225 – Numbers 22 – Yahweh Angry

Last time we were introduced to the man Balaam in Numbers 22:5-7. Among the details we discovered that Balaam was not an Israelite, and he was not from the two cities forming an alliance against Israel, namely Moab and Midian. And yet, as Numbers 22:18 informs Balaam confesses God as, “the LORD [Yahweh] my God [Elohim].”

In Numbers chapter 22 we see a contrast between the earthly King and his word to Balaam, versus Yahweh (the universal King) and His Word to Balaam. The earthly King says, “curse Israel”, Yahweh says no, “bless Israel”.

Let’s revisit Numbers 22:7

7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian went with a fee for divination in their hand; they came to Balaam and spoke the words of Balak to him. (LEB) 


This verse leads us to conclude one of two things. Either Balaam typically received a fee for blessing and cursing, or there were others who blessed/cursed for a fee which was known by the king’s party. The narrative continues in verse 8.

Numbers 22:8

8 He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will return, and I will return word to you, just as Yahweh speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.  


It seems obvious to me that Balaam indeed did have a relationship, at least on some level, with Yahweh God. Otherwise, I’m sure he would have leaped at the opportunity to earn the diviner’s fee and impress the king. The experience would have immediately made him famous overnight. His blessing/cursing business would have exploded financially.

In verses, nine through eleven the almighty God (Elohim) starts the dialog with Balaam by asking who the people in his house were and what they were doing there. Balaam tells God. God is clear in His response.

Numbers 22:12

12 God said to Balaam, “You will not go with them; you will not curse the people, because they are blessed.” 


God’s word to Balaam should have been final. It was a very easy-to-understand two-point instruction.

  1. Don’t go with them.
  2. Don’t curse Israel.

Balaam sends the entourage packin’ with a NO answer from Yahweh Elohim, but king Balaak will not be dissuaded and sends an even larger more important party to ask Balaam to come. Let’s consider verses 19 through 22 together.

Numbers 22:19-22

19 And now please, you also stay here the night, and let me find out again what Yahweh will say with me.” 

20 And God came to Balaam at night, and he said to him, “If the men have come to call you, get up and go with them; but only the word that I will speak to you, you will do.” 

21 So Balaam got up in the morning and saddled his donkey, and he went with the princes of Moab. 

Balaam and the Angel

22 But God became angry because he was going, and the angel of Yahweh stood in the road as an adversary to him; he was riding on his donkey, and two servants were with him. (LEB) 


I’m not sure Balaam should have asked this second entourage to spend the night. He already had God’s instruction. But he seems to be hoping for Yahweh to “explain” Himself a little more thoroughly as though He wasn’t clear enough! But he does, and God indeed has more to say. But now we have a potential problem in the text. At first blush it seems Yahweh grants permission to go, but then in verse 22 becomes angry because Balaam went! Is God being inconsistent, maybe even unfair? 

It just so happens a radio preacher I respect was preaching on this very passage a few weeks ago. I was excited to hear how he handled this section, but he skipped over it! I think with careful observation we will reach a reasonable conclusion. You may not be able to tell, but I’ve bolded one word and one punctuation mark in the above passage. In verse twenty we discover a conditional statement from Yahweh signaled by the word “if”. I bolded the following comma because it is the “then” part of the If/Then statement.

If they call you, then you go. Balaam doesn’t seem to wait to be called. He wakes up in the morning, saddles up his donkey, and rides after the group with his two servants. Is this why God is mad? Balaam didn’t meet the condition before he went? It would seem so. But later we hear exactly how Yahweh is displeased with Balaam.

Numbers 22:32

32 The angel of Yahweh said to him, “Why have you struck this donkey three times? Look, I have come out as an adversary because your conduct is perverse before me. (LEB)


Do you see that? Balaam’s conduct was perverse in Yahweh’s eyes. One of the Greek lexicons suggests the word perverse means destructive. Besides Balaam not operating within God’s parameters, his heart was not right!

Not only was Yahweh not being inconsistent, but it is also impossible for Him to be inconsistent because it is contrary to His very nature.

Do you desire to represent God? You desire a good thing. Make sure you do so with a humble and contrite heart. Resolve to not say less nor more than Yahweh says!

God is truly worthy of all praise worship and adoration!

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