The Death of Balaam
Numbers 31:8, 16
And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur…

I. How CLEAR IT IS MADE THAT BALAAM DID NOT DIE THE DEATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS! He was slain among those who were slain by the vengeance of God. He might, of course, have died in circumstances more peaceful and less indicative of his wickedness, and yet died the death of the wicked all the same. But now the manner of his end is left in no doubt. He had not only suffered himself to be drawn into opposition to the people of God, he had not only been disobedient to God himself, but it seems that he had been the chief provoking agent in bringing destruction on a portion of the present generation of Israel. Moreover, the very people whom he thought to help he had unconsciously led to their own ruin. He certainly could not have done all this if he had not found the materials ready to hand - actual idolatry in Midian, and the spirit of lust and idolatry in Israel. But it was he who saw with a sort of Satanic quickness all that could be done with the material. A man cannot cause an explosion unless he has explosive substances to deal with, but we reckon him responsible who applies the exploding agent. One sinner not only destroyeth much good, but, as we see here, produceth much evil Wicked men should learn from the history of Balaam that they may do a great deal more harm than they are conscious of. How much better it is to be on the other side, striving to draw men, even though it be with few apparent results, into the paths of purity, self-denial, and love!

II. FROM THE CHARACTER OF BALAAM WE SEE HOW REAL AND DESPERATE SPIRITUAL INSENSIBILITY MAY BE. Rightly considered, the whole conduct of Balaam is a great deal more perplexing than is the speaking of his ass. There we have to do just with the momentary occupation of the vocal organs of a brute by the speech of a human being. For a moment or two the ass was honoured beyond its natural faculties. But here is a man, raised above other men in many respects, acting in a way most humiliating to humanity. Favoured again and again with light which came to him in different ways, he remained in gross darkness with respect to the character of God as a whole. He saw not the folly, the absurdity, of the path in which he was treading. The conduct of Balaam in the essential principles of it /ms often been repeated, and is being repeated still. We are all spiritually blind unless God be pleased to open our eyes. Seeing the things of God by the light of nature, and judging of them by natural reason, we come to some strange and impotent conclusions. Balaam's indifference to the interferences of God is not one whit more marvelous than the unmoved, matter-of-fact way in which we can bear to have truths presented to our minds which, if they concern us to any extent, concern us more than all outward circumstances taken together. It is easy to say as one reads of Balaam, "What a fool! what an enigma! what a bundle of contradictions! what a mixture in his life of unwilling obedience to God and most obstinate persistence in his own path!" Take care lest it be said to one thus speaking, "Thou art the man." There is not a man of the world living in a land of open Bibles but whose conduct might be so described as to appear quite as perplexing as that of Balaam here.

III. A MAN MAY ENJOY GREAT PRIVILEGES, AND YET BE RUINED AT LAST. A seeing man may be quite safe in a dangerous path, and on the darkest night, with a little lamp, if it is enough to show him where his feet are to be placed. But a blind man will fall into the pit by noonday. A firmament radiant with a score of suns would avail nothing to such a one. A man may live in a land of Bibles, churches, and every conceivable variety of gospel ministrations, and yet die, after a long contact with all these, knowing nothing of his own state as a sinner, or of the power of Christ as a Saviour. Another man, in the midst of Africa, with no more than a torn leaf of the New Testament, might come to know the one thing needful, and be effectually led to repentance, faith, salvation, and eternal life. Privileges, as we call them, are nothing in themselves; all depends on how they are received. It was the same seed that was sown in the four different kinds of ground. One seed sown in the good ground will bring forth more than a cartload scattered by the wayside.

IV. BALAAM KNEW JUST ENOUGH OF THE TRUTH TO MISLEAD HIM, NOT ENOUGH TO LEAD HIM RIGHT. He apprehended the real power of Jehovah without apprehending his character as a whole. He had made the discovery that if Israel fell away into the worship of any other god, it would be very severely dealt with. Doubtless he had found his way into some intercourse with the Israelites, and been made acquainted with their past history, particularly with the commandment of God at Sinai against idolatry, and the sufferings which came upon the people because of the golden calf. But he did not know that in the midst of the most faithless and apostate of generations there would still be preserved a faithful seed; he did not reckon on the energetic and efficacious zeal of a Phinehas. And thus the great mischief to many arises not so much from total indifference to God as from misleading conceptions of him. It is only too easy for us to miss the full view which a sinner ought to have of God, and remain all our lifetime with erroneous and most limited conceptions. Some make too much of God's anger with sin, forgetting his love, his mercy, his patience, his revelation of himself as a Father; others make too much of his mercy, forgetting his unyielding righteousness, and the need of a radical change in man - a change in his motives, purposes, sympathies, and delights. Nothing is more perilous than to see so much of one side of the Divine character as not to see the rest. We must see it as it is revealed in Scripture. There the living God moves before us in his actions. We see his actions, and they cannot be understood unless as the harmonious outflow of all his character. - Y.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

WEB: They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they killed with the sword.

Vengeance Executed on Midian
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