Biblical People

Biblical People: Balaam

Balaam son of Beor practices divination. His work must be of some renown, for when Balak seeks a supernatural edge over the approaching Hebrew people, he sends for Balaam to proclaim curses against the Israelites.

God tells Balaam not to go and he doesn’t. We affirm him for doing what God said.

But Balak persists and sends a second delegation to fetch Balaam. The seer again seeks a word from God about what to do, even though the Almighty had already made his position clear. This time God says to go but for Balaam to watch what he says, speaking only the words God gives him to say. 

At each step of the story Balaam does exactly what God tells him to do. We can applaud him for his obedience. 

Yet not so fast.

In the end, God isn’t pleased with Balaam. We’re left to wonder why, for it seems Balaam obeyed God flawlessly and did everything as instructed.

But the hint for God’s displeasure comes from what Balaam did after the second emissary delegation arrived. Though God had already made it clear Balaam wasn’t to go, the greedy seer asked a second time. Instead of repeating his prior instruction, God relented and allowed Balaam to go. 

Though this is what the prophet desired to do all along, it wasn’t what God wanted. The rest of Scripture confirms God’s displeasure with Balaam.

When we don’t like what God tells us to do, do we keep asking anyway? Might there have ever been a time when we thought we were being obedient, yet our attitude displeased God? 

[Read Balaam’s story in Numbers 22–24. Discover more in Numbers 31:8; 2 Peter 2:15–16; Jude 1:11; and Revelation 2:14.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at