Curses and Blessings

Jun 24, 2015

וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר וַיִּקַּח בָּלָק אֶת־בִּלְעָם וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ בָּמוֹת בָּעַל וַיַּרְא מִשָּׁם קְצֵה הָעָם׃

In the morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth-baal. From there he could see a portion of the people.

Numbers 22:41

וַיָּקָם בִּלְעָם וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיָּשָׁב לִמְקֹמוֹ וְגַם־בָּלָק הָלַךְ לְדַרְכּוֹ׃

Then Balaam set out on his journey back home; and Balak also went his way.

Numbers 24:25

Three times Balaam sets out to curse the Children of Israel on behalf of Balak and three times he fails. Each time, Balak takes him to a different vantage point from which he can see less and less of the Israelites. Balaam has Balak set up seven altars, upon which he offers seven bullocks and seven rams, at each site. God will not allow him to curse His people, however, no matter how pleasing his sacrifices might be.


After the third failed attempt, Balak lashes out at Balaam in his frustration and Balaam reminds him that from the outset he had always maintained he could only say what God allowed. Balak has already asked him not to say anything at all if he can’t curse the Israelites. Now, he sends the sorcerer packing.


Balaam does not leave, however, without one parting message. The fourth parable is the most elaborate of all, laying out in detail what will happen to each of Israel’s enemies in the area in the future.


In his very first blessing, Balaam calls the nation of Israel “a people that shall dwell alone”. The Israel Bible points out that for better or worse, the Jews have always been singled out. Israel receives a disproportionate amount of media attention and is held to a different standard than other countries. Although isolated, there is a lesson in Israel’s solitude. The Children of Israel have been chosen for a holy purpose. They are meant to remain faithful to God and fulfil the Biblical mandate of teaching His truths to the world.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

What do you think Balaam hopes to accomplish with his repeated attempts given that God already told him he would not be able to curse the Israelites?

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