The Corrupt Prophet

“Now all these things (Old Testament accounts) happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:11,12)

In Numbers 22-24 and 31 there is recorded for our instruction the deeds of a rapscallion named Balaam. We don't hear much about him these days, but he was guilty of some pretty serious wickedness and Nehemiah, Micah, Peter, Jude and Jesus all spoke about it. His deeds are recorded as; 1. The way of Balaam (2Peter 2:15-17), 2. The error of Balaam (Jude 11), 3. The doctrine of Balaam (Rev.2:14).


Balaam was a well-known Midianite diviner or soothsayer, probably a priest of Baal. Under the leadership of Moses the Israelites were having to fight the tribes that were blocking their way as they marched to the land God had promised them and they were “creaming” those who wouldn't let them through! Balak, king of Moab, feared he was next and sent officials with money, etc. to hire Balaam to curse the Israelites. Peter says that Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness.” This is the way of Balaam. He had them stay overnight and said he would pray. Instead of Baal it was Jehovah spoke and told him not to go with the men back to Balak and not to curse the Israelites because they were a blessed people. Balaam told the men that for all the king's gold and house he could not curse them.

But Balak sent men back a second time with more treasure and promises of great honor. The error of Balaam was that even though he knew the will of God in the matter he persisted and asked again (probably for a second opinion from Baal), but again it was Jehovah who spoke and knowing the prophet's greedy heart told him he could go but only speak the words He gave him. When he arrived in Moab Balak took him to four mountain tops and built an altar on each for sacrifice to get permission to curse the people. Each time instead of Balaam cursing he uttered prophetic blessing and in Numbers 24:17 there is even an amazing prophecy of the future Messiah of Israel! Balak was so angry he told the prophet to go home, but before Balaam left he gave Balak advice on how to defeat the enemy; send your women down to their camp, seduce them, marry them, and invite them to participate in the worship services of your gods. This is the doctrine of Balaam.

This prophet was greedy, wanting as much of the world's goods as he could get, and he tried to work around what he knew to be the will of God to get them by persistently asking for the outcome he wanted. He did eventually get the outcome he desired by using ungodly means. (Read Numbers 25 for the sobering results of his advice to Balak.) Eventually Israel fought Midian and killed Balaam.

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:6-11)

There is much to learn about God in His dealing with Balaam but the overriding message is that God will not be thwarted in His Sovereign Plan using even wicked men to accomplish it. What we can learn about ourselves is that God sometimes permits us to have what we wrongly want, but the consequences follow...and follow...and follow.