Curses and Blessings

Numbers 22:41-24:25

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?

Comments ( 3 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • In the attempts to curse israel each place was more remote from the camp of israel. Balak hoped that the power of the G-d of Israel had less influence so it could be easier for Bilam to curse. Bilam hoped to save his life and requested for another place. not only saving his life but also acquiring the promised richness. G-d did not permit and Bilam even blessed with the blessing we pronounce on Shabbat : מה טבו אהל'ך 'עקב (Ma Towu o'halecha Ja'acov). (Bemidbar 24:5)

  • With his repeated attempts — indicating to Balak to wait for a new answer, Balaam probably hoped to lie to Balak that Moab would defeat Israel, but Yahweh wouldn't let him to.

  • Diana Brown

    A sorcerer is always looking for payment to feed his own flesh. He wanted all that Balak promised him and he also wanted to make sure he didn’t overstep God’s boundary with his words.
    I am glad God knows hearts. He knew Balaam didn’t love anyone but himself. Whether he was trying to wear down God or Balak, Balaam only succeeded in wearing down himself. In the end, the worse came to Balaam.

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