Sabbath School Lesson 05 - Divine or Human Interest?
Sabbath, February 3, 2018
“The people of Moab were closely connected with the Midianites, both by the ties of nationality and religion. And Balak, the king of Moab, aroused the fears of the kindred people, and secured their cooperation in his designs against Israel by the message, ‘Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.’ Balaam, an inhabitant of Mesopotamia, was reported to possess supernatural powers, and his fame had reached to the land of Moab. It was determined to call him to their aid. Accordingly, messengers of ‘the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian,’ were sent to secure his divinations and enchantments against Israel.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 438.
1. Continuing their journey, what area did the children of Israel reach? What fears gripped the Moabites when they saw how numerous the Israelites were?
Numbers 22:1-3 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho. 2And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
“Returning to the Jordan from the conquest of Bashan, the Israelites, in preparation for the immediate invasion of Canaan, encamped beside the river, above its entrance into the Dead Sea, and just opposite the plain of Jericho. They were upon the very borders of Moab, and the Moabites were filled with terror at the close proximity of the invaders.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 438.
“The Israelites moved forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab, on this side of Jordan, by Jericho. Balak, the king of the Moabites, saw that the Israelites were a powerful people, and as they learned that they had destroyed the Amorites, and had taken possession of their land, they were exceedingly terrified. All Moab was in trouble.” –Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 319.
Attempts to curse Israel
2. Whom did Balak, king of the Moabites, seek out to curse Israel and counteract God’s work? Why did Balak seek this man’s aid?
Numbers 22:4-6 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. 5He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: 6Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.
2 Peter 2:15, last part … Following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.
“The Moabites dared not risk an attack upon them; an appeal to arms was hopeless in face of the supernatural agencies that wrought in their behalf. But they determined, as Pharaoh had done, to enlist the power of sorcery to counteract the work of God. They would bring a curse upon Israel.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 438.
“Balaam had been a prophet of God, and a good man. But he apostatized, and gave himself up to covetousness, so that he loved the wages of unrighteousness. At the time Balak sent messengers for him, he was double-minded, pursuing a course to gain and retain the favor and honor of the enemies of the Lord, for the sake of rewards he received from them. At the same time he was professing to be a prophet of God. Idolatrous nations believed that curses might be uttered which would affect individuals, and even whole nations. As the messengers related their message to Balaam, he very well knew what answer to give them. But he asked them to tarry that night, and he would bring them word as the Lord should speak unto him. The presents in the hands of the men excited his covetous disposition.” –Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 320.
3. With money in hand, what did the Moabite messengers explain when they reached Balaam’s home in Pethor in Mesopotamia? What emotion do you think this temptation aroused in Balaam when he saw the costly gifts and heard the message sent by Balak?
Numbers 22:7, 8 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. 8And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.
“Balaam, an inhabitant of Mesopotamia, was reported to possess supernatural powers, and his fame had reached to the land of Moab. It was determined to call him to their aid. Accordingly, messengers of ‘the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian,’ were sent to secure his divinations and enchantments against Israel….
“He [Balaam] was not ignorant of God’s work in behalf of Israel; and when the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and to dismiss the ambassadors. But he ventured to dally with temptation, and urged the messengers to tarry with him that night, declaring that he could give no decided answer till he had asked counsel of the Lord. Balaam knew that his curse could not harm Israel. God was on their side, and so long as they were true to Him no adverse power of earth or hell could prevail against them. But his pride was flattered by the words of the ambassadors, ‘He whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.’ The bribe of costly gifts and prospective exaltation excited his covetousness. He greedily accepted the offered treasures, and then, while professing strict obedience to the will of God, he tried to comply with the desires of Balak.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 438, 439.
A clear, unmistakable answer
4. What clear instructions did the Lord give Balaam to keep him from making a huge mistake? What did He tell the prophet about the people whom Balak wished him to curse?
Numbers 22:9-14 And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? 10And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, 11Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. 12And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. 13And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you. 14And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us.
