Today is the 38th Sabbath of the annual Torah cycle. The Torah reading (parashah) is Balak, Balak, Num 22:2-25:9.
There are only two paragraph divisions in this parashah:
Num 22:2-24:25 p Balak and Balaam
Num 25:1-9 p Idolatry with Baal of Peor
I am not wise enough to see a single chiastic structure which encompasses this parashah. But I have found these:
Num 22:1-24:25 p
1a) Num 22:1, Israel went their way to camp in the plains of Moab;
1b) Num 22:2-3, Balak saw what Israel had done to the Amorites;
1c) Num 22:4, The oracle of Balak concerning Israel;
1d) Num 22:5-17, Balak sent to Balaam;
1e) Num 22:18-19, Balaam received the men + I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD;
1f) Num 22:20-21, Go with the men + speak only My word + Balaam went with the men;
1g) Num 22:22-27, Angel of the LORD against Balaam + his donkey turned aside three times;
1h) Num 22:28a, The LORD opened the mouth of the donkey;
central axis) Num 22:28b-30, The donkey rebuked Balaam;
2h) Num 22:31, The LORD opened the eyes of Balaam;
2g) Num 22:32-33, I have come out against you + your donkey turned aside three times;
2f) Num 22:34-35, Go with the men + only My word shall you speak + Balaam went with the men;
2e) Num 22:36-38, Balak received Balaam + I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD;
2d) Num 22:39, Balaam went with Balak;
2c) Num 23:1-24:9, The oracles of Balaam concerning Israel;
2b) Num 24:10-24, Balaam prophesied what Messiah will do to Moab + the nations;
2a) Num 24:25, Balaam and Balak went their way.
1a) Num 25:1-3, Moab (Midian) harassed Israel at Acacia Grove with Baal of Peor;
1b) Num 25:4-6, That YHVH’s wrath may turn from Israel + Israelite man, Midianite woman;
1c) Num 25:7-8a, Phinehas went into the tent and killed both with a javelin;
central axis) Num 25:8b-9 p, The plague was stopped + those who died were 24,000;
2c) Num 25:10-11a, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest;
2b) Num 25:11b, Turned back YHVH’s wrath from Israel + Israelite man, Midianite woman;
2a) Num 25:16-18, Israel to harass the Midianites.
Now why combine these two paragraphs into a single Torah portion? Why not end the Torah portion with Num 24:25, and then everything would be nice and neat and tied up with a bow? And obviously, as the next paragraph forms a chiastic structure with paragraphs from the next Torah portion, why end this week’s Torah portion in the middle of a story, with the plague which killed 24,000?
Because Scripture is trying to teach us, that enemies coming from outside Israel, such as Balak and Balaam, cannot defeat Israel. Balak’s desire was to kill Israel, yes? He wanted to defeat them in battle, and perhaps enslave the women and children who were left. But the LORD rebuked Israel’s enemies. In this case He opened a donkey’s mouth in order to do it. And the end result, was that Israel’s enemies blessed Israel and did not curse them at all or defeat them.
But the next paragraph reveals defeat and death for Israel, which came from within and not from enemies without. When Israel forsook the Lord their God, and disobeyed His commandments, then plague and death entered the camp.
The first paragraph represents victory for Israel. The second paragraph represents defeat for Israel. It is Israel herself who chooses victory or defeat.
Ekklesia, let us not forget that these things happened for our instruction. We may walk in victory, by walking in faith and submission to the Lord as God, by walking in trust and obedience, or we may walk in defeat, by walking in unbelief and rebellion. It is up to us.