AMP - 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: you have some people there who are clinging to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to set a trap and a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, [to entice them] to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and to practice lewdness [giving themselves up to sexual vice].
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The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22 through Numbers 24 in the Old Testament. According to Numbers 22:5, Balaam lived in a town called Pethor near the Euphrates River. He was apparently a Midianite (a descendant of Midian, who was the son of Abraham and Keturah, whom Abraham had taken as a wife following the death of Sarah, and with whom Abraham had six sons, as noted in Genesis 25). Balaam was well-known in the region as a man who possessed the ability or authority to invoke both divine blessings or divine curses. Although he was not an Israelite, it is recorded in Numbers 22 through Numbers 24 that God spoke with him. As the people of Israel were nearing the Promised Land following their years of wandering in the wilderness of Sinai after the exodus from Egypt, they came into conflict with the kings who were ruling in the lands that they were passing through. With the help of God, they defeated those kings in battle. As they approached the kingdom of Moab, (in modern-day Jordan on the eastern side of the Dead Sea), the king of Moab (Balak, son of Zippor) became frightened, because he had heard of the way in which Israel had defeated those other kings. He therefore sent for Balaam's assistance, asking him to come and curse the Israelites on behalf of the Moabites, so that the Moabites would be able to defeat Israel. When the envoys from Moab came to Balaam, God at first instructed Balaam not to go with them, and told Balaam that he was not to curse the Israelites, for they were blessed by God. When the envoys reported back to Balak that their visit with Balaam had been unsuccessful, Balak sent a larger and more distinguished team of envoys to Balaam, offering him greater gifts in exchange for his aid in cursing the Israelites. God then told Balaam in Numbers 22:20 to go with the envoys, but also warned Balaam to say only the things that God told him to say. When Balaam reached Moab, Balak offered animal sacrifices, and took Balaam to multiple locations where Balaam was able to see various portions of the Israelite encampment. At each location, Balak asked Balaam to curse the Israelites. However, each time (as recorded in Numbers 23 and Numbers 24), Balaam instead pronounced a blessing on them. He also foretold the ultimate destruction of the nations that were opposing Israel. Numbers 24:25 says that Balaam then returned home. However, Numbers 25 next records that the people of Moab nevertheless succeeded in enticing the Israelites to intermarry with the Moabites (in violation of God's command), and to participate in many of the pagan practices of the Moabites, including committing sexual sins, worshiping and offering sacrifices to the Moabite gods, and eating food that had been offered as a sacrifice to those gods. As a result God sent a plague among the Israelites as punishment, causing the death of 24,000 people. Although Numbers 25 does not specifically say at that point that Balaam played any part in advising the Moabites to lead the Israelites astray in this manner, Moses subsequently indicates in Numbers 31:16 that Balaam had been the one (perhaps acting in response to Balak's continued pleading, but doing so on his own initiative and certainly not at God's command) who had instructed the Moabite women to do so. The verse in Revelation that is referenced in the question being asked mentions this "teaching" on the part of Balaam, and is thus speaking of any instruction or doctrine that causes people to engage in pagan or sinful practices similar to those which the Moabites succeeded in enticing Israel to perform (especially worshiping or offering sacrifices to false gods,and committing sexual sin). This verse also shows the importance of knowledge not just about Jesus and the Gospel, but about the whole of God's revealed word, in order to be aware of the actions and teachings by which Christians can be tempted to disobey God, so that they may confront those actions and teachings, and overcome them.
Balaam reasoned that if the men of Israel violated their religion the LORD would permanently reject them, leaving them helpless in front of the curses he was then able to make. So he successfully tempted the men with the Moabite women and with worshipping the Moabite gods. It may have actually been true that the religions of the heathen round about were of this nature, since Balaam was well known to be successful with curses. He might have also been a Midianite (a son of Abraham and Keturah) since he received the elders of Midian in addition to the elders of Moab. Balaam must not have known that the religion of Israel was everlasting and based on a blood covenant. The LORD would never completely reject Israel, although he would subject them to divine chastisement when needed. Israel could not be cursed in the customary fashion since they were divinely blessed, and Balaam's attempt to corrupt the Israelites led to battle with the Midianites and Balaam's death by the sword. The wisdom and teaching of Balaam was completely defeated by the LORD, regardless of the grievous sins the Israelites committed.
"Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet." 2 Peter 2:15-16 The apostle proves that they are cursed children, even such covetous persons as the Lord abhors, by showing, They have forsaken the right way; and it cannot be but such self-seekers must be out of the right way, which is a self-denying way. They have gone into a wrong way: they have erred and strayed from the way of life, and gone over into the path which leads to death, and takes hold of hell; and this he makes out by showing it to be the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor. That is a way of unrighteousness into which men are led by the wages of unrighteousness. Outward temporal good things are the wages sinners expect and promise themselves, though they are often disappointed. The inordinate love of the good things of this world turns men out of the way which leads to the unspeakably better things of another life; the love of riches and honour turned Balaam out of the way of his duty, although he knew that the way he took displeased the Lord.
The question, what is the teaching of Balaam, is very important. Since the beginning of time, all have had to make choices. When Adam and Eve faced the choice of obeying, or not, what God said, they faced the consequences. Today we choose every day, probably several times a day. Cain back in Genesis chose also. He disobeyed, he lied, he was willful. Sound familiar? The teaching of Balaam, who was hired by Balak, is about choice. Balak wanted Balaam to turn the hearts of Israel, God's chosen people, away from God. Turn them to idol worship, to sexual immorality. Basically adultery physically and spiritually. In Revelation 2:14, in the church in Pergamos a similar seduction was taking place. In Acts chapter 15:20, a warning to Gentiles, is written to abstain from that polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, and from things strangled, and from blood. Although this was in the context of the Council at Jerusalem. Anyway, the point is, Beware, that which can keep you from God! We choose every day. God was angry with Balaam. Look at Numbers 22:22-30. God opened Balaam's eyes, in verses 31-35. (In 1967, evidence was found of the prophecies of Balaam in ancient Moab. He was quite respected in his day.) In scripture, he is quite reprehensible, an almost satanic figure. Numbers 31:8 Balaam is killed. 2Peter 2:15, Jude 11, and Revelation 2:14, depict the dangers of choosing the wrong path! He sold his gift for money and sought to curse the children of God! James encapsulates it well, I think in 4:4, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:5, "Or do you think the scripture is in vain!" Choose, this day. Pray that all the world would choose rightly! The teaching of Balaam lives on.
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