This is the 15th lesson in a series of lessons on the book of Jude. In this lesson I do an exposition of Jude 1:11b, focusing on “the wage of Balaam”.
Watch the video or scroll down to read a transcript.
Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This lesson is part of a series of lessons on the book of Jude. In this lesson I’m going to look at verse 11 and talk about the wage of Balaam.
Woe to them,
they went in the way of Cain,
they were poured out to the error
of the wage of Balaam, and
they were destroyed in the rebellion of Korah.
In verse 11 we see a reference to the wage of Balaam. Balaam is a character from the Old Testament. What I’m going to do in this lesson is go to the Old Testament and read the story of Balaam. Then I’ll look at the context of Jude. Then I’ll see what Jude had to say about Balaam, why he mentioned Balaam, and what he’s trying to teach us by mentioning the wage of Balaam.
The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-24. Balaam is also mentioned in a couple other books of the Old Testament: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Nehemiah, and Micah. In the New Testament Balaam was mentioned three times: 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation.
The first book of the Old Testament is Genesis, Genesis tells us about Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs. The events recorded in Genesis took place roughly from 4000BC up to about 2000BC.
Next is the book of Exodus. The events recorded in Exodus happened roughly 1500BC. At the beginning of the book of Exodus, the Israelites were in Egypt in slavery. Then we read that Moses came along and delivered the Israelites out of slavery and took them out into the wilderness to Mount Sinai where they received the Mosaic law.
The Book of Leviticus contains quite a few of the precepts of the Mosaic law.
Then we come to the book of Numbers. The Book of Numbers also tells us about events that happened roughly 1500BC. The Book of Numbers tells us about events that happened while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Towards the end of the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites started heading towards the Promised Land.
They traveled to the east of Edom and Moab. Then they traveled through Ammon to get to the east side of the Jordan River. It was while they were camped on the east side of the Jordan River that the story of Balaam took place.
Num. 22:2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this horde will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. 6 “ Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may 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.”
Balak called Balaam. Balaam lived at Pethor. Pethor was located north of Moab. It was roughly 400 miles from Moab up to Pethor. If one travels about 20 miles a day, it would take 20 days to get from Moab up to Pethor. That gives an idea of the distance from Moab to Pethor.
Notice the word curse in verse 6. Balak made it clear he was asking Balaam to curse the Israelites for him.
Num. 22:7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam and repeated Balak’s words to him.
Notice the word fees. This tells us that the Moabites and Midianites took money along and they were willing to pay Balaam to curse the Israelites.
Num. 22:8 He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will bring word back to you as the LORD may speak to me.” And the leaders of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent word to me, 11 ‘Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” 12 God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak’s leaders, “Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” 14 The leaders of Moab arose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
Num. 22:15 Then Balak again sent leaders, more numerous and more distinguished than the former. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, ‘Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming to me; 17 for I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then, curse this people for me.’” 18 Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “ Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God. 19 “Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the LORD will speak to me.” 20 God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.”
Num. 22:21 So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. 22 But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him.
God told Balaam to go, but then when Balaam went, God was angry. Obviously, this is a little confusing. We’re going to talk about this more in a little bit because later in this passage, there is a hint why God was angry, even though He had told Balaam to go.
Num. 22:23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26 The angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. 28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
Num. 22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. 32 The angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.
The LORD told Balaam that his way was contrary to Him. The way we normally read this is we think the LORD was saying that Balaam going with these men is what was contrary to Him. However, it might be that the LORD meant that what was contrary to Him was what was happening inside of Balaam’s mind. Why did Balaam even want to go with these men? It might have been Balaam’s motivation that was the problem, not the fact that Balaam was actually going. Keep that in mind and I’ll talk a little bit more about Balaam’s motivation later.
Num. 22:33 “But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “ I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.” 35 But the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you.” So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.
Num. 22:36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the Arnon border, at the extreme end of the border. 37 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not urgently send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I really unable to honor you?” 38 So Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak.” 39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some to Balaam and the leaders who were with him.
Num. 22:41 Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, and he saw from there a portion of the people.
Balak wanted Balaam to curse the people, but God gave Balaam a blessing and so Balaam actually blessed the people.
Num. 23:13 Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, although you will only see the extreme end of them and will not see all of them; and curse them for me from there.”
The same thing happened. God gave Balaam a blessing so Balaam blessed the Israelites instead of cursing them.
Num. 23:27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there.”
Once again Balaam blessed the Israelites instead of cursing the Israelites.
Num. 24:10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times! 11 “Therefore, flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, the LORD has held you back from honor.” 12 Balaam said to Balak, “ Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, 13 ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord.
Num. 24:25 Then Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place, and Balak also went his way.
Look at the word departed. Balaam went back to his place and this appears to be the end of the story of Balaam. However, if we keep reading, we see this was not the end of the story.
Num. 25:1 While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. 2 For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel.
The Israelites began to worship the Moabite gods and that was strictly forbidden. The Lord was rightly angry against Israel. Several chapters later we read the following:
Num. 31:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “ Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people.”
Num. 31:7 So they made war against Midian, just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. 8 They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. 9 The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little ones;
This is very interesting. The Israelites were killing the Midianites and they also killed Balaam. Balaam was from the North. Midian was south of Moab. Somehow, Balaam ended up living with the Midianites and that’s why he was killed when the Israelites attacked the Midianites.