“In the night season the angel of God came to Balaam with the message, ‘Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.’ ”
–Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 439.
“[Numbers 10-12 quoted.] The angel tells Balaam that the children of Israel are conducted under the banner of the God of Heaven, and that no curse from man could retard their progress.” –Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 320.
“In the morning Balaam reluctantly dismissed the messengers, but he did not tell them what the Lord had said. Angry that his visions of gain and honor had been suddenly dispelled, he petulantly exclaimed, ‘Get you into your land: for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you.’ ” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 439.
5. Was the Moabite king satisfied with the answer he received from Balaam? What did he insist on to accomplish his wicked purpose?
Numbers 22:15-17 And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. 16And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: 17For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.
“When the messengers reported to Balak the prophet’s refusal to accompany them, they did not intimate that God had forbidden him. Supposing that Balaam’s delay was merely to secure a richer reward, the king sent princes more in number and more honorable than the first, with promises of higher honors, and with authority to concede to any terms that Balaam might demand. Balak’s urgent message to the prophet was, ‘Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: for I will promote thee unto very great honor, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.’ ” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 440.
6. What can we learn from the second answer that Balaam gave to the emissaries of King Balak? If we were faced with the choice between wealth and obedience to the Lord’s commandments, what would we choose?
Numbers 22:18, 19 And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 19Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more.
“A second time Balaam was tested. In response to the solicitations of the ambassadors he professed great conscientiousness and integrity, assuring them that no amount of gold and silver could induce him to go contrary to the will of God. But he longed to comply with the king’s request; and although the will of God had already been definitely made known to him, he urged the messengers to tarry, that he might further inquire of God; as though the Infinite One were a man, to be persuaded.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 440.
“His fear of God’s power holds the ascendency over his covetous disposition; yet his course of conduct shows that his love of honor and gain was striving hard for the mastery, and he did not subdue it. He would have gratified his covetousness, if he had dared to do it. After God had said that he should not go, he was anxious to be granted the privilege of going. He urged them to remain that night, that he might make inquiry again of God.” –Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 321.
7. What were the Lord’s instructions to Balaam this time? Even then, what directions did Balaam have to follow strictly?
Numbers 22:20, 21 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. 21And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
“The Lord suffered Balaam to follow his own inclinations, and try, if he chose so to do, to please both God and man.” –Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, p. 45.
“Balaam had received permission to go with the messengers from Moab if they came in the morning to call him. But, annoyed at his delay, and expecting another refusal, they set out on their homeward journey without further consultation with him. Every excuse for complying with the request of Balak had now been removed. But Balaam was determined to secure the reward; and, taking the beast upon which he was accustomed to ride, he set out on the journey. He feared that even now the divine permission might be withdrawn, and he pressed eagerly forward, impatient lest he should by some means fail to gain the coveted reward.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 440, 441.
For additional study
“There are thousands at the present day who are pursuing a similar course. They would have no difficulty in understanding their duty if it were in harmony with their inclinations. It is plainly set before them in the Bible or is clearly indicated by circumstances and reason. But because these evidences are contrary to their desires and inclinations they frequently set them aside and presume to go to God to learn their duty. With great apparent conscientiousness they pray long and earnestly for light. But God will not be trifled with. He often permits such persons to follow their own desires and to suffer the result. ‘My people would not hearken to My voice…. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.’ Psalm 81:11, 12. When one clearly sees a duty, let him not presume to go to God with the prayer that he may be excused from performing it. He should rather, with a humble, submissive spirit, ask for divine strength and wisdom to meet its claims.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 440, 441.
Who were the Moabites who appear here as Israel’s enemies? The Moabites and the Ammonites were distant relatives of Israel; they were the descendants of Lot through his two daughters, as is recorded in Deuteronomy 2:18, 19. “Lot’s only posterity, the Moabites and Ammonites, were vile, idolatrous tribes, rebels against God and bitter enemies of His people.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 168.