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Commentary - Year 3 Sabbath 13

Numbers 22:2 - 23:1   -   Micah 5:1-15   -   Psalm 111   -   2 Peter 2:1-22
 

 

Sivan 28, 5763 / June 28, 2003 

Sivan 28, 5766 / June 24, 2006

Sivan 28, 5769 / June 20, 2009

Sivan 26, 5772 / June 16, 2012

Sivan 26, 5775 / June 13, 2015

 

Balak / Balak   SCRIPTURES should be read first

Background:

 

“Moab” (Moav) means “Of his father”: Moab was the son of Lot’s eldest daughter, by her father – conceived after they fled from the burning of the five cities of the plains, Sodom and Gomorrah & company. 

 

Moab’s descendents are in view in today’s portion. They dwelt in the plains, like the area from whence Lot had fled. In the plains there is little protection from enemies. Their King was Balak, which means “devastator”; Balak was originally from Edom (v.5), therefore he knew of the sorcerer there.

 

Ba-la-am was a sorcerer who lived in Pethor (Soothsayer), a city of Edom – descendents of Esau. He lived by performing sorcery for money, though he claimed that his god was Yahweh (v.18).

 “Forsaking the right way they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” - 2 Peter 2: 15.

“The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the sorcerer, with the sword” - Joshua 13:22.

 

Setting:

 

Israel was heading for the Promised Land – Canaan, north of the Amorites, Edomites, and Moabites. The Amorites had come out and attacked (ch.21), and Israel defeated them and dwelt in their land. Israel was traveling to the east of Edom and Moab, because Edom (descendents of Esau) had not allowed them to pass through, having threatened them with the sword.

 

Commentary:

 

Now, having seen Israel’s conquest of Moab’s neighbors, the Amorites, Moab was in fear in their unprotected plains. Seeing how Edom had successfully routed Israel, Moab sought to use an Edomite’s power against them. Since the power of God’s people was the Word of their God, the words of a sorcerer were sought to overcome them.

 

(V.5-6) King Balak of Moab sent messengers to the Edomite sorcerer Balaam. The message was a call, “Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.

 

Moab is an example of people with no reason to fear aggression from God’s people, yet they are fearful because they have seen God’s people defeat enemies. Their tactic is to use what appears to be the most successful weapon of the world.

 

Many people of our world fear “conservatives”, because more wicked people convince them that we want to impose our morality on them. Now the laws of our land are often seen as the most effective defense against God’s Word.

 

But, as we will see in this portion, as well as in prophecy, God uses even the wicked to show His power and glory: His Word shall not be overcome!

 

(V.7-13) The messengers went to Balaam, taking tools of divination to him. But God told Balaam, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people; for they are blessed.” God did not ask Balaam to bless His people: He said that they were already blessed!

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(V.15-20) King Balak kept sending higher-ranking messengers, offering sorcerer Balaam whatever he might desire, and Balaam kept asking God if he should go. Finally God, being angry with him, permitted him his folly, saying, “If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.”

(V.22-27) Balaam went on his donkey. But God sent an angel with drawn sword to stand in the donkey’s path, and the donkey turned aside into a field, and Balaam struck the donkey. Then the angel stood in the path where there was a fence on each side, and the donkey pressed Balaam’s leg against the fence, and Balaam continued to strike the donkey. Then the angel stood in a narrow place, where there was no room to turn, so the donkey crouched down, and Balaam struck it with a staff.

 

(V.28-30) Then the most amazing discourse took place. Not since the Serpent spoke to Eve, and Eve spoke back, have we heard of such a thing. (In Eden, nothing could yet be called “unusual”.) Here, the Donkey spoke to Balaam, and Balaam answered back as if it were a normal conversation!

 

(V.31-35) Then Yahweh opened Balaam’s eyes, so he could see the angel. Balaam, the recognized “prophet”, had shown in front of the messengers that he had been unable to see an angel.

 

Here is something for each of us to consider. Everything that happens to us in this life is from God. Not only those things we readily recognize as blessings, but every obstacle and thing that we call evil is for our good. They may be things for us to learn to deal with, things for us to force past, or things to correct our path. We need to look for God’s purpose for us in everything that comes our way. And we can only determine what that purpose is if we know His ways – by learning His Word. Our intuition is naturally depraved, and it is not the “Holy Spirit,” by which we can simply sense what is right.

The wicked wait for me to destroy me; I shall diligently consider Thy testimonies. . . O how I love Thy Torah! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine” – Psalm 119:95-98.

 

When we try to go contrary to God’s word, we are in for embarrassment – and worse.

 

(V.39-23:1) So sorcerer Balaam went with King Balak to Kiriath-huzoth (City of streets). The King slaughtered animals for Balaam to offer to God. King Balak brought sorcerer Balaam to the heights of Baal (a place of worship to a false god), and Balaam requested the construction of seven altars to offer seven bulls and seven rams.

