Do you ever read something several times over many years, but forget? Yeah, I do, too. As I am reading my way through the HCSB translation (via the Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible) I found myself in this position.
We first meet Balaam in Numbers 22-24. He is the man God uses to speak to Balak, king of Moab. Balak had sent messengers to Balaam to have him curse Israel.
God spoke to Balaam and instructed him on exactly what to do and say—“don’t go with the men, do not curse these people, they are blessed” (22:12) With this first invite from Balak, Balaam obeyed God and did not go with the men. But Balak sent messengers again, and Balaam goes. But the result was a mixed signal.
The Angel of the LORD blocked Balaam and even used the donkey to get his attention. In the end Balaam delivered the message God intended.
“Then Balaam got up and went back home, and Balak also went on his way” (Numbers 24:25). End of story —not!
Today I was reading the sequel. The Midianites were troubling Israel again. So, we read:
The LORD spoke to Moses, “Execute vengeance for the Israelites against the Midianites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” (Numbers 31:1-2)
They waged war against Midian, as the LORD had commanded Moses, and killed every male. Along with the others slain by them, they killed the Midianite kings—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. (Numbers 31:7-8 HCSB)
So, despite being used by God to send a message to Balak, Balaam did not change his ways. He continued his life with the Midianites, as an enemy of God’s people. And the people, Israel, were still blessed by God as He told Balaam originally.
Interesting that I had forgotten about his death, even after having read the Bible many times over the past 50 years.
Comment on GW translation
I often will compare translations at some critical spots. In Numbers 31:2 I think the HCSB does well as a translation. So I compared that with God’s Word (GW):
“Get even with the Midianites for what they did to the Israelites. After that you will join your ancestors ˻in death˼.” (GW)
I generally like GW, but in this case “Get even” sounds too much like a personal grudge, settling the score, almost a personal vendetta. Vengeance on the other hand often reflects God’s justice being executed on people for sin. I think the difference is important, especially in this context.