or air, or pollen.  For any kind of order to happen, many scientists are now saying that the universe had to be made by a master creator. 

Think how the air we breathe is a perfect combination of gases.  Air, combined with food and water give us what we need to survive.  Animals are perfectly paired with their surroundings, giving them shelter, drink and food.  I am not a scientist whatsoever, but I do know that there is so much harmony between life that there is no way that all of it could have come into being without the most incredible genius at the helm.  

And, the Bible says that humans are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).  So, if humanity’s scruples are a fragment of God’s creative power, just imagine His intelligence!  Not only did God engineer the world, but also our galaxy and universe and who knows what else.  Nehemiah 9:6b: You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host …

Evidence of God’s existence is all around

He also put knowledge of himself in every person.  The tough part is just recognizing Him, especially if we have not grown up in Christianity or were even discouraged from it.   Romans 1:20 (NLT) says: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”  And, not only can we see a marvelous creation, but God managed to have people across thousands of years and thousands of miles relate stories to us that tell of Him and His plan for redemption.

We spent our Thanksgiving week away from home, staying at a rental property while we visited family.  There was a fish tank in the rental with three large fish in it.  We were to feed them every day.  I named them Goldie, Blue and Horace.  Goldie was the prettiest, Blue, had the most personality and Horace was the least social.  Several days later I noticed Horace had a “lucky” fin, meaning it had been chewed off to about a quarter of the other one.  So, he had a reason for staying out of the way!  These fish have probably been named a hundred times from all of the visitors.  I just thought it amusing that I like to name things and I think many of us do, which is a task that God gave humankind in the Garden of Eden.

His signature is on so many things.  There is evidence all around, but we can go to creation in Genesis 3 to see concrete examples.  In verse 16, women get their curse from the Fall (NIV): I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”  How many times do we want to tell our husbands what to do?  And, how many centuries have men largely ruled over women?  

In verse 17-19, he addresses men: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.”  Now, most of us reading this article are not farmers or hunter-gatherers, but still, we struggle to make a living to put food on the table.

And, before this when God confronted Adam and Eve for their sin, they were trying to hide from God in verse 10.  Where did we get that innate action when we are caught wronging someone, where we curl up and try to slink away from the person we disappointed?  This is the arrival of shame and guilt into our world.  

That all sounds a little daunting.  But, in His loving kindness, he cared for each one of us by giving us His Word, that if we follow it, we will be fulfilled.  When you contemplate the world and just how incredibly awesome it is, you see the evidence and realize just how much He loves us to create a world for us that is marvelous!  I am smiling as I write this : )