But was the donkeys owner, Balaam, even a true prophet of God?
Check out Numbers chapters 22-24 for the whole story. I’m going to share my opinion on the question above.
After reviewing the account of Balaam and the other biblical texts mentioning him(Numbers. 31:8, 16; Deut. 23:4-5; Josh. 24:9-10; 2 Pet. 2:15-16; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14), I believe that the best way to describe Balaam is a spiritual mercenary. It seems clear that he buckled to political pressure and saw great honor and fortune to be gained if he went along with Balaks plan to curse the Israelites. Balaam received clear opposition from God, but went to meet Balak anyway. I believe God’s permission in Numbers 22:20 was to prove what was truly in Balaam’s heart. He truly didn’t care that God already forbade him to go. Balaam likely was excited for what he could gain even if he wasn’t giving Balak what he wanted. We are shown his heart’s when he is rebuked by his donkey and told by the Angel of the LORD that his way is perverse. I think it is clear that Balaam did not have a desire to follow God’s will. What is curious though, is why anyone thought he was a prophet of God to begin with. What was his track record previously that gave him the title prophet? Is it possible that he was appointed by God to call the people to worship Yahweh? Was he an example of what God does in a nation so that their iniquity is complete as God spoke of the Amorites to Abraham in Genesis 15:16? Had Balaam been used by God for that purpose earlier but had since gone astray to seek fortunes for his services? I believe some of the New Testament passages referencing Balaam lendspeak credence since they speak of prophets or leaders in the church going astray in the same manner. I believe Balaam likely was a prophet used by God but at the time of our story had since gone astray and sought after monetary gain and political honor.
Who likes a cold friendship, rude people, a short answer to a loaded question? If I described someone that loved you very much but didn’t know basic details of your appearance, birth day, where you work, what school you went, or never even liked, loved, or followed anything you did on social media you would think I was messing with you.
One of the greatest and distinguishing aspects of the God of the Bible is His personal character. I only want to draw your attention to His presence or dwelling with His people. From the very beginning of the Bible God has made it a priority to dwell with His people. We see Him walking in the midst of the garden when Adam and Eve were trying to hide from Him. After the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt we see God command a tabernacle be built where the people would make sacrifices to Him and where His presence could dwell with the people. About 600 years after the Exodus we read that God’s glory and presence fills the temple which King Solomon builds for the LORD. The proceeding and remarkable extent God demonstrated His desire to dwell with His people was in the incarnation of God the Son Jesus Christ. John 1:14 tells us that the Word, Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among us. After the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the nature of people’s relationship with God is dramatically changed. God no longer dwelt within a building, but within His people. Galatians 2:20 tells us that the life we live by faith in Jesus is no longer us living, but Christ living in us.
The full restoration of God dwelling with His people is realized after the New Heavens, New Earth, and the New Jerusalem come to be. The words of Revelation 21:3 are excellent; “And I heard with a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be their God…””. God started dwelling with His people in the Garden of Eden. This fellowship was broken and God will ultimately restore mankind back to the same level of fellowship when the New Heavens and New Earth arrive at the end of the age.
God is personal. His isn’t distant. He isn’t cold. He has always made a way to dwell with His people.
No other world religion can say that.
My initial response to someone looking to justify polygamy from the lives of a few Patriarchs in the Old Testament is to point them to the culture from which Abram came out of. In Mesopotamia, polygamy was normal if a man’s first wife was barren. The first wife was even involved in selecting the second wife. Those cultural norms reveal a good reason for what they did. Also, since there was little to no special revelation (written books) from God at this time in history it’s no surprise that the patriarchs continued in their old ways. They likely would’ve had the Genesis account of God instituting marriage with one man and one woman. From the Bible’s perspective, Adam never married another woman. This is a worthy record enough for all to follow after instead of cultural norms. Their polygamous ways were merely residue from their previous life. They had not yet fully left their former life as God commanded.
On the practical side, we see nothing but turmoil, strife, and contempt when it comes to polygamy. Hagar ended up being despised by Sarai. Ishmael and his descendants throughout history have been a scourge to themselves and the rest of mankind, just as God said. Sister rivalry took on new heights between Leah and Rachel. Even leading them to hand over their maids to Jacob as the competition for bearing children raged on.
Most importantly of all, God never condones it. God’s Word never suggests it. And as Jesus interprets the command against adultery, He points out that any lustful intent in your heart towards a woman that is not your wife is adultery. This commandment is impossible to keep in polygamy. It is nonsensical to think God would condone a lifestyle that necessitates breaking His commands over and over again. Even one of the qualifications of being an elder in the church laid out in 1st Timothy by the Apostle Paul is that he must be a one woman man.
Soli Deo Gloria