And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.(Numbers 22:3-7)
The Midianite King of Moab was frightened. He had heard the story of the Exodus out of Egypt of the children of Israel. The fame of their mighty God had been melting pagan hearts throughout the Canaanite region for forty years. They knew about the Plagues, the Red Sea, the miracles of manna, and the defeat of the Amorites, the Amalekites, and of Og, King of Bashan.
King Balak felt very threatened by this pilgrim people.
He need not have, though, for God had already instructed Israel through Moses, to refrain from any attempt to harass or dispossess the Moabites. Had they inquired they would have seen, they were in no danger.
And the Lord said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.(Deuteronomy 2:9)
Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.(Deuteronomy 2:6)
Had the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites been accommodating, they would have been well compensated by Israel for water, food and any other expenses incurred whilst Israel passed through. But hatred, fear and ignorance of the God of Israel prevented that from happening. So it is today. Israel seeks to pay her way, but her Arab neighbors hate and fear her.
So a delegation was sent to the river Euphrates to retrieve a celebrated Kasem, a pagan prophet. Balaam’s fame preceded him, for it was a four hundred mile journey to fetch him. Such prophets were hired because it was believed that they knew how to negotiate the various national gods, in some cases even turning them against their own people by various sacrifices, conjurations, and by specializing in the knowledge of such gods.
Balaam made it his business to learn the gods, He had heard about the LORD, though up to this time he had no dealings with Him.
The message Balak sent to entice Balaam contained a line of flattery that betrayed specific knowledge of the LORD, for he attributed to Balaam a perverse form of the Abrahamic blessing of Genesis 12:3 in which God says to Abraham,
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.(Genesis 12:2-3)
Whereas Balak’s flattering message to Balaam, likened him unto God when it said,
Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.(Numbers 22:6)
Thus the real meaning of the story of Balaam is the attempt to refute the blessing God gave to Abraham and His seed. “I will bless them who bless you and curse them who curse you…”.
Can the Lord ever be persuaded to reverse this curse? We will all see shortly…