The idea that Balaam may have been a true follower (or even prophet) of Yahweh seems troubling on a number of fronts:
- How could there be a pre-Mosaic Yahweh-worshipper living near the Euphrates (Num 22:5)? Where did he come from? How did he learn about God?
- He was a practitioner of divination (Num 22:7) and sorcery. (Num 24:1)
- He seems to know nothing of Moses and the Israelites. (Num 22:11-12)
- He was killed along with the Midianites by the Israelites (Num 31:9)
On the other hand, there are some indications that he was, in fact, a bona fide servant of God:
- He faithfully prophesies the words of God (including possibly Messianic prophesies!)
- He offers the Lord acceptable sacrifices (Num 23:4, etc).
- He refers to God as "Yahweh my God" (Num 22:18).
To me it seems most logical that Balaam was, in fact, a pagan diviner-for-hire, making a living by inquiring to any god people paid him to query. The fact that God spoke through this pagan is really no more surprising than that He spoke through a donkey -- in fact, it would shed light on that otherwise puzzling anecdote: it's as if God is saying, "When it comes to fulfilling My covenant, I can speak through donkeys or pronounce blessings through heathen! I am the Most High God -- sovereign over the donkeys of this world!"
In the light of subsequent events one should not take too seriously that Balaam referred to Yahweh as his God. He is referring properly to the deity for which he is acting as the agent.
Is such a position tenable, given the text of that verse?