 

This is reminiscent of so much religious activity today that is done in the name of Christianity. Ordinances are performed completely out of their Biblical context, even sometimes for financial gain. A so-called “Lord’s Supper” may be served on any desired “Sunday”, and an offering plate passed: there is want for Biblical teaching of Holy Days, with Yahweh’s Feasts and deferring money-handling. Too many religious leaders fear that they would lose some of their income if they didn’t take monetary collections on Holy Days.

 

Psalm 111

 

(V.5-6) “He will remember His covenant forever. He has made known to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.

 

(V.10) “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

 

2 Peter 2

 

(V.6) “He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter”.

 

(V.9-10, 15-16) “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” “Forsaking the right way they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but he received a rebuke for his own transgression; for a dumb donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.

 

Our daily prayer is, “Lead us not into temptation, but (when we are tempted) deliver us from the evil one.

 

Readings:

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

 

Reader 1*  Amen. 2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this horde will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying, "Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. 6 "Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."

Reader 2*  Amen. 7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam and repeated Balak's words to him. 8 He said to them, "Spend the night here, and I will bring word back to you as Yahweh may speak to me." And the leaders of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 Then God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?" 10 Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent word to me, 11 'Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them and drive them out.'" 12 God said to Balaam, "Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed."

Reader 3*  Amen. 13 So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak's leaders, "Go back to your land, for Yahweh has refused to let me go with you." 14 The leaders of Moab arose and went to Balak and said, "Balaam refused to come with us." 15 Then Balak again sent leaders, more numerous and more distinguished than the former. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, 'Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming to me; 17 for I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then, curse this people for me.'"

Reader 4*  Amen. 18 Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of Yahweh my God. 19 "Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else Yahweh will speak to me." 20 God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do." 21 So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. 22 But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of Yahweh took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him.

Reader 5*  Amen. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24 Then the angel of Yahweh stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26 The angel of Yahweh went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. 28 And Yahweh opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" 29 Then Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now." 30 The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?" And he said, "No."

Reader 6*  Amen. 31 Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. 32 The angel of Yahweh said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. 33 "But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live." 34 Balaam said to the angel of Yahweh, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back." 35 But the angel of Yahweh said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you." So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.

Reader 7*  Amen. 36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the Arnon border, at the extreme end of the border. 37 Then Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not urgently send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I really unable to honor you?" 38 So Balaam said to Balak, "Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak." 39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some to Balaam and the leaders who were with him. 41 Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, and he saw from there a portion of the people. 23:1 Then Balaam said to Balak, "Build seven altars for me here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here."

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who in giving us Yeshua, the Living Torah, has planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

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"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."

 

Micah 5:1-15

Reader 8*  Amen. 1 "Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; they have laid siege against us; with a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek. 2 "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." 3 Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. 4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. 5 This One will be our peace. When the Assyrian invades our land, when he tramples on our citadels, then we will raise against him Seven shepherds and eight leaders of men. 6 They will shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod at its entrances; and He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he attacks our land and when he tramples our territory.

Reader 9*  Amen. 7 Then the remnant of Jacob will be among many peoples like dew from Yahweh, like showers on vegetation which do not wait for man or delay for the sons of men. 8 The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, among many peoples like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which, if he passes through, tramples down and tears, and there is none to rescue. 9 Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries, and all your enemies will be cut off. 10 "It will be in that day," declares Yahweh, "That I will cut off your horses from among you And destroy your chariots. 11 "I will also cut off the cities of your land And tear down all your fortifications. 12 "I will cut off sorceries from your hand, and you will have fortune-tellers no more. 13 "I will cut off your carved images and your sacred pillars from among you, so that you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. 14 "I will root out your Asherim from among you and destroy your cities. 15 "And I will execute vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations which have not obeyed."

 

Psalm 111     (To be sung.)

1 Praise Yahweh! I will give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly. 2 Great are the works of Yahweh; they are studied by all who delight in them. 3 Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonders to be remembered; Yahweh is gracious and compassionate. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. 6 He has made known to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure. 8 They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name. 10 The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

 

2 Peter 2:1-22

Reader 10*  Amen. 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Reader 11*  Amen. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.

Reader 12*  Amen. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.

Reader 13*  Amen. 17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Rock of Ages, righteous throughout all generations.

You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, speaking and then fulfilling,

for all Your words are true and righteous.

Faithful are You, Yahweh our God, and faithful are Your words,

for no word of Yours shall remain unfulfilled;

You are a faithful and merciful God and King.

Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, Who are faithful in fulfilling all Your words."

 


© 2003  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)

 

 

 

 

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