Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 24

Chapter 24
Summary:Balaam realized that God was only going to bless the Israelites, so unlike the previous two times that he ascended the mountains to seek "enchantments" with God, he instead turned to face the wilderness. Balaam lifted his gaze and saw the people of Israel dwelling in their tents, organized by their tribes, and at that moment the spirit of God came to him with another message for King Balak.

Balaam delivered this message to the king:
24:3 "...the man whose eyes are open hath said:
24:4 He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
24:5 How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!
24:6 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.
24:7 He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.
24:8 God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
24:9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee."
King Balak became angry with Balaam, "smote his hands together", and exclaimed that he had summoned Balaam to curse the king's enemies, yet Balaam had instead just blessed them three times in a row. He tells Balaam to leave and return back to his land, adding that he had intended to bestow a great honor upon Balaam, but that God had apparently kept him back from that honor.

Balaam replied, just as he had said to the king's messengers, that even if he was given a palace filled with silver and gold, he still would be unable to go against God's commandments. He tells the king that he will return home, but not before telling him what the Israelites will do to his people.

Balaam tells the king:
24:15 "...Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:
24:16 He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
24:17 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, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
24:18 And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.
24:19 Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city."
Balaam shifted his gaze over toward the land of Amalek and continued:
24:20 "...Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever."
Balaam then shifted his gaze toward the land of the Kenites and said:
24:21 "...Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.
24:22 Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive."
Balaam concluded his prophecy saying:
24:23 "...Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!
24:24 And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever."
Balaam then rose up and returned home, and King Balak did the same.
Thoughts:Balaam realizing that God simply isn't going to allow him to curse the Israelites, and will instead bless them, decides not to ascend to a "high place" in order to speak with God. Instead he gazed out towards the wilderness, seeing the Israelites and their well organized campsite. Although Balaam it seems was trying to avoid another message from God, God gave him one anyways and Balaam returned to deliver the message to King Balak.

Balaam gives a prophetic message to the king which in summary basically details how blessed the Israelites are, and that they are destined to conquer the lands of the "promised land". In Balaam's speech however, he curiously mentions that "their (the Israelites) king will be greater than Agag".

Who is Agag? The answer is complicated considering a king named Agag shows up much later in the book of 1 Samuel, which is five books away from where we currently are here in the book of Numbers. I've decided to tackle this question in a separate post so as to not deviate away from the rest of Numbers Chapter 24.

The King James bible also humorously compares the strength of the Israelites to "the strength of an(sic) unicorn", however the NIV bible replaces this translation with "the strength of a wild ox".

King Balak, however, is not pleased to once again hear God's message of his blessing the Israelites coming from Balaam - the man he summoned to curse the Israelites. He tells Balaam to take a hike and go back to his own land, while telling him that he blew his chance at receiving a great honor from the king, because God apparently held him back from it.

Balaam replied that he's been upfront all along with the king, stating that he even told the messengers that even if he was offered a palace filled with silver and gold that he wouldn't be able to go against God's wishes.

Before Balaam departs for home, he gives King Balak another prophecy about what the Israelites are going to do to his kingdom.

Balaam tells the king that there shall come a star out from the people of Israel, and that the ruler of the Israelites will "smite the corners of Moab" and destroy the descendants of Sheth. He continues on stating that the Israelites will possess the city of Edom, while their enemies will possess the city of Seir - until the Israelites conquer and destroy those remaining in the city.

Balaam also predicts doom for the Amalekites, and states that while the Kenites are situated in a strong threshold, they too will be destroyed, until King Asshur (of Assyria) carries the survivors away as captives.

Balaam concludes his prophecy by stating that ships will arrive from the coast of Chittim, and will oppress both Asshur and Eber, and they too shall perish.

Balaam and King Balak both departed and went home.

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