Upon entering a synagogue, a beautiful song is sung – “Ma tovu ohalecha Ya’akov, mishkenotecha Yisrael” – “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your tabernacles, O Israel.” It comes from this week’s ‘Torah’ portion, ‘Parsha Balak’ (Destroyer) – the name of the Moabite king intent on destroying the children of Israel.
‘Parsha Balak’ is found in Numbers 22:2–25:9 and it is the 40th weekly ‘Torah’ portion in the annual Jewish cycle of ‘Torah’ reading. The corresponding ‘haftorah’ (reading of the prophets) is found in Micah 5:6-6:8.
‘Parsha Balak’ begins with Balak, the Moabite king, seeing all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Numbers 22:3 tells us that “Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel.”
Balak decided to send the elders of Midian and of Moab to the prophet Balaam with the request for him to curse Israel so that he would be able to overpower them and drive them out of Moab. However, G-d told Balaam not to go with them and He also told Balaam not to curse the Israel “for they are blessed”.
Balak then sent a second delegation of dignitaries who were even more numerous and more prestigious, with promises of even greater rewards. Balaam responded that, even if Balak would give him his house full of silver and gold, he would not go against the word of G-d.
However this time, G-d permitted him to go – Numbers 22:20: “And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you--that you shall do.””
So Balaam rose in the morning and went with the princes of Moab; however G-d was extremely angry that he went with them.
Why was G-d so angry? Had He not given Balaam permission to go with the princes of Moab? Yes He did; however G-d stipulated that Balaam could only go “If the men come to call you”. They hadn’t come to call Balaam; therefore he went on his own thus going against G-d’s instruction.
While Balaam was riding his donkey, an Angel of G-d stood in his way. The donkey saw the Angel of G-d, his sword drawn in his hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way, and went into the field. Balaam struck his donkey and turned the donkey back. This happened two more times, and every time Balaam struck his donkey.
Then the L-rd opened the mouth of the donkey, and she asked Balaam what she had done to him that he struck her three times?
G-d then opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the Angel of G-d standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand.
The Angel then asked Balaam why he had struck his donkey three times. He then told Balaam that he had deliberately waylaid him because he had not obeyed G-d. The Angel also said that had Balaam’s donkey not turned from him, he would have killed Balaam but spared his donkey.
A humble Balaam prepared to return home, but the Angel told him to go with the men and to speak only the words that he tells him to speak.
Balaam eventually arrived at Moab’s border and Balak received him, repeating his promises of honour and glory. However, Balaam reiterated that he would only speak the word that G-d placed in his mouth.
As much as Balaam tried to curse Israel, the words out of his mouth were blessings - to the dismay and anger of Balak.
Eventually, while trying to curse Israel, Balaam spoke the following blessing on them which we read in Numbers 24:5-9: ““How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your tabernacles, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens by the riverside, Like aloes planted by the LORD, Like cedars beside the waters. He shall pour water from his buckets, And his seed shall be in many waters. “His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. “God brings him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, his enemies; He shall break their bones and pierce them with his arrows. ‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’ “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.””
Balak, in anger, cried out that he had told Balaam to curse Israel but instead, he had blessed them three times. Balaam replied that he had said that, even if Balak would have given him his house full of silver and gold, He would not be able to go beyond the commandment of G-d and that he would speak only that which G-d had given him to speak.
Balaam then prophesied to Balak that One would arise out of Israel who would, once and for all, defeat the descendants of Balak – Numbers 24:17-19: “A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult. “And Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, while Israel does valiantly. Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, and destroy the remains of the city.”
Although Balaam failed to destroy Israel with curses, they still brought calamity upon themselves when they went astray after the daughters of Moab and sacrificed and bowed down to their gods. G-d’s anger was kindled against Israel and He sent a plague which killed 24,000 people. Moses ordered those responsible to be executed; however, the debauchery and idolatry continued, reaching its peak when an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into the camp right in front of Moses and the congregation of Israel.
One man, Pinchas (Phinehas), was moved to action when he rose up, took a spear, went into the bedroom of the Israelite and stabbed both the man and the Midianite woman through with his spear. The plague then stopped – we will look at this in more detail in next week’s ‘parsha’.
