15 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,
16 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:
17 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.
18 Edom shall be dispossessed;
Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
Israel is doing valiantly.
19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
and destroy the survivors of cities!”
20 Then he looked on Amalek and took up his discourse and said,
“Amalek was the first among the nations,
but its end is utter destruction.”
21 And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said,
“Enduring is your dwelling place,
and your nest is set in the rock.
22 Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned
when Asshur takes you away captive.”
23 And he took up his discourse and said,
“Alas, who shall live when God does this?
24 But ships shall come from Kittim
and shall afflict Asshur and Eber;
and he too shall come to utter destruction.”
25 Then Balaam rose and went back to his place. And Balak also went his way. – Numbers 24:15-25 ESV
Balaam, the seer, had seen and heard all he needed to determine the will of Jehovah. No more altars were necessary and there was no need to spill the blood of another animal. God had made Himself perfectly clear and had left nothing up to doubt or debate. While King Balak was still holding out hope that a curse of the Israelites was forthcoming, In a sense, Balaam was saying, “I can see clearly now!”
“This is the message of Balaam son of Beor,
the message of the man whose eyes see clearly,
the message of one who hears the words of God,
who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who bows down with eyes wide open…” – Numbers 24:15-16 NLT
There was no further need to consult with the Lord. This newly enlightened soothsayer was transformed into a spokesman of God and given a series of disturbing prophecies to deliver to King Balak. First, true to his reputation as a seer, Balaam spoke of seeing an individual whose arrival was sometime in the foreseeable future.
“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near…” – Numbers 24:17 ESV
And Balaam informs King Balak that the origins of this coming one would be of a supernatural nature and accompanied by kingly authority.
“…a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…” – Numbers 24:17 ESV
From the very people group that Balak had hoped to curse would come a future king.
“That stars could be used metaphorically for kings is suggested by Isaiah 14:12, where the king of Babylon is called ‘Day Star’, and Revelation 22:16, which calls Jesus ‘the offspring of David, the bright morning star.’ That a king is meant here is confirmed by the second line of the couplet: a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, a sceptre being part of the royal insignia (Ps. 45:6; Amos 1:5,8; Gen. 49:10).” – Gordon J. Wenham, Numbers, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries
And that king will “crush the forehead of Moab” (Numbers 24:17 ESV). This appears to be a reference to the king of Moab, the title held by Balak. This bit of bad news only confirmed Balak’s earlier suspicions and further fueled his desire to see the Israelites cursed. They were a direct threat to his rule and reign.
But the news only gets worse. Balaam goes on to mention the sons of Sheth as well as the kingdoms of Edom and Seir. This coming king would break down and dispossess them all.
“Edom will be taken over,
and Seir, its enemy, will be conquered,
while Israel marches on in triumph.” – Numbers 24:18 NLT
No one would be able to stand against God’s appointed leader and His chosen people. That included the Amalekites and the Kenites. This future king would be powerful and successful in leading the Israelites against all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. And this prophecy was right in line with the blessing that Jacob had given to his son Judah centuries earlier.
“The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,
the one whom all nations will honor.” – Genesis 49:10 NLT
Whether he realized it or not, Balaam was being used by God to confirm that very prophecy. The promise of a future king who would come from the tribe of Judah was still yet to be fulfilled. There is sense in which much of this prophecy was fulfilled under the reign of King David, a member of the tribe of Judah. David would prove to be a warrior-king whose military victories helped put Israel on the map politically speaking. He would expand the boundaries of Israel through military conquest and create one of the most powerful nations on the face of the earth at that time. And he would bequeath that nation to his son, Solomon, who would continue to build and expand the kingdom of Israel. But the day would come when Solomon’s kingdom would be divided in half, never again to enjoy its former glory. So, the final phase of Balaam’s prophecy remains unfulfilled.
“Alas, who can survive
unless God has willed it?
Ships will come from the coasts of Cyprus;
they will oppress Assyria and afflict Eber,
but they, too, will be utterly destroyed.” – Numbers 24:23-24 NLT
This appears to be a reference to future kingdoms that will come to power in the region and attempt to overthrow God’s people. But even these powers-to-be will meet a similar fate as the Moabites, Kenites, and Edomites. They will be utterly destroyed by God’s people with the help of the “star” who holds the “scepter” in his hand. And the book of Revelation predicts this coming time when a descendant of Jacob from the tribe of Judah will bring victory over all of Israel’s enemies once and for all.
To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,
To them I will give authority over all the nations.
They will rule the nations with an iron rod
and smash them like clay pots.
They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! – Revelation 2:26-28 NLT
And in Revelation 22, the apostle John provides insight into the identity of “the morning star.”
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” – Revelation 22:16 NLT
Jesus is the one of whom Balaam prophesied. He is the one who will bring destruction to the enemies of Israel. And the apostle John was given a vision of this end-times event, which he recorded in the book of Revelation.
Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords. – Revelation 19:11-16 NLT
There is no way that Balaam understood the full import of his words. He had no way of seeing into the future and identifying this conquering king to come. But once he had delivered his Spirit-inspired message to King Balak, he went on his way. And Balak was left to consider the words of Jehovah and the impact they might have on his life and kingdom.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.