Read thru Old Testament – February 28, 2017

February 28


Numbers 21-24


A Time of Discipline…the People Wandering      Numbers 20:14-31, cont’d.

Numbers 21:1-3     The Enemy Defeated (Arad)


Numbers 21:1-3-King Arad of the Canaanites (they lived in the Negev) attacked Israel and won…taking some of them captive. Then Israel attacked back and totally destroyed them and their cities.  The area (25 miles south of Hebron) was then named “Hormah”, which means “destruction”.


Numbers 21:4-9     The People Disciplined (The Bronze Serpent)


Numbers 21:4-9-The Israelites now began their march from Mount Hor through the prong of the Red Sea to Edom. The people complained, so God sent "fiery serpents" (venomous snake) that killed many of the people.  The people said they had sinned against Moses and God.  God told Moses to make a standard (something like a flag pole) with a bronze serpent on it and if someone was bitten by a serpent if they looked at it they would live (cf. John 3:14-15; 4:24).  The standard with the serpent did not heal them…but, when they looked at it, as God had commanded, it was an act of faith in His word and they would then be healed.  The serpent on the standard was a reminder that they were being judged for the sin that they had committed.


Numbers 21:10-35  The Enemy Defeated (Sihon, Og)


Numbers 21:10-35-These verses detail the travel, campsites, and confrontations with other nations during the wandering in the wilderness: Oboth, Iyeabarim, Wadi Zered...other side of Arnon, Beer, Mattanah. Nahaliel, Bamoth, valley in Moab (at Pisgah), battle with Sihon, King of the Amorites (took all his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as Ammon at Jazer, they lived in the cities of the Amorites), battle with Og, King of Bashan (destroyed him and his people).

Numbers 21:14-We find reference here to books that were written that are not included in the Bible…"the Book of the Wars of the LORD".


For a video/map showing the general course of these wanderings see:



Numbers 22:1-24   The Failed Curse


For a map locating this site see:


Numbers 22-24-Balak (the son of Zippor) was the King of Moab. He made an alliance with Midian (the country to his east) and together they hired Balaam (the son of Beor) to curse Israel.  Balaam lived in Pethor (located on the west bank of the Euphrates River in northern Mesopotamia, cf. Deut. 23:4).  Apparently, Balaam was a well-known prophet who could charge for his work (22:7).  He knew of the one, true God, the God of Israel…but also used pagan omens (22:7; 24:1) and soothsaying (Joshua 13:22).

Numbers 22:7-14-The first attempt to hire Balaam did not go well. After the representatives from Balak told him what they wanted, he prayed and the LORD (:13) told him to not go with them because the people of Israel had His blessing.  He sent them back.

Numbers 22:15-40-The second attempt to hire Balaam did not go well, either. Balak had sent more officials this time and tells him that he will pay him well. But, Balaam says that no matter how much he pays him…it is not his decision, but Gods.  Here, he refers to God as "the LORD my God" (:18).  He goes away and prays to God for an answer.  God tells him he may go with them but to only say what He tells him.  He tells them to stay overnight, just in case God changes his mind.  This tells us that Balaam was really greedy and wanted their money.  God told him to go ahead and go with them if he valued the money more than Him, but He was angry because he did.  God placed an angel in his path and his donkey saw him and tried to avoid him (Balaam didn't see the angel), making Balaam so mad that he beat the donkey.  The donkey then spoke to him.  Then he saw the angel.  The angel told him that his way was "contrary" (not good, proper, but in opposition) to him.  Balaam said he would turn back...but the angel told him to go with the men, but to only say what he tells him.

Numbers 22:41-23:12-This is the first attempt to curse Israel. Balak takes Balaam to the "high places of Baal" to see the people.  God tells Balaam what to tell Balak and it is a blessing on Israel.


The “high places of Baal” (Hebrew bamotba‘al), was an elevation somewhere in the Transjordan plateau, probably near Mount Nebo, which was important to the worship of Baal. Ancient worshipers felt that high places elevated them closer to their gods. Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, or “lords.” The word Baal signifies lord, not so much in the sense of ruler, as possessor or owner. The name was given to the principal male deity of the Phoenicians, corresponding to Bel or Belus of the Babylonians. The female deity associated with Baal was Astarte.

The worship of Baal was of great antiquity, and was accompanied with splendid ceremonies. Priests and prophets were consecrated to his service (2 Kings 10:19). Incense (Jeremiah 7:9) and prayers (1 Kings 18:26) were offered to him. The worshipers prostrated themselves before the idol and kissed it (1 Kings 19:18), perhaps at the same time kissing Baal’s hand that was elevated toward the sun. They danced with shouts and cut themselves with knives (1 Kings 18:26–28). The offerings were sometimes vegetable (Hosea 2:8), and sometimes animal (1 Kings 18:23). Human sacrifices were also offered (Jeremiah 19:5).

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (pp. 167–168). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, Logos Bible Software


Numbers 23:13-24-This is the second attempt to curse Israel. This time it was from the field of Zophim, on top of Pisgah.  Balak says, "God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent"...meaning that God has already given you His decision and He is not going to change His mind.  Again, Balaam speaks well of Israel.

Numbers 23:25-26-Balaak tells Balaam that if he cannot curse Israel then stop speaking altogether and don’t bless them.

Numbers 23:27-24:9-This is the third attempt to curse Israel. It takes place on the top of Peor.  This time Balaam did not consult with God, he just blessed Israel..."and the Spirit of God came upon him".  When Balaam willingly accepted God's decision, there seemed to be a change, in that the Spirit of God came upon him in a different way.  Now Balaam speaks of the greatness of Israel.

Numbers 24:10-25-Balaak becomes angry with Balaam for blessing Israel. He says that he had intended to honor him, but the LORD has held back the honor.  In essence, he tells Balaam that he is not going to pay him and God is to blame.  Balaam then prophesies what Israel is about to do to Moab and the other nations...and, he predicts the coming of the Messiah (:17).


Prayer: Lord, help me to keep my heart clean, free from defilement and sin. Don’t let me be tempted to “perform” for others to please them.  Help me to listen to the voice of Your Spirit…and You alone…and to speak only what You command.

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