Walking Against God’s Will. As we saw last week, Israel had begun the final leg of the journey to Canaan land. Traveling northward along the King’s highway, they would pass directly through the land of Moab. Balak, the king of Moab, felt threatened by Israel so he sent an emissary to Balaam in Mesopotamia asking him to come to Moab and to curse Israel. In Numbers 22:12, God clearly commanded Balaam, “Thou shalt not go with them [Moabites]; thou shalt not curse the people [Israel]: for they are blessed.” Notice in verse 13, Balaam did not give the whole story to the Midianites. He only said, “the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.” He did not tell them the most important thing – that God had absolutely forbidden him to curse Israel because they were blessed! You will note that the Hebrew word דֶּ֖רֶךְ (deh-rech – meaning ‘way’ – Strong’s #1870) is used 8 times [verses 22, 23, 24, 26, 31, 32, 34]. Often it has the Hebrew letter bet ( ב) as the prefix to indicate ‘the way’ or ‘in the way’ – בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ (b-derech). Verse 32 clearly shows us that God’s way and Balaam’s way were at odds: “I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me.”
Spiritual Vision Check. A secondary ‘theme’ in this Torah portion becomes apparent as we count the number of times the word ‘see’ appears in the text. First, the donkey ‘sees’ the angel of the Lord in verses 23, 25 and 27. The Hebrew word for ‘see’ is רָאָה (rah-ah – Strong’s #7200). Then God ‘opens’ the
donkey’s mouth so that she speaks to Balaam. Here the Hebrew word for ‘open’ is פָתָח (pah-tach) which literally means ‘open’. Then God ‘opens’ Balaam’s eyes in Num. 22:31. Here the word translated as ‘open’ is גָלָה (gah-lah – Strong’s #1540). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says, “When God revealed himself to Balaam it is said that Balaam’s eyes were “uncovered,” “opened”. (Num 24:4, 6) It appears that in this manner Balaam saw something which he otherwise could not see.” From this point forward, Balaam refers to himself as “the man whose eyes are open” (cf. Num. 24:3, 15) Spiritual vision is a key theme with at least 24 occurrences of the word ‘see’ (in various forms) in Numbers 22.
Curses Become Blessings. God’s will was clear. Israel was NOT to be cursed. However, Balak had offered Balaam great riches if he would curse Israel. Further insight from Deut. 23:5 shows that Balaam truly did WANT to curse Israel: “Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee.” This verse explains why Balaam blessed Israel when he really wanted to curse them because God overruled and turned each curse into a blessing! Balak was furious! Balaam’s four prophecies about Israel are true because God gave them. One of the greatest prophecies in the T’nakh about the Messiah was given by Balaam in Numbers 24:17: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Seceptre shall rise out of Israel ..” This prophecy probably guided the wise men from the east (the same area that Balaam was from) thousands of years later that Matthew speaks about in his Gospel, to worship the newborn king of the Jews.
Etymology of the word ‘Prophet’. According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), the word for prophet, נָבִ֣יא (navi), is derived from the Hebrew root, נבע, “meaning to bubble up, “boil forth,” hence, “to pour forth words, like those who speak with fervour of mind or under divine inspiration, as prophets and poets.” It occurs 277 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. The plural is נְבִיאִ֔ים (n’vi’im) and is also the second division of the T’nakh. 1 Samuel 9:9 gives some etymology about the word ‘prophet’: “Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.” The Hebrew word translated as ‘seer’ in this verse is רֹאֶֽה – ro-eh, from the root for the word ‘to see’. The seer or the prophet was the one who could see the way to go during hard times. He could see God’s vision when no one else could. Because He saw God’s vision, he often also saw God’s coming judgments.
The Seer Who Could Not See. Matthew Henry says that Bishop Simon Patrick (1626-1707) and also many Jewish scholars of his time, thought that Balaam had been a great prophet referring to Balak’s accolade in Num. 22:6, “he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.” Although God gave him many chances, and showed him a great miracle in letting his donkey speak, Balaam never repented. He never aligned his way with God’s way and died trying to help the Midianites to destroy Israel when God clearly told him that Israel was blessed. Numbers 31 speaks of the children of Israel’s destruction of both the Midianites and of Balaam. This event is also recorded in Joshua 13:21-22, “Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword.” Sadly note that at the end of his life, Balaam was not called a prophet or seer, but a soothsayer. There are several Hebrew words translated as ‘soothsayer’ in the T’nakh, but the one used here is קּוֹסֵ֑ם (ko-sem). TWOT says that ko-sem referred to one who practiced divination and, “The major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and the minor prophets Micah and Zechariah all mention קָסַם [ko-sem] in a derogatory sense.” In the New Testament, Balaam is used as an example NOT to follow: 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14.
