Biblical People

Biblical People: Balak

Because of the people’s lack of faith, God turns them away from the promised land. They spend forty years in the desert, one year for each day the spies were on their mission.

We resume our story four decades later as they finally prepare to conquer the nations before them under the leadership of Moses and then Joshua.

Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sees the approaching Hebrew people and fears they will attack his land. Believing he cannot prevail with military force alone, he sends for Balaam, a practitioner of divination, to curse the encroaching horde.

Balaam refuses, but Balak persists. When Balaam agrees to appear before Balak, he repeatedly reminds the king and his emissaries that he can only say what the Lord puts in his mouth.

Balak accepts this condition. He sacrifices seven bulls and seven rams as Balaam instructs. Then, prompted by God, Balaam blesses the Hebrew people.

Frustrated that Balaam didn’t dispense curses as requested, the desperate Balak asks Balaam to try again. The outcome is the same. 

Having not learned his lesson, Balak begs Balaam a third time to spew forth curses against the danger that threatens Moab. Once again, Balaam speaks blessings instead of curses.

Balak is furious with Balaam. Yet it’s his own fault. Balaam declined to come to Balak in the first place and warned he could only say what God told him to say.

But Balak was too afraid and pushed forward when he shouldn’t have. His ill-advised actions in seeking to curse his enemies had the opposite effect.

When has our fear caused us to do the wrong thing? When have we failed to see God at work and persisted to pursue our own path?

[Read Balak’s story in Numbers 22–24. Discover more in Micah 6:5 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