Wednesday, February 14, 2007

um, a little help here


NUM 22:20-22 "God came to Balaam at night and said to him, 'If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.' So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him."

i ran across this about a week ago in my readings and it has stuck with me ever since. hoping to add some perspective. why would god do this? why would he give a command and then get upset that his command was followed? of course there is a wider story to be found here for context. the story (as pertains here) actually starts at the beginning of chapter 22. and, well, i'd like to hear what you think, i guess. if you think anything about this at all. thanks.

13 comments:

Nate said...

Reading it, there was a condition to God's Approval that was restated later in the chapter. It was "that only the word that I speak to you, shall you speak." Somewhere in there the princes from Balak got him to say something other than that. Or he did not state that he would only say the word God would have him speak.

Wendy ftfs said...

To answer your question ...

The Lord knew Balaam well and the first time he told Balaam that the Israelites were blessed should have been good enough for Balaam ... the second bunch of men should have been sent home right away with counsel to do the Israelies no harm ... but Balaam asks them to stay overnight as well, playing both sides of the fence with his eye on the goods he may gain ... I believe this is where he grieved our Father of the Old Testament... when he asked the men to stay again ... and his days of intimate relationship with the Lord were "numbered" (lol) then and there... the Lord says "go" because he knew Balaam would just continue to play this game. The Lord's plan .... was to kill Balaam on the way... Balaam's donkey saved him...
the Lord had mercy on Balaam and then Balaam gave counsel to the Moabites to send their beautiful women among them. And men, like they tend to be, lusted after them and brought a plague among the Israeli camp ...

Interesting that there was an oracle of the Lord in this land at all ... kinda cool ...

But Balaam was never faithful ...and the Lord seemed to require that of his oracles ... Balaam was not the first oracle to meet with death for his unfaithfulness ... and use of his relationship with God for his own gain.

Numbers 31
And Moses said to them, "Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.

Revelation 2:14
'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.'

2 Peter 2

1. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.....

14. having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm,for whom the black darkness has been reserved.
For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.'

Susan said...

Numbers 24:1 gives an interesting insight which is, Balaam was in the the habit of resorting to sorcery.

jON said...

if you have not read the most recent postings on defined, please do. well worth the read.

hmmm.....

in my reading through the rest of the week i did come upon the portion in numbers 31 that said that he sent the moabite women among the israelites...

but if that is the case, why was it not recorded? if that was a part of the drama that unfolded, and dare i say a pretty HUGE part, why would balaam get painted as such a decent guy? or maybe that's just my perspective in this. because really, the only thing i can think of is what you touched on wendy. that when they came back a second time, he should have already known how god felt about the isseue of whether or not to go with them. but then, i can't fault him for that. granted, i've never been an old testament prophet, so i can't say what it's like. but i know in and of myself, i ask god the same question sometimes... not to get a different answer, but just to confirm that i've heard him right. i'm sure i probably would have done the same thing. if the men came once and i felt a "no" and sent them away (in obedience to what i believed god was telling me), but then they came back later asking again, i would probably second guess myself and ask god again to confirm. did they come back again to entice me or did you send them back again because you really want me to go? it seems to me to be a very valid question for one who is seeking god's will to ask.

and god's reply was what i quoted above. go. tell them only what i put in your mouth. and, according to what we have recorded here, he DOES. he doesn't stray to the right or to the left of what god would have him say. so much so that balak cusses him out every time that he blesses israel. but balaam's answer to balak is always the same, "didn't i tell you i had to be careful to speak only what the lord god put in my mouth?"

and yet, god was angry all the same. it just seems strange and foreign to me, that's all. not at all like god as i know him now. which begs bigger questions: has god changed? has he been learning along with us? i mean, he certainly seemed to mellow once he had a kid... but that's kind of the natural course of events for anyone who has kids.

and what about this moabite women business? with balaam and balak's relationship being as it was, and balaam being the guy he was recorded to be, i'm confused as to all of this heresay that comes about AFTER his death.
NUM 31:8 "they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword."
NU 31:16 "Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor..."

all of this mention that it was balaam who counseled balak to do this. as i said, no mention of it anywhere other than as a stated fact after the case. but how odd... why would balaam risk himself in front of balak several times only to turn around and say, "well, i'm not going to curse them with my mouth because i want only to do god's will, but how about if YOU send your women among them? that should fix 'em up good." it even says in NUM 24:25 that as soon as balaam was done blessing israel that he and balak parted ways and that was it. so i have a hard time with this balaam bashing that plays out further in scripture, because i don't see any basis for it. in scripture.

and yet another question from this story... when balaam is blessing israel, these words come out of his mouth from the lord, “He has not observed misfortune in Jacob;
Nor has He seen trouble in Israel..."

