“And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast. And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?” (Numbers 22:36-37)
Most peoples moral standards seem to be governed by self advantage rather than by real conviction. When Balaam showed up after first saying God had forbidden him, it supported Balak’s belief that “everyone has his price.” Basically he asked why Balaam didn’t just name the price the first time instead of wasting his time.
“And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.” (Numbers 22:38)
Balaam already knew God had forbidden him to do what Balak wanted, but his ambition led him to try to satisfy Balak without going against God. He didn’t tell Balak he couldn’t curse Israel, just that he would only say what God said. He was like most people, trying to obtain what he wanted without making God upset.
“And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjathhuzoth. And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.
And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams. And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.” (Numbers 22:39-23:1)
Balak was familiar with the religious practices of his day, so he had no qualms about offering the sacrifices to try to obtain God’s favor. Like many today, Balaam hoped that special offerings or service would persuade God to change his mind so he could get what he wanted. In effect, he was trying to bribe God, because he doesn’t dare just ignore God’s command and speak without permission.
“And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.
And God met Balaam: and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram.
And the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak. And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab.
And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.
How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! ” (Numbers 23:3-10)
Because he was still willing to listen to him, God gave Balaam a message for Balak and the nation of Moab. The message God gave was clearly not what Balak wanted, but Balaam still gave God the credit.
“And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.
And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?” (Numbers 23:11-12)
When Balak remonstrated with him, Balaam insisted he had to do what God told him, but Balak wasn’t convinced. After all he’d come that far, so he’d probably go a little farther under the right conditions.
“And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence. And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.
And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder.
And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus.
And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken?” (Numbers 23:13-17)
Still wanting the rewards, Balaam was willing to try again, rather than telling Balak he was wasting his time. Again, God gave Balak a message.
“And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” (Numbers 23:18-20)
God’s message was that God was not a human who could be swayed to do wrong by bribes and that he had commanded Balaam to bless Israel and Balaam had no power or authority to change it. Unfortunately, he continued with his own understanding about God.
“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. 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!
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.” (Numbers 223:21-24)
Balaam explained that Israel was to be blessed because they lived righteously before God and thus no curse or spell could affect them. While he had no intention of going against God, Balaam had just given Balak the key to destroying Israel by getting them to sin. It is what Revelation 2:14 refers to. “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold 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.” God had told him to say nothing but what God said, but he had said a little more, but in saying a little more he gave information that could be used against Israel.
“And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.
But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do?
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. And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon.
And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams. And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.” (Numbers 23:25-30)
Not realizing the importance of what Balaam had told him and still wanting Israel cursed, Balac tries again, and Balaam went along with him, although he no longer hoped to satisfy Balak.