Weekly Torah Commentary – Balak July 3, 2015

Bamidbar/Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

In their journey to the Promised Land, the children of Israel have neared the border. As our weekly portion opens, they are encamped opposite Jericho in the land of Moab, whose king at the time was Balak. Being well aware of the conquests of the Israelites over other people groups, Balak would like to get rid of them once and for all. He has a formidable army so why doesn’t he attack?

The exploits of the children of Israel had reached his ears. Pagan though he was, he recognized that Israel had divine protection. They had to, he reasoned, or they would never have achieved their previous victories.
Rather than endanger his troops by sending them to attack Israel precipitously, Balak decided that first their spiritual protection had to be removed. Only then could he drive them away. He conferred with the elders of Midian and together they devised a plan. They would send for Bilam (Balaam), a gentile prophet, and instruct him to curse the people of Israel.

It’s no small thing that this pagan king recognized so many hundreds of years ago, 1) the power of divine protection and 2) the power of the spoken word. In earlier generations, it was understood that a word once spoken has within itself the power of its own fulfillment. I wonder what general or commmander today, facing an enemy army would even think about whether or not the opposing force has ‘divine protection’.

He sends messengers to Bilam with the request that he come quickly to curse the Israelits.

Words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says Life and Death are in the power of the tongue; those who love it will eat its fruit. We know that creation itself was spoken into being. Perhaps if we realized the inherent power in our spoken words, we might be far more careful about what proceeds out of our mouths! Selah!!

The Bible dictionary defines ‘curse’ as an invocation or proclamation to inflict harm upon someone or something. It is also described as harmful energy released against someone by hateful words, angry words, gossip and slander.

Blessing, by contrast, is a declaration of well-being, health, happiness and enlargement. The words ‘bless’, ‘blessing’, and ‘blessed’ occur 516 times in the Scripture. The words ‘curse’, ‘cursed’, and ‘cursing’ only 180 times and it is God’s prerogative, not ours.

Look again at the verse quoted above: Life and death are in the power of the tongue; those who love it will eat of its fruit. In other words, curses can backfire on those who pronounced them! Look at Psalm 109:17: He loved to curse; let curses come upon him. He did not delight in blessing; may blessing be far from him.

Clearly the better option is to bless. Overwhelmed as we seem to be at present, the need to bless is critical. To rant and rail against world situations that are happening is fruitless and frankly, a waste of time. Choosing to focus instead on the God of Israel and His presence in the midst of confusion and chaos, is far better.

In Tune with Torah this week = if you are not in the habit of speaking blessings over others, choose two or three people whom you respect and admire, determine to pronounce blessings on them through the week. God will take care of those who defy Him. For our part, I invite you to ‘move in’ to Psalm 37 and ‘park’ there for awhile. Practice speaking blessings over your family and friends and guard your tongue from any negative declarations of harm towards anyone. Bless the Lord at all times; may His praise be ever in our mouths.

Shabbat Shalom

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