Balaam was a diviner hired to curse Israel but ended up blessing the people. Balaam received prophecies from God but he tried to harm the Israelites. Balaam became known for accepting to do harm to God’s people for money.
Balaam and the donkey
Before entering the promised land, the people of Israel defeated some neighboring peoples and King Balak was afraid. So he sent for Balaam to curse the Israelites and bless the Moabites. Balaam was known for doing magic and people trusted that his blessings and curses had power ( Numbers 22: 4-6 ).
The messengers gave gifts to Balaam but God told him that he should not go with them, because the Israelites could not be cursed. Balak then sent more messengers with promises of many riches ( Numbers 22: 15-17 ). Balaam consulted God again and God told him that he could go, but he left a warning: he should only do what God commanded.
Balaam left to meet Balak, but on the way, God was angry and decided to stop Balaam. He saw Balaam’s heart and knew he had bad intentions. Balaam’s donkey saw the Angel of God on the way, ready to kill Balaam, and dodged him twice. The donkey sat down the third time and refused to move on. Angry, Balaam hit the donkey. God opened the donkey’s mouth, which rebuked Balaam for his attitude ( Numbers 22: 28-30 ). Then Balaam saw the Angel of God and promised to do God’s will.
Balaam blesses Israel
When Balaam arrived at Balak, he offered sacrifices to God and worked magic for the Moabites. But in response, God commanded to bless Israel . Balaam transmitted the blessing message about Israel to Balak, who was very angry. Balaam repeated the sacrifices and the magic elsewhere, to see if God would change his mind but God’s response was more of a blessing to Israel ( Numbers 23: 19-21 ).
In the third attempt to achieve a curse against Israel, Balaam offered sacrifices but did not do magic, because he understood that this does not please God. The Spirit of God came upon Balaam and he pronounced even more blessings on Israel. Balak angrily sent Balaam away with empty hands ( Numbers 24: 10-11 ). But before he left, Balaam prophesied of the great King of Israel and the fall of his enemies.
See also: What does the Bible say about prophecy?
Balaam was unable to curse God’s people, but he gave advice to the Midianites, who were together with the Moabites against Israel. He understood that Israel was strong because it was faithful to God. So he suggested that Midianite women invite men from Israel to participate in idolatrous parties and sexual immorality. The Israelites allowed themselves to be seduced, and because of that, God sent a plague that killed 24,000 of them ( Numbers 31:16 ).
The Israelites repented and turned to God again. Israel fought and defeated the Midianites. Balaam was killed in the battle because he had tried to bring disaster on Israel ( Joshua 13:22 ).
Balaam had no reason to want Israel’s disgrace. He was from a land far from Israel. His only motivation was the promise of great wealth. Balaam acted out of greed. He tried to manipulate God and bring disaster on His people because of money! For this reason, Balaam was punished ( 2 Peter 2: 15-16 ).