weekly torah tidbits

July 20, 2019 - Tammuz 17, 5779

Balak: "Balak"



Torah: Numbers 22:2-25:9

Haftarah: Micah 5:6-6:8

Brit Chadashah (New Testament): I Corinthians 1:20-31


Does G-d Speak to Heathens?

     The Israelites are within sight of the Promised Land. Their 40-year sojourn in the desert is almost at its end. The Israelites have recently defeated the Amorites and are now camped along the Jordan, across from Jericho, along the border of Moab.  

     Balak, the king of Moab, and all of his people are filled with terror, fearing that the Israelites are now going to conquer them. Balak in desperation sends for Balaam, a heathen sorcerer of great renown.  He sends word for him to come and curse the people of Israel, thinking that he would then be able to march out against G-d’s people and defeat them.  

     Rabbinic tradition describes Balaam as “Balaam the Wicked, who had an evil eye, a haughty mind and a proud spirit.  Yet G-d comes to him and speaks to him, telling him that he is forbidden to curse the people of Israel.  

     This Torah portion is intriguing. It should open our spiritual eyes to the fact that G-d uses whomever He wants to accomplish His plans and purposes.  These passages are proof that G-d even speaks to the heathens. Balaam, in his greed and evil intent, keeps trying to manipulate the L-rd into allowing him to curse the people of Israel, so that he can collect his fee from Balak. He keeps trying, but to no avail, because G-d is not a man who changes His mind.

     We then see in chapter 24 that the L-rd puts His spirit on Balaam, revealing to him that He, Adonai, is the only true G-d. Having G-d’s spirit put upon one is not to be confused with being filled with G-d’s Holy Spirit.  G-d has revealed Himself to Balaam by His Holy Spirit, but He has not filled Balaam with His Spirit. This is a difference of night and day.  Balaam then blesses Israel with one of the most beautiful blessings in all of Scripture, “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of G-d, who sees the vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are open: how beautiful are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the L-rd, like cedars beside the waters.  Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.”

     It is amazing that such beautiful blessings come from a man whose only goal was to curse Israel, so that he could collect his fee.  We can do nothing apart from G-d, whether it is for good, or for evil.  G-d will, and does, use all of mankind to accomplish His purposes.  For those who do not know the L-rd, they believe that they act of their own accord, but as Balaam found out, this is not the case.  

     Those who do not know G-d, think that they are in control. The truth is that the G-d of Israel is in complete control, and no one or anything can act outside of G-d’s will.  Gleaning from today’s Parashah, we need to know and remember what Balaam found out about G-d’s Chosen People, as he stated in the last part of his prophecy [Numbers 24:9], “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed.”

     These words were put upon Balaam by G-d’s Holy Spirit. They were true then, and they are still true today.