Balaam - Numbers 22. 36 to 23. 12  - Part 2

R. Catchpole, London

Part 3 of 10 of the series Balaam

Category: Exposition

God has separated them

‘For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations’, 23. 9.  1 They were an elect people whom God had separated unto Himself. Though, at the moment, Israel nationally has been set aside in divine purpose and the people dispersed amongst the Gentile nations, nevertheless they still retain their Jewish identity, distinct from all other peoples. 

While the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites and the other ancient tribes frequently mentioned in the Old Testament have been absorbed into the Gentile nations, the Jews remain distinct:

  • A people loved and chosen by God; ‘the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people’, Deut. 10. 15. 
  • A people for His own possession; ‘the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth’, Deut. 14. 2. And, we must not forget, it was entirely due to divine grace. 

What of believers today? We have been called with a heavenly calling and severed from the present course of the world; ‘Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father’, Gal. 1. 3, 4. Writing to Titus, Paul says, Christ ‘gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works’, Titus 2. 14. But, though by divine calling separated from the nations, sadly, in their subsequent history the children of Israel failed to live true to their calling. Are we living true to ours? ‘Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you’, 2 Cor. 6. 17.

God has multiplied them

‘Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?’ 23. 10. If a ‘fourth part’ is so many, what must the whole camp be like? Balaam says this after all the efforts of Pharaoh to destroy them and after a generation had fallen in the wilderness because of unbelief. The way they had multiplied bore testimony to the grace and faithfulness of God. In Genesis chapter 13 verse 16, the Lord gave this promise to Abram, ‘I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered’. In the early chapters of Acts and the days following Pentecost, we see a similar numerical increase. Prior to Pentecost, ‘Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples . . . (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty)’, Acts 1. 15. Following Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit, we are told, ‘in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied’; ‘the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith’, Acts 6. 1, 7. Though unlikely we are witnessing such growth today, nevertheless the Lord said, ‘I will build my church’ and that work is progressing, Matt. 16. 18.

God will not forsake them

Far from cursing them, Balaam wished to be like them, ‘Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!’ 23. 10. Commenting on the phrase ‘the death of the righteous’, Edersheim, quoting a German commentator, wrote, ‘The pious Israelite could look back with calm satisfaction in the hour of his death, upon a life rich in proofs of the blessing, forgiving, protecting, delivering, saving, mercy of God . . . knew that he would carry them with him as an inalienable possession, a light in the darkness of Sheol’.  2 Today, we have the added benefit of New Testament teaching and the assurance that for the believer, ‘to be absent from the body’ is to ‘be present with the Lord’, 2 Cor. 5. 8.

Balaam didn’t just speak about the death of the righteous but added, ‘let my last end, be like his’. It seems that he is looking on to their final, ultimate destiny, their future glory, when, despite their present position, Israel will be the head of the nations and not the tail, Deut. 28. 13.  3 But what glory are we marked out for? To be with Christ, to be like Christ, and to behold His glory.  4 Balaam, seeing their position, blessings and destiny, wished to be like them. Do we live in such a way that others might wish to possess what we have found in Christ?

 1 Moses would later say, ‘When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye’, Deut. 32. 8-10.
 2 Alfred Edersheim, Bible History, Vol. 3, pg. 26.
 3 The Lord says, ‘Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth’, Zeph. 3. 19, 20.
 4 1 Thess. 4. 17; 1 John 3. 2; John 17. 24.

There are 24 articles in
ISSUE (2021, Volume 76 Issue 1)

An Assembly of the Lord’s people will be a people among whom - Separation is required - Part 10

Aspects of Calvary - Part 4

Assembly Testimony in Cuba 

Balaam - Numbers 22. 36 to 23. 12  - Part 2

Cover Image

Editorial - ‘The Lord shut him in’, Gen. 7. 16.

Golden Thread Series - Alan Jenkins 

Henry Alford, biblical scholar and polymath (1810-1871) 

His Head

Interpersonal responsibilities – ‘mutual deference’ Colossians 3. 18 - 4. 6 - Part 12

Old Testament women who appear in the New Testament - Rachel  


Question Time - Who were the Pharisees and why do they feature so much in the New Testament? 

South Africa

The Forgiveness of Sins

The Gospel of Mark - Part 13

The Son – His Second Coming - Part 8

The Tabernacle

The Text of Scripture

The Twelve Tribes of Israel - Ephraim and Manasseh

Things That Concern Us Philippians - Part 2

What does the Bible tell us about the future? - Part 9 - Israel – The final days of the tribulation and the two witnesses

Why there really is a God: and what you need to know about Him - Andrew Wilson 

Word for Today - Telos

There are 6 articles in this series

Balaam - Numbers 22. 1-38 - Part 1

Balaam Numbers 22. 36 to 23.12 - Part 2

Balaam - Numbers 22. 36 to 23. 12  - Part 2

Balaam - Numbers 23. 13-26  - Part 4

Balaam - Numbers 23. 13-26 - Part 5

Balaam - Part 6

There are 29 articles by this author

The Seeds of Division

Smoking, Sex

Esther: God’s invisible hand Helen Clarke

As his custom was

The Structural Principles of the Bible F. E. Marsh

History Today - James Montgomery Paul S. Taylor

Men in God’s Service N. John Jeyanandam

Hints and signs of the coming King (Author: Kurt Strassner)

The Sovereignty of God over the Nations

A Faith that endures - Brian Croft

A tender plant from the dry ground - Timothy Cross

The Eternal State

The Song of Zechariah - Timothy Cross



Introduction to the Messianic Psalms - Part 1

Introduction to the Messianic Psalms - Part 2

The Holy Spirit and Christ

The Messianic Psalms - Psalm 24

What does the Bible tell us about the future? - The Marriage and Marriage Supper of the Lamb - Part 5

The Messianic Psalms - Psalm 72

What does the Bible tell us about the future? - Part 7 - ‘The re-emergence of Israel’

An overview of Job

Balaam - Numbers 22. 1-38 - Part 1

Balaam Numbers 22. 36 to 23.12 - Part 2

Balaam - Numbers 22. 36 to 23. 12  - Part 2

Balaam - Numbers 23. 13-26  - Part 4

Balaam - Numbers 23. 13-26 - Part 5

Balaam - Part 6