This ancient historical text feels as colorful as a fantasy from Walt Disney. There are good characters and bad. There are spells and gold. And there is even a talking animal. This story is as good as any fiction; and it has a valuable lesson for us.
King Balak, with a realm in modern-day Jordan, understands that he cannot beat Israel militarily. So he turns to a famous magician/sorcerer named Balaam and asks him to curse Israel (“Balak” Torah portion, Numbers 22-25). Notice that King Balak chooses to fight Israel with the power of words, and not swords. He seems to realize that the Israelite people before him are a people defined by teachings, held together with words.
People throughout the region have already heard news of the Exodus from Egypt, and a numerous people walking in the wilderness – led by words, blessings and divine power (See also Joshua 2:10). Therefore, King Balak reasons that the way to weaken the Israelite people is by cursing them. He sends messengers to Balaam and asks him to do so.
The first time…