The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features a portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah
Previously: The Way of Cain
Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 HCSB)
What is the error of Balaam?
We find the story of Balaam in Numbers 22-24, with additional information in chapter 31. It’s a classic tale of a prophet for hire, someone greatly gifted by God who allows greed to drive him to “madness” (2 Peter 2:16). The Greek word translated “madness” is paraphronia, which literally means “beside one’s own mind.” In other words, Balaam’s fleshly cravings are such that they overcome his ability to think and act rationally.
Interestingly, some commentators believe Balaam is portrayed as a good character in Numbers 22-24, before coming under criticism elsewhere in the Old Testament. But there are hints of his greedy motivations from the start.
Balak, king of Moab, hires Balaam to curse the people of Israel as they wander in the wilderness. Balak sees the Israelites as a military threat and seeks help from inside the Israelite camp to defeat them. Initially, it appears that Balaam is a faithful prophet, but his stall tactics “imply that he hoped to negotiate a higher payment from Balak before performing his prophetic service.” In the end, he accepts Balak’s riches because he loves the wages of unrighteousness (cf. Prov. 11:18).
The Lord knows Balaam wants to curse Israel in exchange for treasure, so God rebukes him through his donkey, who miraculously speaks to the prophet. Balaam is empowered only to bless Israel. But he’s not finished.