We also see the word captured. The Israelites captured the women. We read more about that a few verses later.
Num. 31:14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15 And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women? 16 “ Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.
We read earlier that the Israelites started to worship the Moabite gods. What we see here in verse 16 is that Balaam is the one that recommended to the Moabites that they entice the Israelites to serve the Moabite gods.
Balaam was not allowed to curse the Israelites, but he figured out a way to help Balak and told Balak how to defeat the Israelites without having to fight them in a battle.
Balaam was also mentioned in a few other books. We’re going to look now at the book of Deuteronomy. The events recorded in Deuteronomy also took place on the east side of the Jordan River, roughly 1500 BC. Basically what happened in the book of Deuteronomy is that Moses reviewed with the Israelites their history and their law. At one point, Moses reviewed the history of Balaam and he said the following:
Deut. 23:5 “Nevertheless, the LORD your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you.
The LORD was not willing to listen to Balaam. Apparently, Balaam wanted to curse the Israelites, and he asked God if he could curse the Israelites, but the LORD did not listen to Balaam. The LORD forced Balaam to bless the Israelites instead of curse them.
Next is the book of Joshua. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River and began conquering the Promised Land. Towards the end of Joshua, Joshua also reviewed Israelite history and he mentioned Balaam.
Josh. 24:9 ‘Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel, and he sent and summoned Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. 10 ‘But I was not willing to listen to Balaam. So he had to bless you, and I delivered you from his hand.
This tells us even more clearly that Balaam really wanted to curse the Israelites. It says that the LORD delivered the Israelites from the hand of Balaam. This gives us an idea of the extent to which Balaam really wanted to curse or do something bad to the Israelites.
Let’s jump to the New Testament. The first four books of the New Testament are the gospels. They tell us about the life of Jesus here on Earth. The next book is the book of Acts which tells us what the Apostles of Jesus did after Jesus went back to heaven. Then we have various letters that make up the rest of the New Testament. Balaam was mentioned three times, in 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation.
2Pet. 2:15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
This clearly tells us the problem was that Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness. In other words, he was greedy. He wanted the money that Balak was offering him. I assume from this that what happened was Balaam told Balak to entice the Israelites to serve the gods of Moab because that would make God angry at the Israelites. Apparently, Balaam received some of the money from Balak for giving Balak that advice.
That brings us to the book of Jude. In Jude 4 Jude explained why he wrote the book of Jude.
For certain people crept in secretly,
those who were long ago
designated into this judgment,
turning the grace of our God into sensuality
and denying our only Master and Lord
Later, Jude wrote more about these men.
Nevertheless, likewise also
are defiling flesh,
and blaspheming majesties.
these men indeed are blaspheming
the things they do not understand,
the things they naturally know, by them,
like speechless animals,
they are being destroyed.
That brings us to verse 11.
Woe to them,
they went in the way of Cain,
they were poured out to the error
of the wage of Balaam, and
they were destroyed in the rebellion of Korah.
The word “woe” is a warning. Jude was issuing a warning to these men.
The pronoun “them” refers to these men who had crept into the church secretly.
Then we see the word “because”. The words that come after the word “because” are going to tell us why Jude issued this warning to them. There were three reasons. The second reason was these men were poured out to the error of the wage of Balaam. In other words, their error, that Jude was writing about, was very similar to Balaam’s error. They were greedy. They were allowing their desire for money to lead them into error.
This reminds us of another verse.
1Tim. 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Notice the word “love”. The love of money is a root of evil. It’s not money itself. It’s a love of money that is a root of all sorts of evil.
Notice the word “wander”. By longing for money, some people have wandered away from the faith.
That’s what happened to Balaam. He had a love for money. He wanted the money that Balak was offering. That caused him to wander away from the correct path and he told Balak how to get the Israelites to sin, and how to get God angry at the Israelites.
This also, apparently, is what was happening with the men that Jude was writing about. They had a love of money and they were wandering away from the faith. They were distorting grace and denying Jesus.
Now let’s talk about how we might see this in our culture today. As we look around American Christianity, we see a lot of doctrinal error. We see a lot of compromise with the world. We see a lot of emotionalism. Beliefs and decisions are being driven by emotion instead of what the Bible actually says.
Also within evangelicalism, we have many institutions that are engaged in these problems. We have the book publishing industry, the music industry, Bible colleges, seminaries, and megachurches.
Book publishers are publishing books that contain doctrinal errors. The music industry is producing music that is doctrinally weak, shallow, and has errors. Bible colleges and seminaries are compromising the truth. Megachurches are compromising the truth.
Why is this so? What is the reason they’re doing this? We need to ask if money is driving this.
Are book publishers deciding which books to publish based on what sells better, rather than by what is true and accurate to the Bible? Is the music industry making their decisions on what music to produce based on what’s going to sell best, as opposed to what is accurate, holy, and right? Are Bible colleges and seminaries compromising the truth in order to attract more students so that they have more money? Are the megachurches compromising truth and doctrine in order to attract more people, so that they have more money coming into the church, so that they can have more programs and bigger staffs?
What we see in this lesson is that Balaam was led astray by his love for money. Jude wrote about these men who had crept into the church secretly. He indicated they were led astray by their love of money.
We have to ask whether the doctrinal errors, the compromises, and the emotionalism that we see in American Christianity are driven by money. If so, we need to stop pursuing the money and start pursuing truth and righteousness instead.
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