Parashat Balak


Parashat Balak

In this week’s Torah portion we meet a gentile prophet named Balaam. Even though G-d gave him visions of truth and knowledge about His plans and purposes, Balaam did not respond to the L-rd in a faithful manner. This shows that one can have great insight into the Scriptures but still fail G-d if one does not submit to what G-d reveals to him. In this lesson we are not going to focus on Balaam’s rebellion of leading Israel into idolatry at Baal Peor (see Rev. 2:14 and Ex. 24:25-25:3), but the prophecy that Balaam received concerning Messiah.

Numbers 24:16 informs us that Balaam saw a vision of G-d,

“Says the one who hears the sayings of G-d and knows the knowledge of the Most High G-d, who sees a vision of Shaddai (the G-d Who is all sufficient) while falling (into a trance), but with eyes uncovered.”

It is clear from this verse that Balaam is seeing a vision of the One True G-d. Yet all scholars agree the actual prophecy is of Messiah. This point underscores the point that Messiah is G-d Who visited His people in bodily form to redeem us personally. The context of this prophecy is G-d defeating the enemies of Israel. The prophecy says,

“I see him (Messiah), but not now; I will behold him, but not soon- A star has went out of Jacob a scepter-bearer has risen from Israel…” Num. 24:17

This passage reveals that one of the signs of Messiah’s coming is a star. This is why the wise men who were from the east (Babylon) knew that when they saw a star over Israel that Messiah had come,

“At the time that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judah in the days of Herod the king sages came to Jerusalem from the east. They asked: ‘Where is the King of the Jews which was born? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him’.” Matthew 2:1-2

It is important to note that these wise men were Jewish scholars who observed the lights in the sky not for astrological purposes rooted in the occult, but to maintain the Biblical calendar. Remember that G-d said,

“…there will be lights in the heavens to distinguish between the day and the night and they shall be for signs, and appointed times, and days, and years.” Gen. 1:14

When these Jewish scholars saw a new light in the sky they immediately associated it with Balaam’s prophecy. This light resembled a star, but was not literally a star or a comet as some have said. Rather it was a miraculous event that G-d caused to take place. Careful study of the related text shows that the “star” led the sages to Israel and then disappeared for a time and then reappeared and led them to Bethlehem. A literal star or comet could not do this. It is important that one understand that G-d put the light in the sky and directed it in such a manner for the sages to find the Messiah. The uniqueness of this event shows that man cannot be redeemed by the natural; rather only by the supernatural grace which comes through the incarnation. Light in the Scriptures is often understood as illumination. Although one does not today have a star to lead them to the truth of the Messiah, there is the illumination of Holy Scripture that will accomplish the same results if one allows G-d to speak to him through the power of His word.

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