BIBLE STUDY SERIES #392, 393 and 394

30 May, 1999

BLOCKED PASSAGES - PART XIV - BLESSING 3

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land.

Israel had marched past the land presently occupied by Moab, and had attacked and taken the land held by Sihon king of the Amorites, which had previously belonged to Moab. Balak, the king of Moab saw what Israel had done to the Amorites, and, fearing these newcomers who were now spread out in the God-assigned square pattern of their encampment within sight of the high ground of his border, he has sought the services of the notable prophet, Balaam, who had, while travelling towards Moab, been given explicit instruction, that he must not curse the camp of Israel.

In the last two Bible Studies, we had examined the first two sections of Balaam's prophetic utterances to Balak, namely the first, found in Numbers 23: 1-10 and the second, in Numbers 23:11-24, and today we arrive at Numbers 23:25 where we will begin the study of the third of Balaam's prophetic utterances. This one carries forward to Numbers 24:9, and the fourth and last carries on from Numbers 24:10 to the end of that chapter at verse 25.

First, however, we may benefit from a brief review of the passage which leads into today's section. Balak, as Keil and Delitzsch note, in common with other heathen, had assumed "that Balaam, as a goetes and magician, could distribute blessings and curses according to his own will, and put such constraint upon his God as to make Him subservient to his own will." The seer, Balaam, opposes this delusion: "the God of Israel does not curse His people, and therefore His servant cannot curse them." We read Numbers 23:22-24, which outlined Israel's present state:

22. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
23. 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!
24. 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.

The New Bible Commentary, gave us this appraisal of that Biblical passage: "Balak has brought Balaam to the top of Pisgah, in the hope that this will change the spell. Balaam declares that God cannot be forced in this way, but will stand by His word (19). He declares that Israel will overcome its enemies (24), since God has been working for Israel (22-23)." The passage continued: "After noting the terrible accounts of murmurings and open rebellions among the Israelites, which occupy so large a part of chapters xi-xxi, it seems strange to read in verse 21: He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel. God is clearly speaking of Israel, not with reference to its actual state, but with reference to its standing before Him. How wonderful that everyone who belongs to the people of God, and trusts in the sacrifice of Christ, can answer Satan's onslaughts by appropriating his statement to himself! Our state is one of sin, and our sanctification is a long process, not completed until we actually see Christ as He is (I Jn. iii. 2); but God sees us as justified in Christ, and as already perfect in Him." We now pick up the Scripture portion for today, beginning with Numbers 23:25.

25. And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.
26. But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do?
27. And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence.
28. And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon.
29. And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams.
30. And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.

Here, we find that the King of Moab, Balak, is getting very upset with the words which The Almighty God is giving to Balaam. He seeks to cut his losses, so to speak, by calling for a cessation of all such words from the notable seer, for at least this will cut off those multiplied blessings which are streaming forth from the mouth of Balaam, and which are totally contrary to his wishes and expectations. The God Who is giving the words to Balaam will not cease, however, for there are further amplifications yet to come. These are all words which are destined to be included in the Holy Scriptures for all time, and for all people in every language into which God's Word will be translated. They must, for this reason, be spoken (and later recorded in writing) regardless of the possible personal unease of Balaam as he delivers them before the Moabite King and the princes of the nation who went to the trouble of travelling to his home to invite him here, and the fury of Balak the King who is listening to them.

Seeing that he cannot force a curse from this God of Israel with the sacrifices already delivered by normal religious protocol, Balak tries once again, - with additional sacrifices on seven more altars, perhaps thinking that, as an increase of offers to Balaam brought a change of heart to come to him, he may yet through a similar increase in the amount of his sacrificial bribe, cause this God Who speaks through the seer to make some more agreeable pronouncements. One can almost see the normal mindset at work in Balak's mind here. "Increase the amount of the bribe, and the objective will be attained." This is obviously the customary manner of "doing business" with the local Moabite gods, and Balak doesn't yet even begin to grasp the significance of the situation. As God, The Almighty explains later through the Prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 44:6: "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God."

Let us now proceed to Numbers 24:1-9 to see what followed.

1. And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.

Perhaps I ought to pause at that first verse. The Companion Bible notes at verse 1 that "pleased the LORD" means "was good in the eyes of Jehovah", and regarding the reference which states that Balaam did not go as at other times "to seek for enchantments", it adds that here, Balaam did not go "to meet with familiar spirits ... . (Heb. nechashim, from nachash, a serpent.)"

