The birth of Jesus Christ was extraordinary, or should I say supernatural, in so many ways with perhaps the most surprising being the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by Balaam. When Israel was at the end of their 40 years in the wilderness, they came to Moab just east of where they would eventually cross over the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. The Moabites were terrified because Israel numbered in the millions, and their defeat of the Amorites preceded them. Balak, the Moabite king, sent for Balaam the diviner to come and curse Israel so that they could defeat them. Ironically, unknown to the Moabites, Yahweh had forbidden the Israelites from fighting them; however, because of the evil actions of Balak and Balaam, He would change His mind.
Balaam lived in Pethor of Mesopotamia which may have been some 400 miles from Moab. Assyrian history combined with the biblical reveals that Balaam was apparently a powerful well-known psychic, since Balak knew of him and was willing to send an entourage to him twice, a three or four week journey each way. The complete story can be read in Numbers 23-25; 31:1-20; Deuteronomy 23:4 and 5; Joshua 13:22; 24:9 and 10; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11; and Revelation 2:14.
Balaam’s story is often viewed as humorous because he had a heated argument with his donkey. Yahweh’s angel with a drawn sword stood in the way of Balaam and his donkey; however, Balaam (unlike the donkey) could not see the angel. Three times, the donkey endeavored to avoid the angel and defied Balaam’s steering which caused him to hit the donkey repeatedly. God opened the mouth of the donkey who confronted his master for hitting him. Read the story in Numbers! In the end, Balaam finally sees the angel and is emphatically instructed to speak only what God tells him to speak or he will die. In that Balak offered him power and wealth, obeying Yahweh was contrary to what he really wanted to do. However, the donkey speaking, the angel with the drawn sword, and the direct command impressed upon Balaam that he must do as Yahweh says or suffer the consequences.
Balak wanted Balaam to curse Israel, but God wanted him to bless them. He wisely chose to obey God rather than Balak. So how does all this relate to Jesus? Approximately two years after his birth, the Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the king of Israel. They knew of his birth because they understood and followed the astronomical signs.
Matthew 2:1 and 2
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.
One of the few places in the Old Testament that addresses the stars in connection to the Messiah came from the mouth of the Balaam. Four separate times, Balak the king demanded Balaam to curse Israel; however, in contradiction he blessed them as Yahweh gave him the words. Within the fourth oracle is great foretelling about the first and second coming of the Messiah.
….I see him [the Messiah], but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth.
And Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also shall be a possession, while Israel performs valiantly.
One from Jacob shall have dominion, and shall destroy the remnant from the city.… Numbers 24:17-19
The phrase “a star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel” points back to another astronomical prophecy in Genesis 49:9 and 10 that refers to the constellations in the zodiac pertinent to the birth of Christ. The destructions of the nations was dual-prophecy about that which would soon happen and what will occur at the end of the age when Jesus returns. So Balaam, the evil physic, spoke this great revelation about the first and second coming of Christ! And there is more.
When the Magi told Herod the king about the birth of Jesus, he feared losing his throne. He had already killed many others that he considered a threat to his sovereignty including some his own children; therefore, he gave orders to kill all the children in Bethlehem two years old and younger. However, God warned Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt.
And he [Joseph] arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Out of Egypt did I call My Son.”
Some connect this prophecy with Hosea 11:1 that says – “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” However, two of Balaam’s prophecies seem more fitting.
He [Yahweh] has not observed misfortune in Jacob; nor has He seen trouble in Israel; the LORD [Yahweh] his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
Note that he speaks about “the shout of a king is among them,” yet Israel had no king at this time. (Actually their first king came about 500 years later.) “God brings them out of Egypt,” again as dual meaning relating to their time and that which we read in Matthew 2. Another prophecy of Balaam is even clearer regarding this subject.
Water will flow from his buckets, and his seed will be by many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.
God brings him [the king] out of Egypt, He [Yahweh] is for him [the king] like the horns of the wild ox. He will devour the nations who are his adversaries, and will crush their bones in pieces, and shatter them with his arrows.
Once again we see that his prophecy relates to Jesus as a child and as the returning Christ wielding the wrath of God.
Hidden truth about Jesus the Christ is laced throughout the Old Testament and uncovered in the New Testament. Many times, the prophets who spoke and wrote these truths did not even know the significance because God deliberately kept it secret. Yahweh had at least two important reasons – 1) if the devil understood, he would have interfered with God’s magnificent plan, and 2) when Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, they verified his authenticity.
Balaam was the least likely person to speak such great truth about the first and second coming of Jesus. A side note to acknowledge is that speaking the truth does not necessarily indicate the speaker is godly. Balaam worshipped and served false gods, but in this situation Yahweh had him speak the truth. He eventually devised a plan that would snare the Israelites and satisfy Balak’s desire – the women sexually seduced the Israelite men and then enticed them to worship Baal of Peor which resulted in the death of 24,000 Israelites, the death of Balaam, and the destruction of Moab and Midian. Who can understand the wisdom of our great God?