232 – Balaam’s Fourth Prophecy

This week we arrive at Balaam’s fourth prophecy. Before we consider his final word to King Balak, I’d like us to notice there is a marked difference between Balaam’s first and second prophecies and his third, which we don’t become aware of until just before his third. Consider the following two verses.

Numbers 24:1-2

           1       Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 

           2       And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.

At his first and second prophecies, Balaam was planning on using sorcery. As an aside, this is further evidence that Balaam certainly was not a prophet of God. Verses 3-4 tell us the effect not seeking to use sorcery had on Balaam, but we want to consider his fourth prophecy today.

In Numbers 24:10-14, we have a heated exchange between King Balak and Balaam immediately following Balaam’s third prophecy. Balak demonstrates his anger physically (struck his hands together) and says in effect, “I said curse, and all you did was bless!”

Balaam responded in Numbers 24:13-14 which set the stage for his final word to Balak.

Numbers 24:13-14

           13       ‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD, to do good or bad of my own will. What the LORD says, that I must speak’? 

           14       And now, indeed, I am going to my people. Come, I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”

In verse 15 we are struck not by what is in the text, but by what is absent from the text. There is no ritualistic offering of seven bulls and seven rams upon seven altars. Balaam does not go off somewhere to inquire of Yahweh. He just opens his mouth and starts prophesying.

If you are using the New King James version like I am, I want you to notice this section of the scriptures begins with one long sentence. It spans verses 15 through 17. We’ll want to make sure to remember that as we zoom in to notice the details so that we are careful to stay in context.

The next thing worth mentioning is because of verses 20-21 one might be tempted to think of these verses as fourth, fifth, and sixth prophecies. However, even though verse 20 says, “…and he took up his oracle and said…”, there are compelling reasons to believe this is just one prophecy with two (and maybe three) parts.

The first part, verses 15-19 is about Israel and mentions Moab, Edom, and Seir. The second part is about Amalek, the Kenites, Kain, Asshur, Cyprus, Eber, and Amalek.

There is so much detail packed into the eleven verses of 15 through 25, that I could probably spend several weeks writing about it. Although I will probably write at least one more article, I will, however, resist the temptation to camp here too long and will instead encourage you to spend some time digging for yourself. If you do, you will be enriched by the experience.

These few encounters Balaam has had with Yahweh the living God had an impact on Balaam, which he reveals to us in the introduction of the word from Yahweh. He enumerates them to us as the utterance of a man:

  1. Whose eyes are opened.
  2. Who hears the words of God.
  3. Has knowledge of the Most High.
  4. Who sees the vision of the Almighty.
  5. Who falls down…
  6. With eyes wide open:

I would say the central verse of the eleven is verse 17.

Numbers 24:17

   17       “I see Him, but not now;

    I behold Him, but not near;

    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.

I’ve bolded the two occurrences of the word “Him” in this verse. Why would I do that? What’s so special about this humble little pronoun?

Obviously, the publishers noticed, because they capitalized both instances, that divinity is the antecedent. Said plainly, Balaam’s final prophecy is about Jesus Christ! Not only so, but it is a prophecy of His second coming!

How do I know this is a prophecy about the second coming of Christ Jesus? Because His first coming was not a Scepter rising out of Israel, but rather the appearance of a suffering servant. Jesus did not punish the nations mentioned here during His first coming, but we know He will when He returns.

I hope you’ll agree, putting forth even a little effort to study Yahweh’s written word brings an enriching and very rewarding experience to our lives.

Don’t you just love the Word of God?


All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

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