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Balaam wonders, "God told me to bless Israel and the king told me to curse Israel. What should I do?"

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Life can be strange. part two

Balaam’s stomach knotted in pain. He muttered to himself, “I get your point, God! I will say just what you want me to say, but did you have to make my donkey talk and an angel terrify me?”

He and Moab’s King Balak stared at hordes of enemy Israelite soldiers prepared to attack Moab. The king was confused. I hired this Syrian prophet to pronounce a magic curse of evil upon the Israelites. I believe in the power of curses, but this man also believes in Yahweh, whom the Jews call the one true God. Does Balaam obey dark powers or Yahweh?

Balaam told King Balak, “Build me seven altars and we will put sacrifices on them.” King Balak obeyed the prophet.

“King Balak, stay here,” Balaam instructed. “I will go to another place on the hill. Maybe God will talk to me.”

“Balaam, whatever you need to do, do it now. Remember, I want the Israelites crushed. They out-number us and they have defeated two other nations.”

Balaam left and returned with a message from God. “You hired me to curse your enemy, the Israelites. How can I curse them, if God does not? They live separately from other nations. They have many people. I wish I could die as happy as an Israelite.”

“What are you saying?” the king demanded.

Balaam replied, “God’s words are in my mouth. I must speak them.”

“Then go see a different section of the Israelites.”

Balaam went. Altars were built, sacrifices offered, and Balaam received a new message from God, which he delivered to the king. “Hear, Balak, God is not a man. Therefore, know that He does not lie. He doesn’t change His mind like humans do. He keeps His promises. He told me to bless Israel. He has blessed them. I cannot reverse this. He is their King! He brought them out of slavery in Egypt.”

Balak protested, “If you are not going to curse them, at least do not bless them.”

“King Balak, I have no choice. I must say the words God gives me.”

“Then come with me to another place. Maybe your god will let you curse them for me from that place.”

Balaam cooperated. Again, he told Balak to build seven altars. Sacrifices were offered.

Every particle of Balaam’s brain had become convinced. God intended to bless Israel! Balaam decided, “I am not going to try to do any magic.” He often did. He saw the Israelites spreading over a vast territory with soldiers, tents, families, and animals. Supernaturally God’s spirit gave him a message for the future, which he reported.

“Joy awaits Israel. Her people shall have an abundance of water. They shall live many places. Their king and nation will be great. Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and curses shall fall upon everyone who curses you.”

King Balak’s face turned red. He clapped his hands in disgust and shouted, “Three times you have blessed Israel. You are here to curse my enemies. I had planned to give you great honor. Leave!”

“Don’t you remember, King Balak, that I once told your messengers that even if you gave me a palace with silver and gold, I could not say my own words.

Balaam returned to his home and King Balak returned to his palace.

This is Barbara Steiner with a strange and pointed story from Numbers in the Bible. Please check out

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