Contemporary lessons to be learnt from Parashat Balak

 מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב; מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל

In the Book of Numbers, the Torah tells us the story of a King of Moab, called Balak, who contemplated the accomplishment of the people of Israel and who became very much afraid. The Moabites are the descendants of Lot, born from an incestuous relationship between Lot ( as he was drunk) and one of his daughters.

So Balak went to see Balaam, the son of Beor, who had a solid reputation as a prophet.


Interestingly, Balaam ( transcribed Bilaam in Hebrew), apparently a Midianite, seems to have a lot of common points with Tsipporah ( Moshe’s wife)’s father, Ytro, priest of Midian, as the following, detailed article points it out. More astonishingly, Balak’s father is named Tsippor ( the masculine form for Tsipporah).



Balak expects to receive some consistent help from Balaam to curse the Hebrews.


“Come with us Balaam to curse these Hebrew. We all know that whomever you bless Balaam is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.”


From the Book of Numbers, it is quite hard to know who Balaam-pronounced Bilaam- actually was. We know from the accounts of Torah that he was probably a Midianite. He was not an Israelite, but he seemed to abide the God of Israel and to prophesy in His Name. Because he acted in HaShem’s Name, his reputation probably grew very fast in Midian and the surrounding regions. This seems to explain why Balak came to him in order to get his enemies ( the Hebrews) cursed. However the prophet seemed to have a syncretist/ or idolatric practice that he will give up while pronouncing the last blessing.




The donkey’s eyes perceive who Balaam is unable to see: the angel of the Lord placed in front of Balaam’s path.


It has been scientifically proven that animals do perceive a lot of things that are invisible ( ultraviolet light, for instance) or inaudible to humans ( like ultrasounds).

In front of Balaam’s stubbornness and also because He wants to rescue the poor donkey from physical abuse, HaShem puts some speech into the animal’s mouth that will unlock Balaam’s sight, who will admit his sin.


I admit that there are many mysteries that I don’t understand about this episode and that it left me perplexed, because the Almighty is telling him to go, but to only obey what He would say.

Some rabbis would argue that HaShem told him to go, because Balaam had his free will-but then why would the Lord add ” do as I say”. I humbly admit that I have no answer, but the disapprobation of HaShem about Balak’s prior intent.


Israel will be blessed three times through Bilaam ( Balaam) ‘s mouth. Note that the Torah states that when Bilaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel ( the Hebrew text specifies that it was good in HaShem’s eyes to bless Israel-see text in red), he gave up his idolatric practices ( enchantments) and he set his face toward the wilderness:


וַיַּרְא בִּלְעָם, כִּי טוֹב בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה לְבָרֵךְ אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְלֹא-הָלַךְ כְּפַעַם-בְּפַעַם, לִקְרַאת נְחָשִׁים; וַיָּשֶׁת אֶל-הַמִּדְבָּר, פָּנָיו.



And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.”






Lessons for our contemporary world:




  • more than ever before, Israel is surrounded with numerous enemies…Unesco’s twisted policy and lies to deny Israel’s Jewish history on its own soil has brought many nations to turn against Israel. A lot of nations are openly stepping against Israel. Actually Israel has very few allies besides the USA ( since Donald Trump’s election), India, Burkina Faso and the Philippines. This clearly means that the rest of the world believes Unesco’s blatant LIES and is ready to curse the Hebrews publicly. HaShem’s warning in verse 13: ” you shall not curse the people for they are blessed” is VALID in our times, yet very few pay attention to it.
  • a certain category of ” believers” who support replacement theology and who usually slate Israel and hate the Jews in general would like to obtain, though, the blessings from the God of Israel. Paradox? Yes. Jealousy and fear? 100% certain. Approved by HaShem? No way, unless these people repent from their hatred and start blessing the chosen ones of the Living God of Israel!
  • HaShem can speak through the most humble of His creatures. HaShem chose the mouth of a donkey to open Balaam’s sight. 
  • The donkey is also a symbol of the first Coming of the Messiah and His humbleness. Yeshua, the King of the Kings, the Tzadik, entered Jerusalem sitting on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!Behold, your king is coming to you;righteous and having salvation is he,humble and mounted on a donkey,on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 

גִּילִי מְאֹד בַּת-צִיּוֹן, הָרִיעִי בַּת יְרוּשָׁלִַם, הִנֵּה מַלְכֵּךְ יָבוֹא לָךְ, צַדִּיק וְנוֹשָׁע הוּא; עָנִי וְרֹכֵב עַל-חֲמוֹרוְעַל-עַיִר בֶּן-אֲתֹנוֹת

Man is called to walk in humbleness and one should bear in mind not to despise the tiniest creature that HaShem made. HaShem can use the tiniest and the weakest to get powerful messages through.

The verse of Zechariah 9:9 insists twice about our Messiah riding a donkey first using the word hamor “חֲמוֹר“, then ayir  “עַיִר” to speak about the animal.


And…in conclusion, there is more to the word hamor חֲמוֹר” , donkey, than you may actually think!


Did you know?


חֲמוֹר” donkey is linked with the color red…now this is a very Middle Eastern thing! You wouldn’t think of the color red while picturing a donkey…these animals’ robe is usually grey or brown. Well, in ancient Israel and well as in Arabic countries, the color red is associated with tranquility and settlement.

To learn more about the amazing etymology of the word “hamor”, please check this rich ressource.



Copyright© by Isabelle Esling

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