Numbers 22:2 - 25:9
Sadly, I have not had time this week to prepare a study for this weeks Torah Portion, Balak, and I'm not so sure this blog post makes any sense (its late when I'm writing this!)
Balak however is filled with some of the most beautiful words written in scripture.
But what a contradiction!
That the man, Bilaam, a prophet for sale, the likes of whom would try curse Israel, uttered some of the finest blessings and proverbs written in the scripture, including some of the most beautiful prophecies of Messiah.
This apparent contradiction is fascinating. That this man who intended to curse, indeed blessed Israel.
Of this the Yalkut Shimoni (a fascinating midrash/commentary) says;
It would have been fitting that the rebukes (in the book of Deuteronomy) be pronounced by Balaam, and that the blessings (in the Parshah of Balak) be said by Moses. . . . But G‑d said: Let Moses, who loves them, rebuke them; and let Balaam, who hates them, bless them.
Now looking into the blessings and proverbs of Bilaam themselves is no small task. There's a wealth of material there.
A few ramblings though;
The Sages teach that the blessings uttered by Bilaam implied his true intentions to curse. Meaning, where Bilaam blessed the tents of Israel, the Sages say we know that Bilaam really intended to curse the tents (this refers to Torah study) of Israel, and so on.
Speaking in this vein, and getting right to the chase with this thought of mine, we can understand that the curses, also evil itself, is dependant on and subject to the good in the world.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe eloquently explained once that good exists in its own right ('good exists because it exists'), whereas evil is dependant on good and is only a distortion of what is good. Bilaam's evil then, his intended curses, could not have existed if not for good.
Thus the Rebbe explains;
...evil exists merely to provide the tension which imbues the positive acts of man with meaning and significance.
Hence there cannot be anything “original” to evil, which is but a shallow, corrupted refraction of the good in the world. If Balaam was able to transcend the norm with the intensity of his hate, this was only because, centuries earlier, Abraham had done the same out of love of his Creator.
Thus the words of Bilaam blessed Israel and God used his words for good, to show what truth is, and to show that evil (and the likes of Bilaam) is ultimately subjected to that which is good in the world.
Notice in the quote by the Rebbe that he mentions Abraham?
This is because the episode with Bilaam's donkey is linked by means of a remez (hint) in the language of Bilaam and his donkey, to Abraham and his donkey (and the Rebbe is saying that Bilaam's evil, could not have existed without Abraham's prior good...)
Numbers 22:21 (NKJV)
21 So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went ...
Genesis 22:3 (The Scriptures)
3 And Aḇraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, ...
And I find it so fascinating that Abraham went and participated in one of the most overt prophecies of Yeshua's death, while Bilaam rose, all these years later on his donkey, and spoke of the same Yeshua.
Numbers 23:9 (NKJV)
9 For from the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him;
Even speaking of the same death Abraham and Isaac prophesied of;
Numbers 23:10 (NKJV)
10 ...Let me die the death of the righteous,
And let my end be like his!”
Another contradiction however, because in Abraham's parallel story, Isaac did not die. He lived and next appears in Genesis where he is married to his wife (super prophetic of Messiah and His bride). Some Sages say however, that Isaac died (in tradition), but that he (and the lamb funnily enough in Genesis 22) were resurrected, which is exactly what the death of the righteous is, that Bilaam is referring to, whose end is like the Messiah.
Not death at all, but life to life and resurrection, 'let my end be like his!'
Notice the interchange in the verses of Numbers 23 where Bilaam swaps between plural and singular? At one point referring to the upright (plural in Hebrew) and later 'his!' (singular).
We may interpret these singular pro nouns (the he's, his's and him's etc.), as referring to Messiah.
Thus Bilaam is seeing and prophesying of some very cool stuff.
He continues in his blessings...
Numbers 23:21 (NKJV)
21 “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel...
Probably my favourite contradiction of all time. That God can look at the sin filled Israel, at sin filled you and I, and say that there is no iniquity, nor any wickedness within us.
But this is not possible without our singular pronoun, the one of whom Bilaam is prophesying; not without the death of the truly righteous One, the one of whom evil is subjected too.
Numbers 24:17 (NKJV)
17 “I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
Having come this far we know the star and the sceptre refer to Messiah. Even the two comings of Messiah. The star, referring to that very star the magi looked for in your gospels (they had a reason to look for a star). And the sceptre, symbolising the day when Yeshua will truly reign as king on earth, when he will rule in the midst of his enemies.
Knowing this then, how could Bilaam say anything but bless the King of Israel? The same one who himself, one day, rose up and saddled a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9 (The Scriptures)
9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Tsiyon! Shout, O daughter of Yerushalayim! See, your Sovereign is coming to you, He is righteous and endowed with deliverance, humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.