Balaam – Part 7: Numbers 23. 27 – 24. 9

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As we mentioned in the last article, Israel’s influence will yet be worldwide, as a channel of blessing to others, ‘And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’; ‘The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men’, Mic. 4. 2; 5. 7. Of this time Zechariah wrote, ‘Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and … in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you’, 8. 22, 23. What of our testimony? A people so abundantly blessed by God, but are we an avenue of blessing to others? Are any coming into the assembly likely to confess ‘God is in you of a truth’ and likely to desire to go with us, 1 Cor. 14. 25?

Although at that time Israel had no royal monarchy, Balaam next spoke of their king and his kingdom, ‘his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted’, Num. 24. 7. ‘Agag’ is a general title of the kings of Amalek, just as Pharaoh for the rulers of Egypt. Agag is mentioned here because it was the first nation to attack Israel following their Exodus from Egypt and, as such, stood as representative of all the Gentile powers opposed to God’s people. It should be noted that it is not Israel who is exalted in this verse, but Israel’s king, the first direct mention in Balaam’s parables to their promised Messiah. Balaam’s words might remind us of the language of Psalm 89 verse 27, ‘Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth’. However, in context, the psalmist is speaking not of Christ but of David. Commenting on the verse, W. McBride helpfully remarks, ‘Whilst David in his lifetime did not see fulfilment of this honoured role, he will enjoy being a future firstborn in the coming kingdom’. He then adds, ‘However, this respected status falls well short of the peerless role held exclusively by the Lord Jesus of being ‘ the Firstborn, the Prince of the kings of the earth’, as spoken of in Revelation 1 verse 5.1 Then, as to the dominion of Israel’s king, Balaam says, ‘his kingdom shall be exalted’, perhaps reminding us of the dream of the great image given to Nebuchadnezzar, culminating with a stone cut out without hands that smashed the image and which became a great mountain that filled the whole earth. This all looks on to the future day when the God of heaven will set up a kingdom, ‘which shall never be destroyed … shall not be left to other people … and shall stand for ever’, Dan. 2. 34, 35, 44.

For the second time in his parables Balaam spoke of the Exodus from Egypt, expanding in this third parable truth initially introduced in the second parable, Num. 24. 8, 9; 23. 22, 24. The power that God displayed in bringing the people out of Egypt will again be manifest for the people’s deliverance in the end times. Looking on to those days, the prophet Jeremiah says, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers’, Jer. 16. 14, 15. Balaam’s next words, ‘he couched, he lay down as a lion’, echo Jacob’s blessing of the tribe of Judah, Gen. 49. 9, but what is there said of a tribe, the royal tribe, is now applied to the whole nation in the day of its ascendancy. In his second parable, Balaam said the people ‘shall rise up as a great lion’. In this third parable, the great lion lies down. Their enemies defeated, the ‘great lion’ is at rest having devoured its prey and satisfied its hunger. Just as one would desist from disturbing a lion at rest, so none will dare disturb the nation’s peace in that day.

In the first parable, Balaam confessed that he could not curse those whom God had not cursed. In the second, that God had blessed the children of Israel and Balaam could not reverse it. As the third parable concludes, echoing the promise given to Abram in Genesis chapter 12 verse 3 respecting his seed, Balaam says, ‘Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee’. One cannot miss the warning for both Balak and Balaam contained in these closing words, a warning still relevant considering the increasing spirit of antisemitism evident today.

Endnote

1

W. MCBRIDE, Meditations in the Messianic Psalms, Crimond House Publications, pg. 358.

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