Keil and Delitzsch point out that "From the two revelations which he had received before, Balaam saw, i.e. perceived, that it pleased Jehovah to bless Israel. This induced him not to go out for auguries, as on the previous occasions... . He therefore turned his face to the desert, i.e. to the steppes of Moab, where Israel was encamped... . And when he lifted up his eyes, 'he saw Israel encamping according to its tribes; and the Spirit of God came over him.' The impression made upon him by the sight of the tribes of Israel, served as the subjective preparation for the reception of the Spirit of God to inspire him. Of both the earlier utterances it is stated that 'Jehovah put a word into his mouth'...; but of this third it is affirmed that 'the Spirit of God came over him.'" He didn't just have words given to his mind, but in a state of ecstatic sight, with his eyes closed as in clairvoyance, he saw the substance of the revelation from God with his inward mental eye, which had been opened by the Spirit of God. Continuing at verse 2:

2. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him.
3. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:
4. He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
5. How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!
6. As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.
7. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.
8. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
9. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.

The New Bible Commentary has little to add at this point, merely pointing out that "Still greater emphasis is placed upon the goodliness of Jacob (5) and his future victories (8). Agag (7) was probably a hereditary name for the kings of the Amalekites, like Pharaoh for the Egyptians." The reaction of the Moabite King, Balak to what has obviously been just about the worst day of his life can scarcely have been anything less than a great fury, only held in check by fear that Balaam, the notable seer might yet have the power to react by making even worse pronouncements upon Moab, should this be possible.

As our time has expired, we must leave further matters for the next Study.

6 June, 1999

BLOCKED PASSAGES - PART XV - BLESSING 4

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land.

Israel had marched past the land presently occupied by Moab, and had attacked and taken the land held by Sihon king of the Amorites, which had previously belonged to Moab. Balak, the king of Moab saw what Israel had done to the Amorites, and, fearing these newcomers who were now spread out in the God-assigned square pattern of their encampment within sight of the high ground of his border, he has sought the services of the notable prophet, Balaam, who had, while travelling towards Moab, been given explicit instruction, that he must not curse the camp of Israel.

In the last three Bible Studies, we have examined the first three sections of Balaam's prophetic utterances to Balak, namely the first, found in Numbers 23: 1-10, the second in Numbers 23:11-24, and the third in Numbers 23:25 to Numbers 24:9. The fourth and last of Balaam's prophetic utterances carries on from Numbers 24:10 to the end of that chapter at verse 25 and it is here that we will begin the study of this fourth prophetic utterance of Balaam.

First, however, we may benefit from a brief review of the passage which leads into today's section. Balak has been increasingly disturbed and angry at the words which The God of Israel has been placing in the mouth of Balaam to speak before him and the assembled princes of Moab. The services of this notable seer, Balaam, had been obtained for the express purpose of weakening Israel by profound curses so that Moab might destroy them and drive them away. Instead, Balaam has been repeating great blessings upon Israel; blessings which have very naturally greatly angered Balak. We read at Numbers 24:10:

10. And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
11. Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour.
12. And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying,
13. If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak?
14. And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.

Here, The New Bible Commentary notes "Balak's patience is now exhausted. He declares that the Lord has kept Balaam back from receiving the honours he had planned to give him and tells Balaam to flee to his place (11). Balaam states that he will return to his people, but first will 'advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days' (14). The word translated 'advertise', Heb. ya'as, means 'to counsel', and is usually so rendered in the AV."

The note which follows in that Commentary indicates that the term "latter days", simply means "later on." However, while that meaning is possible, we should take with reserve that Commentary's indication that only a near-term fulfilment in time to the days of Moses is to be taken from this prophecy. I would point out that we regard the matter quite differently, for we see a clear present-day fulfilment. We state with assurance that the words do indeed refer to the "last days", because we see in the "lion and the unicorn" heraldry, presently associated with Israel's descendants within the British Realm, evidence that this prophecy is indeed finding a true fulfilment in these last days. We quite often read such interpretations which claim for prophecies concerning Israel a relatively near-term fulfilment because the commentators do not perceive that Israel, the "Nation and Company (or Commonwealth) of Nations" and the "Great People", (Genesis 48:19), and those other tribal descendants of Jacob described as they would exist in the "last days" (Genesis 49), are not limited to the Jewish element in history. These prophecies are of those who will be fulfilling all those Scriptural prophetic "marks" which peculiarly belong to the people of Israel alone. At the expression "the latter days", The Companion Bible explains "= the end of the days, denoting a definite period" and it adds a list of eleven Old Testament Scriptures such as Genesis 49:1, Deuteronomy 4:30 and Ezekiel 38:16, which it draws in to amplify the meaning in the same connection. Let us now read that Scripture portion which continues Balaam's fourth prophetic utterance.

15. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:
16. He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
17. I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
18. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.
19. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.
20. And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.
21. And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.
22. Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive.
23. And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!
24. And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever.
25. And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way.

The Companion Bible at verse 16, of the term Most High, shows us that this translates the Hebrew "Elyon, the High One over all the earth." It adds "See note on first occurrence, Genesis 14:18. The Old Testament usage of this title is always in connection with dominion in the earth." That Genesis note directs the reader to other Biblical references, and mentions the New Testament usage "Highest", in Luke 1:76, a reference to the prophecy of Zacharias regarding his son, John the Baptist being destined as a "prophet of the Highest", and saying the words "for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways." That reference yields further assistance to our understanding at several other terms. Of "Star" in verse 17, it states "Heb. kokab = Messiah", with a reference to Luke 1:78. The same note mentions that the "corners" of Moab "= quarters", while the term "destroy" "= subdue", and the mention of "the children of Sheth" "= Seth, i.e. all men, for all are now descendants of Sheth through Noah." The term "first of the nations" (verse 20) means not the most important or the first in point of time, but the first attacker of Israel. At "the Kenites", (verse 21), it gives "Heb. = ben kain." In verse 24, the "coast of Chittim ... probably means Cyprus, including north coast line of Mediterranean", and "Asshur = Assyrians."

The New Bible Commentary notes of our Scripture passage: "The prediction of coming Israelite victories now becomes specific. The certainty of what follows is stressed by a strong declaration of Balaam's claim to be the recipient of divine revelation... . Balaam sees one coming, but not immediately, who is to be a king (represented by Star and Sceptre), who will smite Balak's nation of Moab (17). Edom also is to be conquered (18). Verse 19 repeats the assertion that a king is to arise out of Jacob, who will destroy what remains of Balak's city." The Commentary continues by stating: "These three verses (17-19) form a unit. It is not difficult to determine what it predicts. A few centuries after the time of Balaam a king arose in Israel who was a great conqueror. His name was David, and he conquered both Moab and Edom (2 Sa. viii. 2 and 14). He exactly and completely fulfilled what Balaam predicted in these verses."

We shall have some further additional comments by way of clarification in regard to these Scriptures as we proceed to our next study, but for the present, perhaps we might leave with you a thought for meditation. Even the enemies of God's people have, eventually, to accept God's over-ruling power to restrain their activities when God's people accept His Laws and guidance.

13 June, 1999

SEDUCTION TO BAAL-PEOR

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land.

Israel had marched past the land presently occupied by Moab, and had attacked and taken the land held by Sihon king of the Amorites, which had previously belonged to Moab. Balak, the king of Moab saw what Israel had done to the Amorites, and, fearing these newcomers who were now spread out in their encampment within sight of the high ground of his border, he had sought the services of the notable prophet, Balaam, in order to bring curses upon these newcomers, so that, thus weakened, they might be forced to withdraw from the land of north Moab, which he wished to recover. Balaam, however, had to transmit those blessings upon Israel which God had dictated to him.

As he was present in Moab by invitation of the king, Balak, whom his utterances had understandably angered, and as he had been told by The Almighty that he must not curse the camp of Israel, he nevertheless gave to Balak some advice which would cause Israel to be corrupted. We know this, because at a later point in Scripture, we find the account of his death, and we will note there the circumstances of this occurrence. At this point, it might be instructive to consult Keil and Delitzsch, as they give some quite logical points which may answer some questions. One question which might logically arise in the mind of a thoughtful reader of Moses' words in the Book of Numbers is "How did Moses know what Balaam had said and done in the presence of Balak, King of Moab?" A footnote to the last verse of the previous chapter makes the suggestion "that, after Balaam's departure from Balak, he took his way into the camp of the Israelites, and there made known his prophecies to Moses or to the elders of Israel, in the hope of obtaining from them the reward which Balak had withheld, and that it was not till after his failure to obtain full satisfaction to his ambition and covetousness here, that he went to the Midianites, to avenge himself upon the Israelites, by the proposals that he made to them."

The topic which we are about to examine is very clearly set before us in holy writ, and we must be honest to the account regardless of the directions "where the chips fly", so to speak. It may come as something of a shock to the modern mindset, pre-conditioned as it is by the mass media towards the religion best described as "multi-cult", that the word of The Almighty should be so contrary to the current concepts of morality and justice. Thus the topic at which our sequence of studies has brought us today may be considered by our corrupted society of this generation as highly "politically - or perhaps more to the point - religiously incorrect."

