Much has been written about the rather mysterious diviner/magician Balaam. Was he a spokesperson for God who represented the outer world in viewing and blessing Israel, or was he a conniver who ultimately led the people to sin at Peor? This brief essay doesn’t altogether resolve that question.
What’s remarkable to me about Balaam is that though he was retained by Balak to curse the Israelites he instead blesses them in accord with God’s hopes.
These blessings are extraordinary. They tell us a lot about the people God wants us to be.
First, we are to be separate, that is, we are to serve God above all else, even, and especially when, we must part ways with others who do not.
Second, we are to be upright. Balaam wants to die “the death of the upright.” This means, according to the sage Ramban, that he would spend his days on earth in goodness and then share in the portion of eternal life.
Third, we are not to follow the ways of augury and divination but rather rely on God’s support and defense.
Fourth, we are to live in fair tents and dwellings, suggesting that we are to maintain order and modesty in our lives and communities. This manner of living proves to be fruitful and bountiful in material and especially spiritual ways.
Fifth, living with God gives us access to all that nourishes life, needed strength, and God’s healing hand.
Finally, however challenging life may be at certain times, the world knows that God blesses those who bless God’s people and curses those who curse them.
Baalam may or may not deserve the criticism that’s come his way from many observers. But, in blessing the people who follow God, he does so, in the words of the Bible, as a “man whose eye is true.”
These gorgeous blessings we find in the Bible have an extraordinary richness and enduring value to all believers in God.