Tag Archives: Scepter

Jesus as the Star/Scepter of Jacob

13 Nov

scepter.png
The narrative recorded in Numbers 22-25 sounds like a fanciful story because of the talking donkey. But it’s no more difficult for the God who created the universe out of nothing to make one of his creatures speak than it was for Him to produce a child in the womb of a virgin.
In this account, we see a king (Balak) who is terrified when he sees the children of Israel approaching. He had heard that they had come up out of Egypt (Num.22:5), were numerous, “they cover the face of the earth” and were too close for comfort; they were settling next to him. (Num. 22:5) They were camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. (Num. 22:1) He had heard what Israel had already done to the Amorites, in defeating them and taking their land. (Num. 22:2, 21:21-35) This made him “sick with dread.” (Num. 22:3)
So, desperate, he calls for a famous seer named Balaam. “Therefore, please come at once, curse this people for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed and he whom you curse is cursed.” Num. 22:6
As a side note, in 1967 archeologists unearthed an Aramaic inscription from the 8th century B.C. that cites Balaam the prophet, thus showing that he was known broadly in his day. (What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About Jason S. DeRouchie p. 122)
Although in this story we see that a dumb animal sees the Angel of the LORD and knows enough to bow in His presence while the ‘seer doesn’t see.’ We also understand that the money-grubbing prophet acknowledges the superiority of Israel’s God, while the children of Israel were blind to God’s plan. (Ex. 19:5, Deut. 7:6)
Hope shines brightest in the oracles of the pagan prophet. He is a prime example of how God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. Even though he is wicked, God uses him to further bless His people.
The Angel of the LORD
Balak offers Balaam money to come and curse the children of Israel. He agrees, but God intervenes to make sure he will “not curse the people, for they are blessed.” Num. 22:12 He seems to refuse to go, but it’s probably a ploy to try to get more money to tell Balak what he wants to hear. When it appears Balaam is determined to go to Balak, God intervenes again, this time physically as the Angel of the LORD. We studied the idea of theophanies in a previous study. This seems to be the case here. It’s not merely an angel who appears but someone whose word is used interchangeably with the word of God. (Num. 22:20, 35) Also, both the donkey and eventually, Balaam bow down before him. He also has the power of life and death in His hand. He is armed with a sword, which is similar to the Commander of the army of the LORD who appears to Joshua (Josh. 5:13-15) and He tells Balaam that if the donkey hadn’t turned aside, He would have killed Balaam and let the donkey live.
There are three rounds between the donkey and Balaam and the Angel of the LORD. There are three oracles from the prophet, three location changes by Balak, thinking that the probable reason Balaam blessed Israel instead of cursing them was because he didn’t have a good enough view of them. After the first two prophecies, Balak protests.
“Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!” Num. 23:11
“Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all!’” Num. 23:25
After the third, he just walks away, defeated. (Num. 24:25)
The Bible consistently portrays Balaam as a false teacher, greedy for profit. His life provides a warning against covetousness and immorality and reminds us to seek God’s glory above all else.
“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” Jude 1:11 This verse condemns murder,(Gen. 4)greed,(Num.20) and rebellion.(Num. 16)
“They have forsaken the right way, and gone astray, following the way of Balaam, son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity; a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.” 2 Peter2:15,16
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” Rev. 2:14
The Substance of His Prophecies/ The Star and Scepter of Israel
Some key verses:
“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced.” Num. 23:8
“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.” Num. 23:19, 20
“For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob, and of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’” Num. 23:23 This is an interesting comment considering that for his first two prophecies, he had used sorcery. When he realized God was giving him the messages, he didn’t do it for the third. “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness.” Num. 24:1
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult.” Numbers 24:17
This is agreed to be a Messianic prophesy. We see the star in relation to the birth of Jesus in Matt. 2:1,2 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came from Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.’”
This refers both to the star as a marker pointing to the Messiah, and the Scepter, relating to his reign as King of the Jews.

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