‘Haftorah Balak’, found in Micah 5:6-6:8, mentions the incident of Balak the king of Moab hiring Balaam to curse the Jewish people. The prophet Micah also prophesies what will occur after the war of Gog and Magog, the war which precedes the final redemption of mankind.
The prophet described how G d will destroy the enemies of the Jewish people.
Micah also rebuked Israel for not observing G d’s commandments and reminded them of the great things G d had done for them - Taking them out of Egypt and replacing the curses that Balaam wanted to speak against them with blessings.
The children of Israel responded by saying that they did not know how to serve G d and asked for guidance. Micah reminded them of the ‘Torah’, and that all they needed to do was contained within it.
What do we learn from this week’s ‘parsha’?
Firstly, G-d has faithfully kept His covenant with the Jewish people made with Abram in Genesis 12:2-3: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
To this day, G-d has kept the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Despite numerous attempts by Israel’s enemies to annihilate the Jewish people and destroy the Land of Israel, they have not succeeded. Just as G-d turned the curses that Balaam wanted to speak over Israel into blessings, He has constantly thwarted the plans of Satan to destroy the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
The second lesson we learn concerns the return of Yeshua and the end of this present age.
The prophet Micah prophesied that at the end of this age, Yeshua will destroy Israel’s enemies; we see confirmation of this in Zechariah 12:9: “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
The third lesson concerns the time when the L-rd will work in the hearts of the Jewish people to, once and for all, serve G-d.
Micah rebuked Israel for not observing G d’s commandments, and Israel responded by saying that they did not know how to serve G d and asked for guidance.
Ezekiel 36:24-27 tells us that in the last days, G-d will cleanse the Jewish people from sin: “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
This can only happen through Yeshua and salvation.
There are more saved Jews today than during all the previous centuries put together. And the glorious day will come when the hearts and minds of Israel as a nation will be opened and they will realize that the ‘Mashiach’ that they are waiting for is Yeshua - Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”
The final lesson is that Yeshua has shown us how easy it is to serve G-d.
The prophet Micah reminded Israel that all they needed to do was to turn back to G-d and to be obedient to His commandments.
However, Yeshua takes this further in Matthew 22:35-40: “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
And this applies to all people! Following G-d hangs on these two commandments: “Love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself; and on these two commandments hangs all the law and the prophets”. Nothing more is needed!
Do you Love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, soul and mind? Do you love your neighbour as yourself?
If you truly love G-d, you will automatically live a life of righteousness and holiness. Also, truly loving G-d means that you need to accept and love His Son, Yeshua, as well as to accept and love Yeshua’s brothers and sisters of the flesh, the Jewish people.
So, do you love Yeshua? Have you accepted Him as your L-rd and Saviour, or are you content to go through life not really knowing if your sins are forgiven you or if your eternal future – eternal life in heaven – is secure?
G-d, because of His love and compassion for you; because He wants to have an intimate, personal relationship with you; because He wants you to have eternal life
not eternal death has, through His Son Yeshua, been faithful to forgive your sins through the work of the cross. He is also faithful to grant you eternal life in heaven, through the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
Scripture records that Yeshua was the perfect sacrifice. He died on the cross, shedding every last drop of His blood, thus taking our sins upon Himself, guaranteeing all who believe in His death and resurrection and who invite Him to become L-rd of their lives, eternal life in heaven…and this is for both Jews and Gentiles
If you are not saved, please accept Yeshua as your L-rd and Saviour by praying the prayer of salvation found at the end of this article.
Finally, do you bless or curse the Jewish people and Israel? There are many people, including Christians, who misguidedly believe that G-d has rejected the Jewish people and Israel because they rejected Yeshua. They also misguidedly stand with the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza against Israel. Allow me to humbly inform you that you don’t know your bible.
Balaam told Balak in Numbers 23:8: “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?”
Allow me to leave you with two scriptures regarding the Jewish people and Israel:
Numbers 24:9: “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.”
Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.”
Whose side are you on?
We love you.
Scripture of the week: Numbers 24
Thank you Yeshua for Your love for me.
Thank you for giving up Your life on the cross for me and for taking my sins upon Yourself.
I confess that I have sinned.
I repent of my sins and I turn from everything I know to be wrong.
I invite You to come into my life as my Messiah, my Saviour.
By Your grace I will serve You all the remaining years of my life.