Lesson 16: “I Cannot Go Beyond the Word of the Lord”

Old Testament Class Member Study Guide, (2001), 11–12


Study the following scriptures:

  1. a.

    Numbers 22:1–21. Balak, king of Moab, is terrified by the approach of the Israelites. He offers Balaam rewards if he will come to Moab and curse the Israelites. God commands Balaam to refuse, and Balaam obeys (22:1–14). Balak offers Balaam additional honor and wealth if he will come to Moab and curse Israel. God tells Balaam he can go if he desires but that he must speak only the words God gives him (22:15–21). Balaam decides to go.

  2. b.

    Numbers 22:22–35. God is angry with Balaam for going to Moab, knowing that he hopes for some reward from Balak. While on his way, Balaam learns the dangers of displeasing God when his donkey and an angel speak to him.

  3. c.

    Numbers 22:36–24:25. Three times Balak asks Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam obeys God and blesses Israel each time (22:36–24:9). He then curses Moab and prophesies of Jesus Christ (24:10–25).

  4. d.

    Numbers 31:1–16. The Israelites destroy the Midianites and slay Balaam. Moses explains that Balaam had counseled the Midianites to entice the Israelites into sin. (The consequences of Balaam’s counsel are described in Numbers 25:1–3. Although Balaam would not curse Israel directly, he apparently wanted a reward from Balak badly enough that he suggested tempting Israel to sin, causing them to lose God’s protection.)

  • How did Balaam respond to the offer of rewards in exchange for going to Moab to curse Israel? (See Numbers 22:5–14.) What so-called rewards are we sometimes offered in exchange for disobeying God?

  • On his way to Moab, Balaam tried three times to force his donkey forward (Numbers 22:22–30). In what way was this like Balaam’s relationship with the Lord? What are some modern parallels of individuals and groups stubbornly trying to do what they want rather than submitting to God’s will or to the righteous counsel of parents or leaders?

  • Three writers in the New Testament referred to Balaam (2 Peter 2:15–16; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14). What were their impressions of him? What lessons can we learn from the story of Balaam?