Most of the prophecies of the Bible were made by godly men and women. Not so in the case of the prophecy we will be looking at in this post. The man known as Balaam, the son of Beor, was a diviner who’s story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. He was not an Israelite and is often reviled as a “wicked man” in both the Torah and the New Testament.
Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing…
2 Peter 2:15 ESV
Other New Testament references to Balaam include Jude 1:11 and Revelation 2:14. On a positive note, Balaam refused to speak what God did not speak and would not curse the Israelites, even though King Balak of Moab offered him money to do so (Numbers 22–24). Doesn’t sound like a bad guy right? Balaam’s error and the source of his wickedness came after the prophecies, from him sabotaging the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. According to Revelation (Revelation 2:14), Balaam told King Balak how to get the Israelites to commit sin by enticing them with sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols. The Israelites fell into transgression because of these traps and God sent a deadly plague to them as a result (Numbers 31:16). And it was this unlikely man that God chose to use to make a prophecy about the coming Messiah.
Balaam gave seven prophecies within his four oracles about the nation of Israel. All the prophecies which Balaam makes take the form of Hebrew poems between Numbers 23 and 24. It is the fourth prophecy that I’d like to focus on.
And he took up his discourse and said,
The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down with his eyes uncovered:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Numbers 24:15-17 ESV
The Star out of Jacob
This is a reference to that lines up with so many other Messianic prophecies establishing the lineage. Jacob, of course, is another way of referring to Israel. The Messiah would not be a gentile or from any other nation. The Messiah of the world had to come out of the nation of Israel. We’ve already talked extensively about the Messianic lineage how that lines up with Jesus in the post Lineage Speaks Loudly. The use of the star illustration carries some importance as well. A star is both a sign for people to look for and an allusion to power. Remember, it was a star that was used by God to highlight the arrival of Jesus on the world stage.
After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:9-11 ESV
The Scepter Shall Rise out of Israel
A scepter has long been regarded as a symbol or royalty and authority. A ruling monarch would use his scepter when making edicts as an act of sovereignty. The Messiah is described as the highest authority that everyone will one-day bow before. He is both royalty and sovereign.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 ESV
One to Come
Balaam saw the one to come, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.” That’s an obvious prophecy of something yet to happen…a Messiah yet to come. Jesus is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament as the one is was said to come, by Balaam and others.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 ESV
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
John 6:14 ESV
Jesus is the one who was to come. He is the Messiah of the world who came out of Israel. And there is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved. Every knee will bow before Him for He is sovereign. And it was a very unlikely person that God chose to use to proclaim it to the world.
Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!