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B'Midbar/Numbers 22:13 And Bil'am arose in the morning and he said to the princes of Balak ...
This verse comes almost at the end of the first visit of Balak's representatives to Bil'am to ask him to come to Moab and curse the people of Israel so that the king of Moab might defeat them and drive them out of his land. Unlike a similar phrase, "And Avraham arose early in the morning" from B'resheet 22:3, which uses the verb , to get up early, and is usually for the purpose of making an early start on a journey (cf. Y'hoshua 8:14, Hoshea 6:4), the active verb here is , meaning arise or stand. Because of this, theRamban comments that Bil'am was very haughty with these messengers from Balak, implying that they were not worthy enough for him to go with them; the verb , according to Brown-Driver-Briggs, also being used to convey a hostile or sudden action, becoming powerful, appearing or becoming, as a preliminary to formal speech, or as a superior among inferiors. Bil'am's intent, according to Hirsch, was to imply that if higher ranking messengers were sent, with a suitable inducement, then he would come - although in fact it was HaShem who had specifically told Bil'am not to go with them or curse Israel (v12).
Yeshua taught about the way we speak when He said, "Let your 'Yes' be a simple 'Yes', and your 'No' be a simple 'No'" (Matthew 5:37, CJB). We should say what we mean and mean what we say, without implying or inferring more than our words convey, either in tone or body language. We should strive to be simple and straightforward in our speech, "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15, NASB), seeking to build up and encourage each other. For, as Yeshua said, "by your own words you will be acquitted and by your own words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:37, CJB) - and Bil'am's words of dishonesty led ultimately to his demise. (cf. B'Midbar 31:8, 16).
Although the L-rd clearly did speak through Bil'am, the Sages are unanimous in drawing a line between Bil'am and the prophets of Israel. They point to the different ways in which G-d speaks, the mannerisms and language employed, plus the conduct and behaviour of Bil'am, to show that although G-d did speak through Bil'am - even generating the blessing said each day when entering the synagogue: "Mah Tovu - How goodly are your tents, O Ya'akov" - it was not a happy relationship as Bil'am was not honest in speaking of his dependence on the L-rd, on later going against G-d's commands to give advice that led to many in Israel being seduced into idolatry. If we are not honest in our words, then we too will fall into error and will cause others to fall also.
Further Study: 1 Kings 22:11-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
Application: We are often unaware how much we communicate by our tone or body language as opposed to our words. Sometimes we convey a completely different message from the one that is coming out of our mouth - damaging or impairing the words of life that Yeshua has given us to say. Why not work on being consistent in our communication today ?
© Jonathan Allen, 2005
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