Notes from Numbers - Chapters 22 - 25

E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe

Part 6 of 8 of the series Notes from Numbers

With this paper we arrive at the third main section of the book: In the Plains of Moab, and the Prospects and Division of the Land, 22. 2 to 36. 13. The chapters now to be considered describe the character and conduct of Balaam and the peril of his influence upon Israel.

Balaam and Balak, ch. 22-25. The Covetous Prophet and the Crafty

King. Balak, king of Moab, unable to prevail against Israel with carnal weapons, now sent for Balaam, de­scribed in Joshua 13. 22 as "the sooth­sayer", to come and curse Israel. As the sequel proves, not even the powers of darkness can deter the victorious march of the people of God. Through His encircling love, Israel is equally safe against the spirits of evil as against the sword of the enemy, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood but ... against spiritual wickedness in high places1', Eph. 6. 12, but the armour of God affords complete protection.

The Prophet, ch. 22. The character and spirit of Balaam is clearly de­scribed in the New Testament by both Jude and Peter. Cain, Balaam and Korah are examples of those who have profession without reality, preaching without profit, pride and self-assertion. They represent the religion of rationalism, mammonism and an­archism, Jude 11; 2 Pet 2. 14-16, and of these we should be constantly aware. Balaam, hankering after "filthy lucre", abused his influence and abil­ity, seducing Israel from the pure worship of Jehovah. Like Simon, Acts 8. 13-23, his heart was not right in the sight of God because he thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money; today, there are still those who practise religion for gain. In his farewell address to the elders of Eph-esus, Paul warned of those who would come among them, like grievous wolves not sparing the flock, and of those of their own selves who would arise "speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them". In contrast, Paul reminded them that he "coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel", but worked with his own hands to provide for his own necessi­ties and those of his companions, Acts 20. 28-35. The sin of covetousness is nothing less than idolatry, Col. 3. 5. The Parables, chs. 23-24. "I took thec to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether", 23. 11; with these words Balak de­scribed Balaam's parables concerning Israel. God will judge and punish His people for their failures, but will not listen to accusations from their ene­mies, for "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justified!", Rom. 8. 33. The first of Balaam's parables, Num. 23. 7-12, views Israel as a separate people, to "dwell alone, and ... not be reckoned among the nations". His earthly peo­ple, chosen in Abraham, remain until this day a separate nation, while his heavenly people are a special treasure for Christ's own possession, Titus 2. 14. In his second parable Num.

23.  18-24, Balaam describes Israel as a secure people saying, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them". They are safe because of what God has wrought, their security depending not upon their merit but upon the prom­ises and faithfulness of Jehovah. The believer can rest in the knowledge that "all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us", 2 Cor. 1. 20.

In Balaam's third parable, Num. 14. 3-9, Israel is depicted as a satisfied people; "how goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters", vv. 5,6. Thus, prostrate be­fore God, with eyes uncovered, Balaam beheld Israel, prosperous, strong and victorious. Moreover, Israel had been chosen to be a channel of blessing to others, water shall flow from his buck­ets and his posterity shall be in abund­ance of water, and this would be true in a literal and prophetic sense, Ezek. 47; Zech. 14. 4. Having been hired by Balak to curse Israel, Balaam had blessed them three times, and is now-ordered to return home. As he does so he utters his fourth parable, Num.

24.  15-24, in which he sees Israel as a sovereign people, ultimately victorious, "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel", v. 17. Here is prophesied the coming and triumph of the true Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords, Rev. 19. 46.

The Peril, ch. 25. "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods", vv. 1,2. It would seem that this was the work of Balaam who, unable to curse Israel, had taught Balak how to seduce them from their loyalty to Jehovah; see 31. 16; Rev. 2. 14. To be invited to share in the religious activities of the local Baal might appear to have been an act of generous friendship, but was in fact a corruption of the covenant. The psal­mist recounts, "they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them. Then stood up Phinehas and executed judg­ment: so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for right­eousness unto all generations for ever­more", Psa. 106. 29-31.

