Numbers Chapter 22: The Seven Deadly Sins of Balaam.

Background: Balak’s Plot Against Israel. Nu. 22:1-7.

  • The flesh wars against our spirit. After defeating the Amorites, the Jews traveled back to the plains of Moab where they would stay until God gave the word for Joshua to take them into the Promised Land (Nu. 22:1). The Moabites feared the Jews (Nu. 22:3). They worried that the Jews’ vast numbers would consume all the economic resources around them (Nu. 22:4). Solomon warned that the fear of men brings a snare (Prov. 29:25). The Moabites were also no strangers to snares. Moab in Hebrew meant “from the father.” They, like the Amorites, came from the daughters of Lot. They committed incest with their father (Gen. 19:30-38). Balak was their king. His name meant “to lay waste, to destroy.” (Nu. 22:2). His father Zippor’s name meant sparrow, a small bird that symbolized a child (Nu. 22:2). Thus, Baal was one who preyed on the children. The Midianites were the descendants of Abraham through Keturah (Gen. 25:1-6). Moses later married the daughter of a Midianite priest (Ex. 2:15; Acts 7:29). Both kings symbolized the flesh. They formed a pact against the nation of Israel, the descendants of Isaac. Isaac was the child of faith or God’s promise (Nu. 22:4). Your flesh is likewise constantly at war with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:17).

  • The devil conspires against you. The fear of the two nations competing for the same land replayed a conflict that once plagued Abraham and Lot. Their herdsmen disputed over the same lands. To avoid conflict, Lot took Jordan, and Abraham took Israel (Gen. 13:5-15). Because Jordan belonged to the descendants of Lot, God told Moses not to attack them (Dt. 2:9). Yet, the king of Moab did not know this. Thus, he sought to hire the sorcerer Balaam to cast a spell on Israel (Nu. 22:7). He reasoned that Balaam’s spell might cause enough confusion within Israel to allow his troops to defeat them in battle (Nu. 22:6). The battle against Israel continued on. David later cried out to the Lord for protection from the evil men that conspired against him (Ps. 140:1). The devil is also actively plotting against you. Are you crying out for God to be your shield? (Ps. 7:10; Prov. 30:5).

1. Sorcery. Nu. 22:6-7.

  • Balaam was a sorcerer. James, the half brother of Jesus, warned against those: (1) who go the way of Cain, (2) rush “headlong into the error of Balaam”, and (3) perish in the rebellion of Korah (Jude 1:11). The warning about Cain’s murder of his brother Abel is clear (Gen 4:8). The warning from Korah’s rebellion against Moses and God should also be clear (Nu. 16:1-32). But what errors of Balaam should we seek to avoid? Sorcery was one of seven.

  • The devil has real powers to deceive you. Balaak had a reputation for being successful in blessing and cursing those around him (Nu. 22:7). He was not alone in his dark powers. Pharaoh’s magicians were able turn their staffs into snakes (Ex. 7:12). His magicians also copied God’s first plague by turning water into blood (Ex. 7:22). They also replicated His second plague by making frogs come up from the Nile (Ex. 8:7). Thus, Satan has real powers to deceive. Because people fail to recognize these powers, Jesus warns that even the most educated people among us will be deceived in the future when Satan comes with supernatural signs and wonders (Matt. 24:5, 11, 24; Mk. 13:22; 2 Thess. 2:9-10; Rev. 16:14).

  • Using the devil’s power is an abomination to God. God warns: “Let no one be found among you…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls upon the dead.” (Dt. 18:10-11; Lev. 19:26; Is. 47:13). The penalty for these things was death (Lev. 20:27; Ex. 22:18). Saul was punished with death only one day after he visited the witch at Endor to have her speak with the dead spirit of Samuel (1 Sam. 28:7-20; 1 Chron. 10:13-14). Jesus likewise warned: “Outside [of the gates heaven] are the dogs, those who practice magic arts . . ..” (Rev. 22:14-15). For those who repent, Christ fulfilled the penalty for sorcery. Yet, sorcery is still something that you and your kids need to avoid today.

