New King James Version Numbers 23

5Then the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” 6So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab.

Inspired by the Lord, Balaam uttered an oracle:

7And he took up his oracle and said:

“Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram,
From the mountains of the east.
‘Come, curse Jacob for me,
And come, denounce Israel!’

8“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?
And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
9For from the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him;
There! A people dwelling alone,
Not reckoning itself among the nations.

10“Who can count the dust of Jacob,
Or number one-fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,
And let my end be like his!”

At the end of the oracle, he prophecied his righteous death.

Joshua 13:22 recorded his death:

The children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer, among those who were killed by them.

Did Balaam die a righteous death? Was the oracle concerning his death fulfilled according to the inspiration of the Lord?

3 Answers 3


As Dottard already mentioned, the text does not say explicity, but I think, to answer the question, the implications offer a resounding "no", despite his petition to the LORD.

First, recall that when Balaam met the Angel of the LORD on the road, the Angel met him with sword drawn and said "I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me". The text tells us that the LORD was wroth with Balaam, and sent His Angel to resist, perhaps even to slay, him.

Let us then remember it was merely a petition to God from Balaam, not a promise from God to Balaam.

Third, Numbers 31 begins with the LORD commanding Moses to take vengeance upon the Midianites for what they instigated against Israel at Baal Peor:

Numbers 31:1-2 (NIV),

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites..."

Balaam was slain during this vengeance, as it reads in Numbers 31:7-8 (NIV),

7 They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man. 8 Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.

Balaam was not merely accidentally killed in the skirmish, but was targeted. How do we know?

When the Israelites who raided the Midianites came back with women and children alive from the battle, Moses, Eleazar, and the other leaders of the people were furious, and say the following:

Numbers 31:15-16 (NIV),

15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people.

Baal Peor is perhaps the greatest stain on the history of the nation of Israel according to the Tanakh.

Not only do we have the record of the incident that took place there (Numbers 25:1-5), we also have the residual references afteward, including:

Deuteronomy 4:3 (NIV),

3 You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor...

Psalm 106:28 (NIV),

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods

Hosea 9:10 (NIV),

10 “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your ancestors, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.

So, for the next nearly thousand plus years, Israel is still being reminded of the utter reproach they suffered at Baal Peor, because of how Balaam, (after his prayer in which he petitions for a righteous death, no less), cast a stumbling block before Israel.

In fact, Balaam is never regarded as righteous, but rather, in the Tanakh, always as a soothsayer, or someone who practiced divination, which eventually became a capital offense in Israel (1 Samuel 28:9).

In the New Covenant Scriptures, Balaam is called a prophet, but described as ""insane". In Revelation, the Lord Jesus brings up Balaam and castigates the church at Pergamum for following a teaching originally ascribed to him (See: Revelation 2:12-14).

It seems then to me, that the testimony against Balaam is secure. He was an unrighteous madman who got what he deserved.


We are not told, explicitly, the answer to this question but let me summarize what is known and recorded.

Balaam uttered seven prophecies about Israel, some with obvious Messianic content:

  1. Num 23:7-10
  2. Num 23:18-24
  3. Num 24:3-9
  4. Num 24:15-9
  5. Num 24:20
  6. Num 24:21, 22
  7. Num 24:23, 24

Balak's attempt, using a prophet to curse Israel, had failed. So they resorted to idolatry and prostitution with Moab and Midian (Num 25) which succeeded. According to Micah 6:5, it was probably as a result of Balaam's suggestion that Balak and their women did as was recorded in Num 25.

The next time Balaam is mentioned is in Num 31:8 (repeated in Josh 13:22) that Balaam was executed along with other pagan people, specifically, the Midianites because of their pagan practices.

Thus, it appears that Balaam, despite his inspired messages, still wanted the rich rewards offered by Balak. Note the comments of Ellicott from his comments in Num 31:8 -

Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.—The death of Balaam by the sword of the Israelites presents a strange and instructive contrast to the prayer which he uttered that he might die the death of the righteous (Numbers 23:10). Few of the ancient prophecies are more remarkable, as Bishop Wordsworth has observed, than those of Balaam for “spirituality of conception and sublimity of expression.” And if, as some think, we are to understand Micah 6:8 as containing the actual words which were addressed by Balaam to Balak, few men possessed a clearer perception of moral truth than that which is expressed in the words, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? “And yet, notwithstanding the light which Balaam possessed, the sublimity of the prophecies which he uttered, and the purity of the motives by which he professed to be actuated, he “loved the wages of unrighteousness,” and gave himself up to do Satan’s bidding in “casting a stumbling-block before the children of Israel,” and miserably perished amongst the enemies of God and of His people. Bishop Wordsworth draws a striking and instructive contrast between Balaam and Moses, both of whom had visions of Christ and prophesied of Him, whilst one loved the wages of unrighteousness, and the other did all for God’s glory.


No. Those were words that God forced into his mouth and not something that Balaam personally agreed with, based on his prior background.

" Then the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth"-Numbers 23:5

The purpose of this is to show that God can subvert and make a fool out of evil people (Deuteronomy 23:5, Nehemiah 13:2).

One way to do that is to have them act like a good guy in front of bad guys.

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