Author: Ron Graham

History of Israel

Teaching in Moab
—And the story of Balaam

Time ~ 3. Wandering in the Wilderness
Span ~ 40 years
Books ~ Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Figures ~ Moses
Begins with ~ Exodus from Egypt across Red Sea
Ends with ~ Entry into promised Land across Jordan

Almost the entire book of Deuteronomy is devoted to recording God's effort to teach people his will. By Moses God taught the Israelites who were on the verge of taking possession of the promised land. God also counselled the nations in that land through prophets such as Balaam.

1 Moses in Moab

Having wandered 38 years after leaving Sinai, the children of Israel were ready to enter the promised land.

They were gathered in great numbers in the land of the Moabites, and there they were prepared with teaching from God. This came through Moses before he died.

But there was, at the same time, other teaching in Moab too —God's oracles to the Moabites and Midianites through one of their diviners, Balaam.

2 Bible Summary (Deuteronomy 1-26)

3 God Provides Prophets

God never fails to tell people the truth. God has always had his prophets and teachers among the Gentiles as well as among the people of Israel.

Even today God raises up people to communicate his truth wherever people seek it or need it.

God always makes himself known clearly to those who try to understand. He never leaves people in ignorance —people create their own darkness (Romans 1:16-25 2Thessalonians 2:7-12). Our mission is to help them dispel it.

4 The End of Moses's Life (Deuteronomy 27-34)

The Israelites were God's chosen people. They were going to drive others out of the land of Canaan. However God was not being a respector of persons. The people in those territories were being conquered because they sought what they wanted to hear, instead of seeking God's truth. The Moabites’ silly attitude to what God was saying to them is a perfect example.

The Story of Balaam

Balaam was a prophet of the one true God among them. This story, about what Balaam said to Balak king of Moab, is recorded in Numbers chapters 22-24.

The Bible story of Balaam is “strange yet true”. It is found in Numbers 22, 23, 24. It happened to the Moabites while the Israelite multitude was camped in Moab listening to Moses.

God's Man in Moab

The Moabite leaders, alarmed at the intrusion of the Israelites, called upon the services of one of their diviners, the prophet Balaam, who got his powers from God. Balaam told them what God said. The king pressed Balaam for another message. Balaam gave him none but God's.

A Donkey Teaches a Prophet

Balaam, however, went along with the strategy of pressing the Lord to give godless men the message they wanted. God used Balaam's donkey to convince Balaam that God was not going to bend, and so Balaam apologised to God's angel.

Balaam Refuses to Bend

Balaam, for the sake of money, was too easily led astray from God's truth as we see from Numbers 31:8,16, 2Peter 2:15-16, and Revelation 2:14.

On this occasion, however, Balaam kept to God's message. Every time the leaders of Moab asked Balaam to have another go at divining the message they wanted, the Lord gave him a stronger version of the truth. Balaam repeated it faithfully. His attitude was, "I must be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth."

The Story's Lesson

God was prepared to kill Balaam for being too ready to pander to the king of Moab. However, on this occasion, God used the mistreated donkey to spare Balaam's life.

This reminds us that God's own Son was a "lamb" mistreated so that we who have sinned might live and not die. There is some irony in this, because a Moabite woman, Ruth, was later to be so devoted to God and his people Israel, that God allowed her to be an ancestor of David, and therefore of Jesus Christ (Ruth 1:1-22, 4:13-22).