After their victory over Og, Israel moved back south to the northern side of the Dead Sea, on the east side of the Jordan, just outside of Moab.
Moab’s King, Balak, was fearful of Israel because of how easily and mercilessly they wiped out those who had previously defeated Moab (21:26). Recognizing their military inferiority Balak sent royal representatives to the Euphrates region where the famed Balaam lived. Balak’s desire was for Balaam to curse God’s people (cf. Gen 12:3). God refused to give Balaam such permission, and so the princes returned.
Balak sent an even more impressive retinue, promising great honor to Balaam and essentially giving him a blank check. This time God permitted Balaam to go speak only what God said. Balaam, however, was controlled by personal greed (cf. v. 32; 2 Pet 2:15). Consequently God met him on the way, reiterating the necessity of speaking only his word (the famous event of Balaam’s speaking donkey).
Upon arriving in Moab Balak led the men in idol worship and then to see Israel’s encampment.
- Balaam was not a true prophet of the Lord. God said Balaam’s character was perverse (v. 43) and no true prophet would participate in idol worship (vv. 40-41; also 31:8, 16; Josh 13:22; 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 4, 11; Rev 2:14–15).
- Though God’s people may be ignorant of Satan’s efforts, their sovereign God knows and protects them.
- Scripture records false prophets’ efforts so that God’s people are warned of their character and practices.
- Men may scheme, plan, and deceive one another but God knows the heart.
- Those in power and authority are often controlled by their pride in position.