The children of Israel are currently camped in the plains of Moab. Balak, the king of Moab, fears the Israelites so he joins forces with the Midianites, and together they send for the pagan prophet, Balaam, to get him to curse the Israelites. Now Balaam is a prophet who loves a profit (2 Peter 2:15-16). So he is eager for the job, and the Lord eventually tells Balaam he can go with them, but he can only say “the word which I speak to you – that you shall do.”
Balaam travels by donkey, and God uses the donkey to put Balaam in his place. See, God knows Balaam’s heart. God knows Balaam only cares about financial gain, but the Lord is going to use him for His glory and for the good of His people anyway. So the donkey speaks and rebukes Balaam for his spiritual blindness. Then the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes, and when Balaam sees the Angel of the Lord “he bowed his head and fell flat on his face.” God tells Balaam to go with the men, but He reminds him to only speak what the Lord speaks.
When Balaam comes to the city of Moab, King Balak takes Balaam up to the high places of Baal (a false god). There Balaam asks Balak to build seven altars to the Lord. However, instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blesses them. So Balak takes Balaam to two more locations hoping for a different outcome, but each time Balaam builds an altar and blesses the children of Israel according to the word of God.
Balak is infuriated that Balaam has blessed Israel. Therefore, he tells Balaam to go home without any payment because he did not curse the Israelites. Before Balaam leaves, he gives one last prophecy highlighting how the Lord will continue to bless Israel. He says, “A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel; and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.” This prophecy is very similar to the blessing Jacob gave Judah in Genesis 49:10 – “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” pointing to the Messiah who is coming through the bloodline of Jacob’s son Judah and Judah’s descendant King David, who will one day rule over all the nations.
“So Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place; Balak also went his way.” When Balaam returns home, he gets to thinking and comes up with an idea that will get him paid and make the children of Israel stumble. Tomorrow we will find out what that stumbling block is, so keep reading! (Numbers 22:1-24:25)