Don’t Ignore God’s Word! All of Balaam’s problems started when he ignored God’s Word concerning Israel in Gen. 12:3: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” By attempting to curse Israel, Balaam actually put himself under God’s curse! Although God showed him the truth, he did not repent and his life spiraled downwards. God is still on the throne and looking out for His ancient people, the Jewish people. And although many ‘Balaks’ and ‘Balaams’ have come on the scene down through the centuries, none have been able to destroy Israel, but rather, eventually they have met with destruction. I do not want to be like Balaam whose way was perverse before God. Just this week I have been praying through Psalm 119 which has 176 wonderful verses about God’s Word. I want my way to align with God’s way: “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” (Psalm 119:5)
Jerusalem Day (Hebrew: יום ירושלים, Yom Yerushalayim) is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967. When Israel declared its independence in 1948, it was attacked en masse by its Arab neighbors. Jordan took over east Jerusalem and the Old City and the Jewish residents who had lived there all their lives were forced out. This Jordanian occupation continued for 19 years until 1967. In
Jerusalem: 4000 Years History in 5 Minutes
May 1967, tensions were again at an all time high between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israel knew an attack was imminent and that they may lose unless they had the element of surprise. So on June 5th, 1967 Israel launched a preemptive strike thus beginning the Six-Day war. On June 7th, 1967 (28 Iyar 5727), Israeli paratroopers captured the Old City of Jerusalem. Later that day, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan declared what is often quoted on Yom Yerushalayim: This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, [the Western Wall] never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour … our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other people’s holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity.”
On May 12, 1968, the Israeli government proclaimed a new holiday – Jerusalem Day – to be celebrated on the 28th of Iyar, the Hebrew date
Contrary to what the UN organization, UNESCO, voted recently (that Jewish people have no ties to Jerusalem) the FACTS state that Jewish people have had a presence in Jerusalem for almost FOUR millennia and both the Bible and archaeology prove this fact. A careful student of the Word of God will realize that God considers Jerusalem both the geographical focus of the earth and the spiritual focus of His plan. The word ‘Jerusalem’ is mentioned 764 times in the Hebrew T’nakh with the first mention being in Joshua 10:1. It is the city mentioned the most in the Bible. The place of Jerusalem, however, is first mentioned in Genesis 14:18 as the meeting place of Abram and Melchizedek, “king of Salem”. The word, ‘Salem’ is also mentioned in Psalm 76:2 and refers to Jerusalem. ‘Jerusalem’ is mentioned 50 more times in the New Testament for a total of 814 times in the entire Bible. (More than any other place!) For the almost 2,000 years of the Diaspora, all Passover Seders have concluded with participants saying, “Next year in Jerusalem” indicating their desire to be back in their home to celebrate Passover.
Edith Samuel in her book, “Your Jewish Lexicon” says, “Peace runs like a golden thread throughout our [referring to the Jewish people] dreams and prayers.” The reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 did not bring peace to the city and today Jerusalem is not at peace. However, the Bible pattern has always been that God gives names according to the the final destiny of the person or place. I think of God changing Jacob’s name to Israel. God’s Word teaches that the final destiny of Jerusalem will be the city of peace when the Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), sits on the throne of His father David as the rightful King! However in the meantime, the Bible also commands us to pray for this end in Psalm 122:6: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.”
The Hebrew root, שלמ according to the book 501 Hebrew Verbs, means literally: “to pay wages, pay for goods, pay back (a debt)”. For a fuller meaning, you must realize that to repay a debt means to “complete” the payment process. So the underlying meaning is “completeness and wholeness”. This helps us to understand the most famous word that is derived from this root: שָלוֹם (shalom) which means ‘peace‘ and is also used as a greeting – both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. In modern Hebrew, the
term מה שלומך (mah sh’lom-chah) literally means, ‘what is your peace’, but the ‘street meaning’ is “how are you?”. The root is in the word
יְרוּשָׁלִַם – Yerushalim or Jerusalem and hence it being the ‘city of Peace‘. The most famous king that ever sat on Jerusalem’s throne was שְׁלֹמֹה (Sh-lo-mo) or Solomon who brought unprecedented peace to the city. Solomon’s wife from the Song of Solomon was Shulamit – שּׁוּלַמִּית (see Song. 6:13) Amazingly, all of these words, shalom, Solomon, Shulamit and Jerusalem all contain this same Hebrew root – שלמ meaning they all have a common etymology and a common basic meaning.
According to Webster, etymology is, “the tracing of a word back as far as possible in its own language.” The first occurrence of the word ‘Israel’ (yisrael) – יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל in the Hebrew Bible is found in this week’s Torah portion in Genesis 32:28. In this passage, the angel of the LORD confronts the patriarch Jacob at Peniel and changes his name: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” What does ‘Israel’ ( יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל <-) mean? First, note that the last two letters, אל, (El), is one of the names for God and occurs 6,581 times in the Hebrew T’nakh. [The longer form of this word is אלוהים (Elohim) and occurs 2,602 times in the T’nakh.](more…)
We all know the cliche, “Put your best foot forward” – meaning to do your best, and be your best and strongest and fastest and smartest, etc. the first time you meet someone. When God inspired the Holy Scriptures, He certainly did this very thing with the first verse of the Hebrew Scriptures! Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) wrote in his excellent book, “The Genesis Record“: “The first verse of the Bible is the foundational verse of the Bible.” He goes on to say, “It is the foundation of all foundations and is the most important verse in the Bible. Since it is the opening statement of the world’s most often printed book, these are surely the most widely read words ever written. Most people at least start to read the Bible and, therefore, most people have read at least these opening words in the Bible, even if they never got any farther.” [The Genesis Record, p. 37](more…)