July 9th, 2010 17:28 EST
To Meet with King Balak
The Israelites of the desert generation born after the hasty departure from Egypt are returning to the land of their forefathers. They have not known the land of Israel themselves, but they know their God promised it to their forefathers in a covenant for a thousand generations. The promise is still fresh in their collective memories as are the stories of their parents who went from slavery to freedom.
As they are about to enter the Land of Israel, a census is taken of all families constituting the twelve tribes. The number of males 20 and over in each tribe will determine the size of land allotted to that tribe. The land is divided at random between eleven of the tribes. The twelfth tribe owns no land, as the members are to serve God.
The Israelites are camped at the Moabian prairies, not far from Jordan Jericho. They ask permission that safe passage is granted. But the local inhabitants of the time, a multitude of nations, refuse. The requests go unheeded, despite assurances they will neither drink the water of the land nor cause any damage.
Trust was not a staple of the Middle East in Biblical times nor is it today. The nations are suspicious. Even more so, they know the neighborhood and the character of the inhabitants. The Israelites` promise sounds incredulous: Who in their right mind would pass and not help themselves to water, food and the local women? How about property, people enslaved, sheep and cattle confiscated?
Back in ancient times, the stories about the Hebrew God`s wonders advance ahead of the Israelites, planting fear and awe. In the Middle East, stories are embellished and spiced with flavor. From a mere mention, fantasies are created and propagate, assuming a life of their own. Reality constantly assumes a new look.
Rather than extending a hand in good neighborly relations, the Moabian King Balak is determined to take preventive measures. He calls a prophet, Bilam of One Good Eye. Bilam is considered by many only second to Moses. The king wants Bilam to curse the Israelites.
In present day, the Israelites still exist after all these millennia. They are returning to the same ancient land of theirs, the Promised Land of Israel. In modern times, another King has arisen against them. Can you guess who is the King? As our story progresses through the acts, think who fit (there are several strong candidates) as Bilam?
The Ancient Players " King, Prophet, a Jennet and an Angel
Bilam of One Good Eye was a master of witchcraft with no equal. His services were most valuable as he was both astute and devious. He possessed a cunning ability to see reality with a very sharp eye, the one good eye he had, and twist it to his advantage and utility. Bilam claimed to be a pious man. He executed every rule and regulation, deviating neither right nor left, yet was devious inside out.
The King persisted, anxious with hatred and fear. He perceived the threat by the Israelites so serious, he intended to spare no expense. He was willing to pay Bilam his house full of silver and gold, for the mission to be accomplished. All that was needed were the appropriate enchantments to work their deed.
The King and the Prophet both participated, except that God intervened.
Bilam who was summoned set on his way to meet with King Balak. Like a prophet, he rode on his jennet, but she refused to proceed. Three times she stopped, once wondering off the road onto a wide field, then rubbing against the wall at the side of the road and lastly she simply sat when the road narrowed.
At each of the three times his jennet stopped, Bilam hit her. Despite his rare ability, Bilam was so consumed by anger he did not see the Messenger of God, the Angel who stood in the jennet`s way. Finally, the jennet spoke to Bilam, asking why he hit her three times. Bilam answered he would have killed her on the spot, had he held a sword. At that very moment the Angel revealed himself to Bilam.
The Messenger of God allowed Bilam to proceed and instructed him to say exactly what God told him. There was a story to be told, one that would be remembered for thousands of years. Recall, King Balak wanted Bilam to curse Israel. The story, we will see, is as applicable today as then.
The Act " The Three Prophecies
The King and the elders were excited. Bilam was about to curse the Israelites and prophesize against them bringing them misfortune. Three times a major ceremony was held in different strategic locations, overseeing the Israelites` camp. On each occasion seven altars were erected where seven bulls and seven rams were offered. No expense was spared; the effort would be repeated until successful.
Despite the promise of immense earnings, or the threat of severe punishment, Bilam could not pronounce the curses. The prophecies bought, but Bilam could not deliver. Three times he blessed the Israelites instead.
Bilam praised Israel the first time, proclaiming: For the nation shall dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations.
The Jewish People were destined to dwell alone in the House of God, in Zion Jerusalem, where they will follow God`s ways.
In modern day Zion, when the Israelites are once again a free people and able to live a life as prescribed in the Bible, they feel how isolated they have become. This isolation continues to increase even further, pressing on Israel. What is the purpose of this isolation? To enable the Israelites to ascend to a higher level, do even more good, practice and promote the word of God.
