“They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. (Numbers 31:16)
Earlier on, Balak, king of Moab tried to entice Balaam to curse Israel. God prevented him from doing so. An outright attack on Israel could not go through because God intervened to keep Balaam from doing so.
It seems that Balaam did obey God, and at first glance you may think he was righteous for doing so yet later on in the New Testament, Balaam is referred to very negatively and not seen as someone who belonged to God at all.
Part of the reason why is the shift in Numbers 31:16. Balaam who obeyed God reluctantly and was prevented from cursing Israel outright, used another tactic hear to create serious problems for Israel. He advised the women of Midian to seduce the Israelites to commit sexual immorality with them. As a result God sent a plague on the camp.
Balaam at last is put to the sword.
They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man. Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba —the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. (Numbers 31:7-8)
Though it was not as if God had not given Balaam mercy a few times and ample opportunity to respond and repent of his sin. In Numbers 22 God spared Balaam’s life and opened his eyes to see that the Lord was very angry with him.
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”
Balaam though hardens his heart to this as we see later on in Numbers 31 and creates temptation for the Israelites, bringing a plague on the assembly.
What can we learn? First the devil and the world’s people cannot destroy our lives by outright “curse” if God be for us, “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31) and “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Moses said, “For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you. However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you. (Deuteronomy 23:4-5 –
So how did Balaam cause them true harm? By enticing Israel to sin. Through sin, yes through that there is far more damage done then outright attacks of the foes.
The Philistines were powerless to subdue Samson until a woman did it for them by tempting his flesh and eyes.
If the devil cannot succeed in destroying a man or woman through hardship he won’t give up on his attacks but may subversively tempt instead. So we too must be on guard and pray so we do not fall prey.
Secondly, we can learn how Balaam had been shown enough grace over time yet still was bent on sin, therefore he met his end. God does not contend with a man forever to get them to repent, we see that with Pharaoh who kept hardening his heart until it says finally “God hardened his heart”
Meaning God gave up on Pharaoh entirely and charged him with a unrepentant hardness that he would not find repentance for. God closed the door on him so he was hardened beyond remedy.
Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed —without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26-27)