Numbers 24

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Read Numbers 24

24 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness. When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke his message:

“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
    the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
    who sees a vision from the Almighty,
    who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

“How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
    your dwelling places, Israel!

“Like valleys they spread out,
    like gardens beside a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
    like cedars beside the waters.
Water will flow from their buckets;
    their seed will have abundant water.

“Their king will be greater than Agag;
    their kingdom will be exalted.

“God brought them out of Egypt;
    they have the strength of a wild ox.
They devour hostile nations
    and break their bones in pieces;
    with their arrows they pierce them.
Like a lion they crouch and lie down,
    like a lioness—who dares to rouse them?

“May those who bless you be blessed
    and those who curse you be cursed!”
10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands togetherand said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded.”12 Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me,13 ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord—and I must say only what the Lord says’? 14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.”

Balaam’s Fourth Message
15 Then he spoke his message:

“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
    the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
16 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
    who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
    who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

17 “I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
    a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
    the skulls of all the people of Sheth.
18 Edom will be conquered;
    Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
    but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
    and destroy the survivors of the city.”

Balaam’s Fifth Message
20 Then Balaam saw Amalek and spoke his message:

“Amalek was first among the nations,
    but their end will be utter destruction.”

Balaam’s Sixth Message

21 Then he saw the Kenites and spoke his message:
“Your dwelling place is secure,
    your nest is set in a rock;
22 yet you Kenites will be destroyed
    when Ashur takes you captive.”

Balaam’s Seventh Message

23 Then he spoke his message:
“Alas! Who can live when God does this?
24     Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus;
they will subdue Ashur and Eber,
    but they too will come to ruin.”
25 Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.

Go Deeper

Numbers 24 is the third chapter where we see and hear from the wicked prophet Balaam. As a reminder, King Balak of Moab wanted Balaam to curse the people of Israel in exchange for a reward. Balaam, unlike some who are considered to be “false prophets”, actually does hear from God. So while he’s not a false prophet, he is also not a righteous one. God, however, can use anyone or any means necessary to communicate His message when the timing is right and His words, through Balaam, are another example of that power and might on display. 

This chapter begins with Balaam not resorting to sorcery or magic as he had previously, but instead he simply delivered the words that God wanted him to. As he began to speak, the text says that the Spirit of God came on him (v. 2) and he began to deliver a blessing over Israel. King Balak, infuriated by this blessing (which was the exact opposite of what he intended), sends him away in anger. Balaam stops to remind Balak that he can only say what God tells him to say (v. 13). 

The chapter ends with Balaam delivering four more messages, including one about a star that would come out of Jacob and a scepter that would rise out of Israel (v. 17). Some scholars and early church writers (such as Justin Martyr, for example) believe this to be a reference to the coming Messiah who would ultimately free Israel from the spiritual bondage they were in. Multiple verses in the New Testament use similar language to back up this argument (Matthew 2:2, Hebrews 1:8, Revelation 19:15). This serves as another reminder to us that the entirety of scripture ultimately points to the brokenness of the world and our need for a Savior. 

This chapter ends on an interesting note, as both Balaam and Balak go their separate ways. Pastor and commentator David Guzik says this in his Enduring Word commentary:

“Undoubtedly, both were disappointed and perhaps angry, each because Israel had not been weakened spiritually and therefore made ready for defeat in battle. Balak wanted Israel defeated, and Balaam wanted Balak’s money, but each wanted Israel spiritually cursed–and God would not curse Israel.”

As we’ll read in the days to come, Israel ultimately does compromise and rebel in a way that breaks God’s heart.


  1. What stuck out to you on your first read through this chapter?
  2. Why do you believe God chose to speak through Balaam?
  3. What does this passage teach you about God? What does it teach you about humanity?

Did You Know?

Dr. Thomas Constable, a retired Dallas Theological Seminary professor, has this note on the references to Balaam in the New Testament:

“New Testament writers referred to Balaam three times, and each time it was in connection with apostasy. Second Peter 2:15-16 refers to “the way of Balaam,” which is covetousness. Jude 11 speaks of “the error of Balaam,” which is thinking that one can sin with impunity. Revelation 2:14 refers to “the teaching of Balaam,” which is compromise with the world.”

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5 thoughts on “Numbers 24”

  1. Questions:
    •What stuck out to me in my first read was what God revealed through a sorcerer, Balaam. Even in all their ugliness and rebellious ways, God saw beauty in the Israelites and would exalt them.
    •Perhaps God chose Balaam to deliver his message because he seemed believable to pagans, since diviners were used to tell the future.
    •What this teaches me is that God is in the business of pursuing our flawed and sinful selves and will go to any lengths and by all means to rescue us.

  2. The third oracle flowed with beauty. What Balaam was seeing and stating, vs 3-4 ” the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
    the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered:” His words of lovely and exalted to glorify God, who wants to glorify Israel, “Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the LORD has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters.” ” Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.” Yes, Balaam was not a “believer” but how is he different from us? He was after financial gain, influencing of people, notoriety, but as God’s word came upon him with Holy Spirit, he could speak nothing but truth. We pursue these things at high cost to ourselves and we finally get to God when we realize that our previous course of action is not pleasing and we repent. If we can come to this point then we can know what is pleasing to God and let our lives flow with the beauty of God as He intended. When we turn away and truly turn to God, we can know, with opened eyes, with listening ears, lovely and exalted beautiful blessings of our higher purpose.

    God thank You for Your Word. Thank You for my opened eyes, listening ear to see the beauty and blessings of my higher purpose. Thank You for how You encourage me from Your Word. Thank You for the beauty of words. Thank You for breathe life, my I use it for Your glory, honor to bless You. God thank You for the minutes of this day to praise You in all I say and do. God I lift up the marriage conference tonight and in the morning. May all marriages be blessed and encouraged by the teaching and pouring out of Your Spirit into these unions. God may broken ones be mended with Your super spiritual glue. May good ones get better, and all be blessed beyond imagination for Your glory and honor in Jesus name amen.

  3. 13 Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord—and I must say only what the Lord says’

    This reminds me of Philippians 2 that EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, including Balaam!

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