This week’s portion demonstrates the scope of the Israelites’ reputation during their desert travels. Balak, the king of Moab, hears what befell the Amorites when they stood up to God’s people and decides he does not want to meet a similar fate. He opts to hire Balaam, a Midianite sorcerer known for the power of his blessings and curses, to rid him of the pesky nation approaching his borders.
What follows is a display of God’s will triumphing over man’s intentions as He thwarts Balaam’s every move. Finally, the portion ends with the Children of Israel, oblivious to God’s recent salvation, sinning and being punished with a plague. Only the actions of the quick-thinking Phineas are enough to stop God’s wrath.