Num 22:2-24:25 is one strong paragraph in God’s paragraph divisions, and makes a chiastic structure:
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.
Balak was so terrified of Israel, not only because God had put the fear and dread of them on the nations around about, but also, the Amorites whom Israel utterly destroyed, had previously prevailed against Moab and taken territory from them (Num 21:26-30).
Questions I have about today’s reading: Why would God give Balaam permission to go, and then seek to kill him? I believe it is because, God originally told Balaam clearly not to go. Balaam persisted in asking to go, not liking the first answer. This is also the whole reason for the Angel of the LORD seeking to kill Balaam. God had given Balaam a clear answer: Do not go beyond My word. But we have already seen Balaam going beyond the LORD’s word. The LORD’s original word to him was, Do not go with the men. So I believe God was impressing upon Balaam that He was serious when He said, Do not beyond My word. Balaam got the message and did not go beyond the LORD’s word.
Another question I have, is why would God respond to enchantments and sorcery? Perhaps it had something to do with this particular instance, because Israel was involved. At any rate, what we do know, is that for His people, God has expressly forbidden sorcery (Deu 18:10 among other places). Sorcery works. But it is an abomination. It enslaves its practitioner to the kingdom of darkness. We who love and honor God, do not go there, do not even entertain thoughts of going there, and keep ourselves far from contamination with it.
For further study: In the above chiastic structure, the 2C element, the oracles of Balaam, itself forms smaller chiastic structures. Can you find them? What has Scripture placed neon flashing lights around, and why?
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult.” Num 24:17
For further reading:
Balak and Balaam, Numbers 22-24 – Matthew Henry’s Commentary (follow the links at the bottom of each page)