And since this reading occurs after so many on Israelite worship and laws, today’s reading gives us a fascinating perspective on the religions of Israel’s neighbors. Through Balak’s attempts to curse Israel, we see a religion centered on human desires, one that tries to manipulate blessings and curses through magic. After reading so much about Yahweh’s holiness, we’re surprised to see the attempts to move a spiritual lever through magical words from a renowned spiritual man, through sacrifices offered in the correct geographical locations, through an insistence in getting what you want. From Balaam we’re surprised by religion for sale, a spiritual leader who wants to be manipulated by money and fame. Their religion is empty, useless and desperate in comparison with everything we’ve read about the tabernacle and a holy and living relationship with Yahweh. And that is exactly the lesson that the Israelites will need to remember through their generations.
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