And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence. And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar. And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the Lord yonder. And the Lord met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus. And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the Lord spoken? And he took up his parable, and said,
Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent:
hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed;
and I cannot reverse it.
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel:
theLord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel:
according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!
Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion:
he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.
And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.(Numbers 23:13-25)
Balaam’s first pronouncement over Israel was a disaster as far as Balak the King of Moab, was concerned. He had spared no effort or expense in setting up the seven altars, and the seven rams and oxen which were offered to the LORD by the pagan Seer. But when the prophet finally went forth to ‘curse Israel’, a profound blessing instead issued forth instead!
Israel is special, she is separate from all of the nations, and destined to number in the millions. It would be impossible for anyone to curse these, whom the Lord has not cursed. Curse them? If Balaam could so much as die their death, he would be fortunate! To be able to die the death of those who are ‘in the right’ with God would be the highest blessing possible.
Balak and Balaam being pagans, thought like pagans. Surely this effort failed for a reason. What had they done wrong? Could it be that the prophet was disturbed by the spectacle of the whole camp of Israel before him? Or perhaps because the location they choose with which to curse Israel, was inauspicious. Had they stood on the wrong aspect of the mountain, or faced in the wrong direction?
So the Seer and the King’s entourage struck camp to find a better place from which to destroy Israel. From mount Pisgah, seven altars were again erected, seven Rams and Oxen again offered to the LORD, and again the prophet went forth to seek a word against Israel.
But sooner than any expected, the Seer returned to the waiting King, and in the spirit of prophecy, commanded Balak to arise to hear the word of the LORD.
The first point of this prophecy, is the character of the God of Israel. Unlike the pagan Gods who could be capricious, Israel’s God doesn’t lie, nor can His mind be changed. He is a faithful God, who does what He says He will do, and whose purpose cannot be altered.
What purpose is he referring to specifically? This is the context for the familiar verse “God is not a man that He should lie, or the Son of man that He should repent” . It has to do with God’s stated purpose to bless those who bless the seed of Abraham, and to curse those who curse them. That purpose cannot be altered by Balak, Balaam or any King or ‘prophet !
Then the prophecy addresses the Divine justification of Israel. “He hath not beheld any iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen any perverseness in Israel”.
Many times over the centuries Israel’s enemies have taken courage to persecute her from the very public record of her sins. They feel they have received a mandate to wipe her out for the evils Israel has done.
Those pagans who would have spied on the camp of Israel would already have witnessed the ‘golden calf’ incident, a great deal of murmuring and murderous threats by Israel against Moses, and Aaron, Korah’s rebellion and numerous other incidences of Israel’s unfaithfulness.
What does the prophecy mean when it says that ‘God doesn’t see iniquity in Jacob’? Balaam is prophesying that this is a people justified before God. Through the God appointed sacrifice, this people’s sins are covered, atonement has been made, and God’s anger against their sin has been propitiated. In this sense God sees nothing wrong or perverse in them.
Therefore it would be impossible to successfully work an enchantment against them, no divination could ever work on them. At the center of the camp of Israel, was the tabernacle of God himself, overshadowed by day with the cloud of Glory, and by night with a pillar of fire. God himself dwelt in the midst of them, the King of the universe camped among them.
But Balaam’s prophecy looked far ahead to the time of the end, when people would utter in astonishment of these people, “What is God doing through them”? In the last days God will make Israel to be like a lion , ferocious and insatiable, she will not be content until she devours and drinks the blood of her enemies. As Zechariah prophesied also centuries later,
In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.(Zechariah 12:6-9)