There are times for tenderness and seasons for severity in the history of God's people. Complacency in essen­tials of truth may well be a form of compromise. The New Testament pa­rallel is clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 6. 14-18, and provides a salutary warn­ing against an unrestrained ecumen­ism. The cost of Balaam's counsel was great, for twenty four thousand died by the plague, Num. 25. 9, while Balaam himself fell among the judged Midianites, vv. 18, 19; 31. 8. It be­hoves us carefully to distinguish be­tween the tolerance of Christian love and the sublety of erroneous com­promise.

There are 9 articles in
ISSUE (1985, Volume 36 Issue 1)

Distinguishing Words That Differ: The Stranger (Paper 1)

The Glory of His Heavenly Kingdom

Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities

Notes from Numbers - Chapters 22 - 25

Paper 2: Philippians 3

The Sayings from the Cross, 1

Survey of James’ Epistle, Paper 7 James 5. 1-20

Truth Unchanged, Unchanging

What about Gambling?

There are 3 articles in this series

Notes from Numbers - Chapters 22 - 25

Notes from Numbers - Chapters 26-30

Notes from Numbers - Chapters 31-35

There are 84 articles by this author

The Trials of Persecution and the Wisdom of God

The First Main Division

The Triumph of Redemption and The Work of God

The Teachings of Jehovah and the will of God - Part 1

Revelation of Divine Purpose in Exodus

The Teachings of Jehovah and the will of God - Part 2

Lessons from Leviticus - Introduction and Chapter 1

Lessons from Leviticus - Chapters 6-10

Lessons from Leviticus - Chapters 11-17

Lessons from Leviticus - Chapter 23

Lessons from Leviticus - Chapters 24-25

Notes from Numbers - Chapters 22 - 25

Notes from Numbers - Chapters 26-30

Notes from Numbers - Chapters 31-35

In the Beginning

Trivials or Spirituals?

Patient Perseverance

Restful Resignation

The Flood - Fact or Fiction?

Gifts to the Church - 1 Cor. 12.

Christ and the Bible

Go to Jericho!

Worship: The House Filled (Part 4)

Matter in Miniature

My Beloved

My Beloved ”My Beloved ”

‘My Beloved’ - His Bride (Part 1)

My Beloved

‘My Beloved’ - His Bride (Part 3)

Joel

Amos

Second Epistle of Peter

Obadiah

Habakkuk

The Inspiration of Scripture

Perfect Humanity

Absolute Deity

The Death of Christ

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Ascension and Exaltation of Christ

The Holy Spirit - His Person

The Holy Spirit - His Work

The Holy Spirit and His Work (2)

Spiritual Blessings - Remission

Spiritual Blessings - Redemption

Spiritual Blessing - Atonement

Spiritual Blessings - Justification

Spiritual Blessings - Sanctification

John’s Gospel Chapter 1

John’s Gospel chapter 1

John’s Gospel Chapter 1

John’s Gospel Chapter 1

John’s Gospel Chapter 2

John’s Gospel Chapter 4

John’s Gospel Chapter 5

John’s Gospel Chapter 6

John’s Gospel Chapter 6

John’s Gospel Chapter 9

John’s Gospel Chapter 11

John’s Gospel Chapter 6

John’s Gospel Chapter 8

John’s Gospel Chapter 10

John’s Gospel Chapter 11

John’s Gospel Chapter 13

John’s Gospel Chapter 15

John’s Gospel Chapter 3

John’s Gospel Chapter 4

John Chapter 8

John Chapter 12

John Chapters 13-16

John Chapters 17-19

John Chapters 20 & 21

The Preparation for a Gospel Message

By Galilee

Walking on the Waves, Mark 6. 45-52

Ritual and Reality

Highlights of the Gighway (1)

Highlights of the Highway (2)

The Unclean Spirit, Mark 1. 21-28

The Man with the withered hand, Mark 3. 1-6

Scenes in the Synagogue (3)

Gathering To His Name - Matt. 18. 20

The Lord’s Table And The Lord’s Supper 1 Cor. 10, 15, 23. 11. 20—34

Himself