And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus. And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken? And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. (Numbers 23:16-20 KJV)
On the surface, this reads as though Balaam followed God’s directions. However, Peter didn’t think much of Balaam.
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; (2 Peter 2:15 KJV)
Neither did Jude.
Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. (Jude 1:11 KJV)
John didn’t hold back, either.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. (Revelation 2:14 KJV)
So what was so bad about this man that from Moses to Jesus, Jews remembered and wrote about him? He was a prophet – but most likely not an Israeli prophet, from Numbers 22:5, since Balak called upon him to curse the Israelites. In verse 6, Balak explained that the blessings or curses of Balaam had proven true in the past. Balak wanted the best. In verses 9-13 we read of God’s discussion with Balaam and His direction to him.
And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. (Numbers 22:12 KJV)
An example of God speaking with and dealing with others than the Children of Israel. That’s good for us! However, we need to play close attention to what happens when we do not follow His directions. It appears Balaam was seeking a way to achieve the value of verse 18. He put a price on his words.
Through chapters 23 and 24, Balak seeks a curse and Balaam provides God’s truth. So, why then does his name not appear among heroes?
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: (Genesis 12:3a KJV)
Balaam’s blessings were also a warning to Balak to thwart God’s plan. Numbers 25 tells of Israelites becoming unequally yoked in marriage, turning away from God, joining with the Moabite god, Baalpeor. Thus Balaam is mentioned in disrespect in Deuteronomy 23:4-5, Joshua 13:22, 24:9, Nehemiah 13:2, and Micah 6:5, where more of his story is told. None of it good.
Balaam appeared to follow God, but worked against His will. Others have done so, too.