For those who mistake this prophecy to mean, incorrectly, dwell alone in Zion Jerusalem to the exclusion of all others, " they simply express their ignorance. It is an important tenet that Israelites must treat all foreigners, widows and orphans " exactly in this order " in a most respectful and generous manner.
One needs go no further than modern day Jerusalem to see how a multitude of religions is able to celebrate and co-exist in Zion Jerusalem, the modern capital of the Jewish State of Israel. They live in peace and harmony that would be impossible anywhere else in the world.
The second time Bilam blessed Israel, stating that God, who had taken the Israelites out of Egypt, was with them. Bilam continued to prophesize: For the Nation of Israel will rise as a lioness and as a lion will lift himself up high. The Nation of Israel shall not lie down until he eats prey and drinks the blood of the slain.
The imagery is clear. Once again Bilam spoke not what was expected but what God told him to say. Once on the way to fulfillment, the progress of the Nation of Israel would be unstoppable. That progress went hand-in-hand with being the People of the Book, not just for their own glory. For that reason they are undefeatable.
A modern day lesson is embedded here also. We will be successful in our tasks when they are in line with God`s wishes, with His intentions, with the overall framework of law given to us all on Mount Sinai. Even though the Jewish State is primarily secular, it is first and foremost Jewish.
Despite all odds, against the most vicious and devious of enemies, Israel will prevail. She cannot be stopped for she is acting as God`s chosen people, with a purpose here on earth.
The third time, Bilam walked to the desert, the vast wilderness that the King of Moab was needlessly protecting " the Israelites had no colonialist aspirations then or now. They only asked permission for safe passage.
As Bilam raised his one good eye, he saw the twelve tribes of the Nation of Israel and God`s spirit once again spoke through him: How good your tents O Jacob, your dwelling O Israel. "
Again, one must not misunderstand achievement and comfort to mean finality. Israel must always strive to do better, advance further and do more good for the betterment of humanity. There are those in Israel today who are too tired " of fighting for the country`s existence, youth who refuse to serve in the military, others who speak against Israel. They fall in the trap Bilam warned about " momentary comfort and complacency.
Bilam continued, knowing he could no longer satisfy King Balak`s wish to curse Israel: Israel will devour the nations that are her adversaries, their bones she shall break to pieces and their arrows she will squash. Israel then will lay down then as a lion; who will dare or be able to rouse him up, disturb his rest? Blessed be those who bless you, and cursed those who curse you. "
Bilam ended with the very same ancient rune, a promise from Genesis times: And I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you, and all the families of the earth will be blessed by you. (Genesis 12:3)
The Blessing of Israel " WHY?
The blessing is not for Israel`s own sake, it is for the very reason the Israelites have been chosen from all the families and nations on earth as God`s people " to bless all others.
As I stop to think of all the advancements Israel has indeed bestowed on the world, from literature to nano-technology, solar energy advances to alternative energy possibilities, agriculture to the ability to make deserts bloom, medical advances of new immunizations to other medical discoveries, from the computer to the cell phone " the world continues to be blessed by Israel. At the same time, the world`s contempt and hatred continues to intensify against this great light.
King Balak must be turning in his grave: Nothing worked. The three prophecies were pronounced and Israel`s future foretold.
The Modern Interpretations
Like King Balak, today there are very sophisticated enemies who want to bring about Israel`s outright destruction. Some want to usher this desired end and wipe Israel off the map, others have been working for decades to throw the Israelites into the sea. They stop at nothing to achieve their aims: from terror to deceit, they manage to isolate Israel in a world gone mad. But succeed they will not, for fighting Israel is fighting God.
Modern-day Bilam is called once again to curse the Israelites. He is as disingenuous and deceitful as ever before, his sting life threatening and could be lethal. Bilam knows the system from the inside and therefore is more dangerous than all others.
Modern-day Bilam is the religious Jew embraced with Ahmadinejad. He is the Israeli professor calling to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel. He is the local American Jewry supporting the so-called Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace " invention, once the more traditional ultra-liberals lost their high ground.
Israel is constantly tested, driven to the brick of madness by the hatred that engulfs her. Yet, there is a grain of a brighter future, for these trials and tribulations are designed to better prepare Israel, to make the end product smoother, more shining, stronger and purer.
Eventually a leader will arise and take the steps to ensure Israel`s survival. A high price will be paid, but Israel`s destiny cannot change. Israel is a blessing to the world, a blessing protected by God.
source:by Ari Bussel