the hebrew word for "misfortune" here literally means "iniquity". really? god hasn't seen iniquity in "jacob"? nor trouble in israel? have we been following the same exodus story here? or is this a case of not airing a family's dirty laundry? kind of a "no one talks bad about my kid except me" kind of thing?

and i'm not too sure about the whole sorcery thing, susan. i get the impression that by seeking "omens" was simply the way that he divined god's will. the way he had the two previous times on the mountain and came up with blessings. since god had been pleased to bless twice, he didn't even ask the third time. i 'm not sure, but is there a difference in whatever balaam was doing and the usage of the urim and thummim that the priests used? or the casting of lots that the apostles used to divine god's will?

and to make a long comment even longer... who was this balaam? how did he get his knowledge of the true god? he is obviously not an israelite. he just kind of shows up on the scene as a prophet already in action among a "foreign" people. like melchizedek. a person far removed from the biblical revelation of god, who knows this god already.

very curious passage of scripture. thanks for looking it over with me. if you have any more thoughts on this, please. do share.

Susan said...

Yes I find it a curious passage too and it is not the only one that I don't understand (especially in the OT).

It seems to me that Balaam had a 'foot in both camps'. So he followed God when it suited him and followed the pagan gods when that worked for him.

I don't think God has changed but I do think the way He reveals Himself has. I think before the Lord could reveal His great love and grace in the NT He had to reveal His holiness (and hatred of sin) in the OT.

Wendy ftfs said...

I don't think it is curious at all that there was a Balaam in this land. I think every land had them ..Saul consulted the Witch of Endor ... very similar ... people who had the gift to be in touch with the spirit world and the Lord spoke through them when he wanted to... some of them loved Him and some of them didn't ... we have those people among us today as well ...

why would balaam get painted as such a decent guy?

I'm thinking that the OT does not paint Balaam as a decent guy any more than any other in the OT. There is no more bashing of Balaam than there was of any other OT persona ...I sorta liked David as a shepherd boy and as King of Israel but I would have never wanted to be one of the women of his household. Man after God's own heart or not. The Lord dealt quite harshly with David and all his prophets and leaders when they were unfaithful to His just ways. There is even a warning to those who teach in the NT. We have studied this just recently.

Balaam was not faithful .. Moses was not completely faithful and did not enter the promised land with the people he was chosen to lead, even after putting up with so much from them ... as far as we know he made one mistake... there are no favouritisms here .... you and I are not faithful....
The OT is where we get to know our Father ...this is who He is ... the God of the man who buried his talents ...etc. Justice is who He is ... and I will bow my knee and thank Him for having mercy on us by sending Christ because we would all be dust or may never have been born to breathe a breath .... the human race would have been destroyed completely by now had it not been for our Father's longsuffering over us.

Numbers 24:21
Then he uttered his oracle:
"Ah, who can live when God does this." then Balaam prophesied destruction to the leaders and people of his land.

Balaam had been playing with the Lord of Lords for quite some time ... Balaam knew that this time he was in trouble and all his cards were being called ... he repented after beating his donkey ... got to live ... he did in fact say only what the Lord wanted him to after he gave a grand unecessary show of sacrifices for what reason ??? Anyway, I believe Balaam was afraid and that is why he did what he was told THIS time ... and Balaam knew he was going to die.

Perhaps his counsel to Balak was to hopefully deter the onslought that he knew was coming ... instead of repenting and submitting to the Lord Most High, who along with His justice was merciful and compassionate to those who loved Him.

Do you not think that Jericho and this bunch under Barak would have been spared the sword had they repented and helped the Israelites instead of acting in fear.

Deuteronomy 30

4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. You will again obey the LORD and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The Offer of Life or Death
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Love the Lord your God .... sort of sounds familiar doesn't it.

jON said...

i just don't know. please, understand, nothing but love here. i just don't get all of the conclusions you are reaching here, wen.

the things i'm still having trouble wrapping my head around:
"Balaam was not faithful" - to what end do you see this playing out in what is recorded for us? as far as i can see, sticking strictly to the text and not inferring anything, balaam was faithful to everything god asked of him. perhaps i'm missing something.

"Balaam had been playing with the Lord of Lords for quite some time ... Balaam knew that this time he was in trouble and all his cards were being called" - where do you get your basis for these statements? once again, understand my tone here. i'm not debating, i'm genuinely curious. like i said before, when we read the account of what actually transpired, it contains nothing of what is said of balaam by others after the fact and i'm wondering about the omission. of if balaam just got to be sort of a scapegoat for a certain type of activity.

