Bible Insights

What is the Error of Balaam?

We Will Do Well to Consider Balance Error So We Can Avoid It

As mentioned in the book of Jude (Jude 1:11), we’ve covered Cain’s path and Korah’s rebellion. Now we’ll address the error of Balaam.

Frankly, I’m perplexed as to what Balaam’s error was. In reading his story in Numbers, I see a man who affirmed God as “my God,” heard God’s voice, and obeyed God’s instructions. Indeed, Balaam has a better track record than I do.

Balaam Obeyed God

God told Balaam to not go and he stayed. Then God told him to go and he went—but God was angry because he did. Based on this, it wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that God was bipolar.

However, I reject that diagnosis as being inconsistent with God’s character.

Instead we must seek a different explanation.

Don’t Ask God Twice

I wonder if the first time that God said “no” should have been enough. Balaam had no need to ask again—unless he didn’t like the first answer. 

This might be like kids pestering their folks for something.

Eventually the parents relent, not because they changed their mind, but because they want to teach their offspring a lesson about making good choices or learn what happens when they select bad paths.

Another consideration is the implication that Balaam was mixing his pursuit of God with divination, a practice the Bible forbids. Is this the error of Balaam?

This is a common practice today, where practitioners cherry-pick the choice parts of various religions or philosophies, forming their own belief system.

Is there any expectation that their outcome will be different from Balaam’s? We will do well to consider this.

The End of Balaam

What happens to Balaam after this passage?

We don’t hear about him for a while, but when Joshua leads the people to take the land God promised them, we read that Balaam is among the casualties.

We don’t know if he dies in battle or if they executed him later, but the book of Joshua says the Israelites put the sword to Balaam.

It adds that he practiced divination, perhaps explaining the reason for his death (Joshua 13:22).

We need to carefully consider the error of Balaam to make sure we don’t repeat it.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Numbers 22-24, and today’s post is on Numbers 22:12.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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