  • Test every spirit. We are told to test every spirit (1 Jo. 4:1). In Acts, Peter rebuked Simon, a sorcerer who wanted to mix God’s truth with his sorcery: “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20). Some early church writers claim that Simon was a source of many false teachings in Christianity’s early years. Throughout history, there have been many people who have claimed that there were prophets as opposed to scorers, mediums, or spiritists. This includes the founder of the fastest growing religion in the world, Islam. Do you know the test for determining if its founder was a prophet or a spiritist? (Dt. 18:17-22). Do you know enough about the religion to answer someone who seeks to convert you or your family?

  • Protect your kids and your mind. The occult is made popular through books and movies like Harry Potter and countless vampire and werewolf movies. The occult is also made popular by board games like Ouija boards and Dungeons and Dragons. It is also celebrated when people dress up as demons, witches, warlocks, and the dead at Halloween. If you let your kids celebrate these things or if you watch these things, who are you glorifying?

  • Narcotics. Most Christians will claim that they have no reason to concern themselves with sorcery because they would never practice it or follow others who do. Yet, the Bible warns that we engage in sorcery when we consume narcotics. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “witchcraft” is the “pharmakia” (Gal. 5:20; See also Rev. 9:21; 18:23). From this word, we get our “pharmacy.” Although a pharmacy today is where we obtain prescription medications, the context in the New Testament referred to mind altering substances that put people in communion with the devil. We are not to become slaves to this kind of addictive and destructive sin (1 Cor. 7:23) Have you protected your mind from the sorcery stemming from narcotics? Do your kids know the link between narcotics and sorcery?

2. Deceit. Nu. 22:8-14.

  • Balaam’s deceit against God. God came to Balaam, most likely in the form of a dream, to ask who the men were and what they wanted (Nu. 22:9). Yet, He knew who the men were and what they wanted. His questions were a test. In explaining what Balak wanted, Balaam left out Balak’s concern that “they are living next to me.” (Nu. 22:5(b); 10-11). The Jews had never attacked Moab. Thus, they posed no military threat. Balaam merely relayed the concern that the Jews had covered the face of the Earth. Balaam tried to make it appear as if the real concern were a threat to Moab’s survival. Balaam knew the identity of the real God of Israel. Rather than referring to God by the generic term Eloheim, he referred to God by the term “Yahweh.” (Nu. 22:12). Balaam hoped that God would allow him to curse Israel for the money that he would receive. Yet, he was delusional. God’s action of parting the Red Sea was known throughout the world at that time (Josh 2:10). He previously told Abraham that He would bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him (Gen. 12:1-3). Today, countries around the world are again scheming against Israel. Should we expect our county to be blessed if it fails to protect Israel or forces it to give up its lands?

  • Balaam’s deceit against Balak’s emissaries. God expressly told Balaam that he was not to go with Balaak’s emissaries. He was also clear that Balaam could not curse the Jews because they were blessed (Nu. 22:12). Balaam, however, did not convey this to Balak’s emissaries. Balaam merely told them that God had prohibited him from going with them (Nu. 22:13). Thus, Balaam left open to the emissaries the possibility that he might be permitted to go and curse the Jews in the future for a higher price. God abhors the man who uses deceit (Ps. 5:6; 34:13; 55:23). Those who practice deceit will not dwell with Him (Ps. 101:7). We are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). Is there any deceit in your business practices? Do you allow yourself to do business with those who are deceitful toward others?

3. Pride. Nu. 22:15-19.

  • Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall. Unaware of God’s true statements to Balaam, Balak assumed that the price was not high enough. So he sent a more prestigious delegation and promised more money (Nu. 22:15-17). Balak was too full of pride to take no for an answer. He later demanded to know why his first request was rejected (Nu. 22:37). God later condemned Moab for it pride (Jer. 48:29). Balaam, however, was flattered by his pride. He knew God’s will. Yet, he invited the delegation to spend the night out of the hope that God would change his mind (Nu. 22:19). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.” (Prov. 16:18; Is. 4:4; 10:12). You also cannot effectively serve Him if you are filled with pride (Phil. 2:3, 5; Matt. 23:12).