" I believe Balaam was afraid and that is why he did what he was told THIS time ..." - not to say that balaam was any sort of a perfect person, and obviously there is a much wider story here of balaam's full life that we don't get, but i still don't see how what is actually recorded of him and his actions here paints the picture of him that is spoken throughout the rest of scriptures mentionings of him. i don't see anything here approaching the fact that he was some sort of wild guy prone to fleeting whims of rebellion and treachery or misleading information or prophecies.

that's what has me confused. public opinion of balaam, even within scripture, seems so low... but according to the story at hand, not going beyoned what is written, seems to me to be an example of what we would WANT to do. to obey the lord even when it brings us into uncomfortable situations. even when it curries the disfavor of heads of nations.

i'm obviously missing something here.

or is this a judas thing?

Susan said...

Balaam gets mentioned 3 times in the NT. 2 Peter 2:15 "who loved the wages of wickedness"; Jude 11 "rushed for profit into Balaam's error"; and Rev 2:14 "who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin ..."

When I read these passages I feel like these writers know more about Balaam than is actually written in the OT. They seem to know about Balaam's motives. So perhaps there was an oral history attached to Balaam and we have to trust the NT writers in order to understand why God was not pleased with him.

jON said...

alright. i suppose i'll concede that there is a wider tradition about balaam that is simply unavailable to us.

although, i do know that the NT writers were not always the best OT scholars. several times they misquote or misreference things from the OT. but that is neither here nor there in our discussion. i'm still a little confused why such a big portion of the story was omitted from the narrative. ESPECIALLY if it was going to be the defining characteristic for which balaam would be known for the rest of history.

Wendy ftfs said...

Numbers 22:34
The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your ""path is a reckless one"" before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."

34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back."

35 The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

The angel spells it out to all of us in the same passage of scripture you refer to ... it is clear that Balaam had a history and reputation with our Father....
a second more memorable warning to Balaam is given here ...
the Lord didn't have to open the eyes of either the donkey or Balaam.... and then he wouldn't have had to be concerned about whether Balaam would do as he was asked or not ....
Sort of puts me in mind of the scripture that asks us not to be like the horses who need bit and bridle ....

Psalm 32
Of David. A maskil.

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
.....
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD's unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him....

please note ... this is not the man who is more righteous than any other ... it is simply the man who trusts ...

I would be interested in you showing me the NT misquotes and misreferences ... I am always interested in these kinds of things ...

peace brother :-)

jON said...

gosh. i don't have any sort of a comprehensive list. i ran across one the other day in acts. and there is one that always stuck out to me in one of the gospels. luke, i think. in the luke reference a quote is ascribed to jeremiah and the scripture that is quoted isn't even his. but i don't remeber whose it really is. you know, i'm just talking out of my ass right now. let me do some research and get back when i have something concrete for you.

just wanted to say thanks for studying balaam with me. not often that i have heard of group studies about him. an international group, no less! what an amazing time we live in. i look forward to continuing to study the word with all of you. thanks for the perspective.

jON said...

these are two that i could find right off the top of my head. the first one is from matthew, not luke. (looks like i can do it too! HA!)

MT 27:9-10 "Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 'AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER'S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME.'"

which actually comes from zechariah.

ZEC 11:12-13 I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

and i find it interesting that not only is the reference incorrect, but what is quoted is incorrect as well.

the other comes from acts.

AC 15:15-18 “With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’ SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO."

which is coming from amos.

AM 9:11-12 “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom And all the nations who are called by My name,” Declares the LORD who does this.

i find these things curious. i always have. that the guys who were writing these letters and forming new theologies were doing so using old testament scriptures that they re-worded to fit their theologies. it's not something we like to talk about for some reason. as if finding out the bible was written by humans would do something horrible to everyone. but it does raise some valid questions for me about some adjectives that have been associated with the bible. such as "inerrant" and "infallible" when quotes such as these clearly show that indeed there are things in the book that are not one hundred percent accurate.

which has nothing to do with inspiration. i'm not attcking that or debating that right now. simply saying that SOMETIMES, at least by these appearances, the authors of the new testament played a little loose with the scriptures to make a point they wanted to make and have it sound really official.

perhaps the common folk of their day were just as well read in the scriptures as the people of our day? so who would notice?

or perhaps, today we go about reading and interpreting the scriptures in an different way. perhaps it's not about the letter and punctuation. that these things that are written are not for setting down concrete rules. that the bible is not an instruction book for everyone everywhere that we might all be exactly the same. leading the very same lives.

perhaps we were meant to be different people with different perspectives as god would lead us.

and maybe, just maybe, that's okay.

Wendy ftfs said...

Jeremiah 23:1
WOE TO the shepherds (the civil leaders) who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasturing! says the Lord.

I'm thinking this is what was spoken of by Jeremiah ... and indeed this was fulfilled ... the plan to scatter and disable the followers of Christ... before the thirty pieces of silver were exchanged ...

Interesting that it would seem that the reference is for the passage of the thirty pieces of silver ... it certainly seems to lead one to follow this line of thought ... look into the other one later ... :-)

sleepy

God Bless ....