Balak - June 26, 2021

Torah Portion:
Balak - June 26, 2021

Torah: Numbers 22:2-25:9
Haftarah: Micah 5:6(7)-6:8

Devotional by Matt Rosenberg:
Blessed, Not Cursed
These chapters of the book of Numbers are random! They don’t seem to be connected to the rest of the narrative, leading some scholars to believe they were added later. Even the characters don’t show up again in the Torah. The only connecting link between chapter 21 and 25 is the Israelites are encamped on the borders of Moab.

Avner Bosky writes, “The parasha for this Shabbat is titled Balak. According to Joshua 24:9, Balak son of Zippor was the king of Moab, and thus a descendant of Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19:36-37). The Moabites were not descended from Abraham, but from Abraham’s brother Haran (Genesis 11:27). The Moabites lived in the area of modern Jordan, between Mount Nebo in the north and the Kingdom of Edom in the south, bordering the Dead Sea.”

Jacob Milgrom, in his JPS commentary on Numbers, summarizes the story:
“The action moves swiftly. Balak, king of Moab, hires the renowned seer Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam consents only when he receives the Lord’s permission and, further, warns Balak that he will speak only as the Lord directs him. On these occasions, involving a sacrificial ritual and change of site, Balaam blesses the Israelites instead of cursing them. And…he predicts the eventual doom of Moab at the hands of Israel: Balak’s curse, intended for Israel, will instead be inflicted by Israel on Moab.”

Here, Moab (an ancient enemy of Israel) represents all of the enemies of the Jewish people. What seem to be curses against Israel, God then flips on their enemies instead. It comes from the covenant God made with Abraham:

"Then Adonai said to Abram, ‘Get going out from your land, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. My heart’s desire is to make you into a great nation, to bless you, to make your name great so that you may be a blessing. My desire is to bless those who bless you, but whoever curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)

The blessing is not really about the Jewish people exclusively as much as it is about the God of Israel and how he cares about His people. Often we fear curses, hatred, persecution, slander, gossip and the like. But, God doesn’t let those things stand against His people—first Israel (the Jewish people) and then anyone from any nation who follows Yeshua as their Messiah.

Just like the story of Esther and Haman. Haman tried to kill the Jewish people and the script was flipped on him. Even Hitler, while murdering 6 million Jewish people, ultimately failed to eradicate the Jewish people. It’s why we say, “Am Yisrael Chai” (my people Israel live)! Our enemies don’t survive and we continue to live. Not because we are special, not because of anything we do, but because the God of Israel promised. Balaam and Balak are one of the earliest tests of God’s promise. Why does all of this matter to you? This text is simple proof that the God of Israel keeps His promises.

If He keeps His promises to Israel (the Jewish people) to be a blessing and not a curse, then He will also keep His promises to anyone who follows Yeshua!

Lord God,
Blessed is Your name. Help us to be a blessing and not a curse to the people around us, and when our enemies curse us turn it into a blessing. For Your Glory! Thank You for hearing our prayers.
In the Name of Yeshua, amen.
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