Our Scripture text for today is taken from Numbers 25, and we shall eventually be reading all of that passage in Numbers, but let us start with verses 1 to 3:

1. And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
3. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

Here, The Companion Bible notes that "joined" means "yoked." Of "Baal-peor", it adds: "Baal = Lord; Peor was the mountain on which he was worshipped ... Baal was a Moabitish idol, and those who called (v 2) the Israelites were the prostitutes necessary for his worship by others. Cp. Hos. 9.10, Jer. 11.13. Peor also means 'opening', and may have relation to this 'worship'." In that verse, Hosea 9:10, God, through that Prophet, states of Israel in its years leading to their Assyrian captivity: "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved." Jeremiah 11:13 says "For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal."

4. And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.
5. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.

Here, The Companion Bible reminds us that Israel "abode" here, "till after Moses' death." The locality called "Shittim", it points out, is "Called Abel-shittim in 33.49."

Let us read further from Keil and Delitzsch. Of Numbers 25:1-5, they say: "The Lord had defended His people Israel from Balaam's curse; but the Israelites themselves, instead of keeping the covenant of their God, fell into the snares of heathen seduction (vers. 1, 2). Whilst encamped at Shittim, in the steppes of Moab, the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab: they accepted the invitations of the latter to a sacrificial festival of the gods of the Moabites, and indulged in the licentious worship of Baal-Peor. As the princes of Midian, who were allied to Moab, had been the advisers and assistants of the Moabitish king in the attempt to destroy the Israelites by a curse of God; so now, after the failure of that plan, they were the soul of the new undertaking to weaken Israel and render it harmless, by seducing it to idolatry, and thus leading it into apostasy from its God. But it was Balaam, as is afterwards casually observed in chap. xxxi. 16, who first of all gave this advice. This is passed over here, because the point of chief importance in relation to the object of the narrative, was not Balaam's share in the proposal, but the carrying out of the proposal itself. The daughters of Moab, however, also took part in carrying it out, by forming friendly associations with the Israelites, and then inviting them to their sacrificial festival. They only are mentioned in vers. 1, 2, as being the daughters of the land. The participation of the Midianites appears first of all in the shameless licentiousness of Cozbi, the daughter of the Midianitish prince, from which we not only see that the princes of Midian performed their part, but obtain an explanation of the reason why the judgment upon the crafty destroyers of Israel was to be executed upon the Midianites." After some further detailed examination of the matter of location, and the meaning of being "joined" as a carnal and also spiritual act of whoredom and fornication to the Moabite women and to their god, Baal-Peor, they continue: "Baal-Peor is the Baal of Peor, who was worshipped in the city of Beth-Peor... a Moabitish Priapus, in honour of whom women and virgins prostituted themselves. As the god of war, he was called Chemosh... ." The dictionary meaning of that word, "priapus" by the way is "an ancient deity personifying male generative power."

In Numbers 31, we find the account of the later war in which Moab fell before Israel, and in verses 14-16 of that chapter in particular, we are informed that the specific sin which had overtaken Israel in our present study was brought on by a plan instituted by Moab through the advice of Balaam. In Revelation 2:14 mention is prophetically indicated against the church at Pergamos for, among other things, holding "the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication."

In Joshua 13:22, we are informed that the children of Israel slew Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, with the sword. He was obviously not slain because of his prophetic words of blessing which he conveyed from God to Balak, but rather for his own intervention in giving evil advice to Israel's enemies regarding the weakening of Israel through sin. We find, on looking up that verse, these words: "Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them." Keil and Delitzsch continue: "And the anger of the Lord burned against the people, so that Jehovah commanded Moses to fetch the heads of the people, i.e. to assemble them together, and to 'hang up the men who had joined themselves to Baal-Peor 'before the Lord against the sun,' that the anger of God might turn away from Israel. The burning of the wrath of God, which was to be turned away from the people by the punishment of the guilty, as enjoined upon Moses, consisted, as we may see from vers. 8, 9, in a plague inflicted upon the nation, which carried off a great number of the people, a sudden death ... ." They speak here of the concept of crucifixion, common in the ancient world, but, they indicate, this would follow execution, not be the means of it. The heads of the nation were to be the judges pronouncing sentence. However this process was not accomplished, due to what followed as we will find in succeeding verses, for, as the heads of the people were deliberating on the subject, and the whole congregation was assembled before the tabernacle, weeping on account of the divine wrath, there came an Israelite, a prince of the tribe of Simeon, who brought a Midianitish woman, the daughter of a Midianitish chief (ver. 14), to his brethren, i.e. into the camp of the Israelites, before the eyes of Moses and all the congregation, to commit adultery with her in his tent. We will find out what happened in our next study!

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