4. Covetousness. Nu. 22:20-22; 2 Pet. 2:15.

  • The desire for money is the root of many evils. God permitted Balaam to go with Balaak’s dignitaries on the condition that he only say what God commanded (Nu. 22:20). Balaam later became filled with greed and planned to earn his money by cursing Israel (2 Pet. 2:15). Yet, God knew his thoughts and became angry with Balaam for his plan to deceive Him (Nu. 22:22). The way of Balaam was covetousness. The Tenth Commandment prohibits coveting (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). The desire for money is also the root of many evils (1 Tim. 6:10). Solomon wrote: “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord.” (Prov. 30:8-9). Are you content with what God has given you? Or, are you filled with greed for more?

5. Disobedience. Nu. 22:22.

  • Balaam was a counterfeit Abraham. Balaam was from the Pethor, near a major river (Nu. 22:5). Most believe that this was near the Euphrates more than 370 miles away. The journey would have taken between 20 and 25 days. The four journeys in this story took 90 days. He traced the same route that Abraham did when God told him to leave with Sarah to the Promised Land (Gen. 11:31; 12:1-7). Abraham was remembered for his faith in obeying God’s voice (Heb. 11:8). By contrast, Balaam was remembered for his disobedience (Jude 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:15). We are likewise commanded not to be disobedient to God (Ro. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2). Are you praying for the strength to be obedient (Jam 1:5). Are you willing to be obedient in His calling for you, even if it may not seem to be the most prosperous calling?

6. Spiritual Blindness. Nu. 22:23-38.

  • God opens and closes doors through your struggles. Balaam was spiritually blind. He could not see the angel standing before him (Nu. 22:23-27). Nor did he even comprehend God’s miracle that allowed the donkey to speak (Nu. 22:28, 30). The angel informed Balaam that he would have killed Balaam if the donkey had not turned away (Nu. 22:33). Rather than interpreting the signs of his donkey as a true prophet, Balaam showed that he was spiritually blind by beating the donkey three times (Nu. 22:23, 25, 27). The donkey’s three acts of disobedience towards his master symbolized Balaam’s subsequent attempts on three separate occasions to utter curses against Israel. Balaam was not alone in his spiritual blindness. Elisha’s servant was later blind to the angels that protected him (2 Ki. 6:15-18). Paul was also initially spiritually blind in persecuting God’s believers (Acts 9:3-9). Paul then preached that others were also blinded from the truth (Eph. 4:17-19; 2 Cor. 4:3-4). You are also to walk by faith, not your sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Do you become annoyed when things around you go wrong? Or, do you see obstacles as God closing doors to redirect your path?

  • God can speak through anyone. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise ... ” (1 Cor. 1:27-29). He used a donkey to foreshadow His use of a sorcerer to bless Israel. He can speak through anyone. Are you only looking for direction in the powerful people around you? Or, are you also looking for His direction from the lowly people around you?

  • Our nation is spiritually blind. God later lamented: “An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manager, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” (Is. 1:3). Our nation’s early settlers sought the freedom to worship God without a state dictating how they did so. That freedom of religion was included in the Constitution. Today, it has become common for some to believe that the founders meant for the freedom “of religion” to be a freedom “from religion”. We as a nation have become spiritually blind.

7. Idolatry. Nu. 22:39-41; 23:1-4.

  • There is only one altar that leads to heaven. Before being asked to curse Israel, Balaam instructed Balak to build seven altars (Nu. 23:1). Balaam knew that he was dealing with Yahweh (Nu. 22:12). When God came to Balaam, Balaam then pointed out to God that he had sacrificed a bull and a ram at each altar (Nu. 23:4). Yet, there was only one altar for burnt offerings under God’s Law (Ex. 27:1-8; Lev. 1:3-17). Balaam was in effect making sacrifices to other gods and then boasting to God that he had done so. He was in effect saying that there were many ways to reach Him, and he would try all of them to be safe (1 Cor. 8:4-5). This is relativism. Christ was sacrificed at one altar called the cross (Heb. 13:10). He is the only way to get to heaven (Jo. 14:6). Are you willing to defend the claims of Christianity? Or, are you willing to accept the view of Balaam that all roads lead to heaven? If all roads were equal, did Christ need to die on the cross for you? (Gal. 2:21).