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"And Balak said to Balaam, "Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there." So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that overlooks the desert." (Numbers 23:27-28 RSV)

Peor, meaning opening, or gap, was a mountain, or highland, somewhere east of the Jordan River, in Moab. The only mention of it in Bible History (see also Bible Places), specifically by name, is in the verses above when King Balak of Moab tried to get Balaam, a sorcerer from Mesopotamia, to get God to pronounce a curse upon Israel. It of course didn't work because God was with Israel, actually leading and defending the Israelites, who were on the last leg of their journey, through Moab, after the Exodus to their promised land.

Balak and Balaam

Map Of Israel's Wilderness Journey Balaam, the son of Beor, was from Pethor in Mesopotamia (Deuteronomy 23:4). He was a very influential sorcerer who, although aware of the true God, made his services available on a freelance basis. Near the end of their Wilderness Journey, as the Israelites under Moses (Aaron had died shortly before, Numbers 20:22-29) were advancing north into Moab just prior to their turning west to cross The Jordan River, King Balak of Moab hired Balaam to perform the impossible task of stopping them (Numbers chapters 22-24).

With the Israelites approaching, King Balak sent messengers to Balaam to get him to put a curse on the Israelites (Numbers 22:5-7). The Lord (see Rock Of Ages) however appeared to Balaam and warned him not to do it (Numbers 22:12).

King Balak then sent other messengers to Balaam with an offer of great riches if he would curse the Israelites (Numbers 22:15-17). This time The Lord allowed Balaam to go with them to Moab, but on the condition that he do only what The Lord told him (Numbers 22:20).

Then came the famous incident with Balaam's talking donkey on the journey to Moab (Numbers 22:21-35). Centuries later, Peter referred to the incident (2 Peter 2:15-16).

When Balaam arrived in Moab, King Balak greeted him, but Balaam warned the king that he could only say what God allowed him (Numbers 22:36-38). King Balak's strategy was about to backfire.

Balaam's oracles then followed, all of which blessed the Israelites instead of cursing them (Numbers 23:1-29). By the time that he was done, the Holy Spirit had caused Balaam to speak a rich blessing upon Israel:

"When Balaam saw that it pleased The Lord to bless Israel, he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and saw Israel encamping tribe by tribe. And The Spirit Of God came upon him, 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, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, but having his eyes uncovered: how fair are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that The Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brings him out of Egypt; he has as it were the horns of the wild ox, he shall eat up the nations his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down like a lion, and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed be every one who blesses you, and cursed be every one who curses you." (Numbers 24:1-9 RSV)

Despite that he should by then have known better, although he could not directly curse the Israelites, Balaam still advised King Balak how to tempt the Israelites into disobeying God:

"Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols [see Images and Idols] and practice immorality [see What Does God Say Is Immoral?]." (Revelation 2:14 RSV)

Balaam was killed in a later battle between Israel and the Midianites (Numbers 31:8).

Fact Finder: What is meant by the Biblical word "oracle"?
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