28th December 2023

Balaam's second oracle



"the unchanging God blesses Israel"

"Then he took up his oracle and said:
"Rise up, Balak, and hear!
Listen to me, son of Zippor!
"God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Behold, I have received a command to bless;
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
"He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
The LORD his God is with him,
And the shout of a King is among them.
God brings them out of Egypt;
He has strength like a wild ox.
"For there is no sorcery against Jacob,
Nor any divination against Israel.
It now must be said of Jacob
And of Israel, 'Oh, what God has done!'
Look, a people rises like a lioness,
And lifts itself up like a lion;
It shall not lie down until it devours the prey,
And drinks the blood of the slain.""

Rise up Balak, and hear:
In this message, God rebuked Balak, and taught him about the Divine nature.
● God is not a man, and can't be bribed or impressed with riches (as Balaam was).
● God does not lie, and He does not change His mind (that He should repent) as man does.
● God always performs His word. If God has spoken, He will perform it (Has He said, and will He not do?)
● God has all strength, and has the power to perform what He promises - He will make it good.

He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it:
It was not within Balaam's power to either bless or curse Israel.
All Balaam could do was report what God said.
If God said Israel was blessed, Balaam must say so, no matter how much money Balak gave him.

"God's blessing is so powerful and irrevocable that even the most renowned divination expert of the day could not counter its effectiveness.
Only God could rescind his blessing upon Israel." (Cole)

He has not observed iniquity in Jacob nor has He seen wickedness in Israel:
One reason that God declared Israel to be blessed was because they were, in their present season, not walking in obvious or significant iniquity or wickedness.
Therefore, the LORD his God is with him and there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel.
To put it in the later language of Romans , if God is for Israel, then no one can be against them.

One important feature of the Mosaic covenant was its promise of blessing and cursing.
God promised to bless a generally obedient Israel, and curse a generally or significantly disobedient Israel.
When Balaam noted that God had not observed iniquity in Jacob nor has He seen wickedness in Israel, it was a way to say "Therefore, under God's covenant with them, they will be blessed."

This observation also hinted at a principle.
If Israel could be enticed into general or significant sin, then perhaps they would - under the covenant they made with the LORD - bring a curse upon themselves.

The shout of a King is among them:
This is the first specific mention of Yahweh as King among His people in the Bible.

"Such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith a people congratulate the approach and presence of their king when he appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle with victory and spoils.
The expression implies God's being their King and Ruler, and their abundant security and just confidence in him as such." (Poole)

God brings them out of Egypt:
As Allen and others note, the verb tense here describes an ongoing action.
God's great power and favour for Israel is seen in that He delivered them out of Egypt and that He continues to deliver them, bringing them into Canaan as He promised to do.

He has strength like a wild ox:
The phrase wild ox is translated "unicorn" in the King James Version.
The Hebrew word here (reem) occurs nine times in the Old Testament.
The idea behind the Hebrew word is either of one horn or a mighty horn.
Some think it refers to a rhinoceros, others to a wild ox, or a strong goat.

"The KJV 'unicorn' was wrong from the beginning;
the Hebrew expression speaks of two horns (dual), which the NIV paraphrases as 'strength.'" (Allen)

"The creature referred to is either the rhinoceros, some varieties of which have two horns on the nose, or the wild bull, urus, or buffalo; though some think the beast intended is a species of goat; but the rhinoceros seems the most likely." (Clarke)

For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel:
This was a strong and direct way for God to say to Balak (and Balaam),
"You can't curse Israel. Your sorcery can have no effect."

Instead of being defeated by sorcery or divination, Israel was like the lion that will devour its prey.

Bible references available on request

Enduring Word
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