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Jamie123

Balaam

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OK - First of all I'm not going to say anything about whether or not the donkey actually talked. That question's been done to death elsewhere, and if we concentrate on that we're bound to miss something else important.

What bothers me more is whether he was a good man or a bad man, or somewhere in between, and what we can base that information on.

Wikipedia has this to say about him:

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Though some sources may only describe the positive blessings he delivers upon the Israelites, he is reviled as a "wicked man" in both the Torah and the New Testament (2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11, Revelation 2:14).

Notice that all three references here are to the NT: where in the Torah is he identified as "wicked"?

OK: 2 Peter 2:15:

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They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong

Jude 1:11

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Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah’s rebellion.

Revelation 2:14

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But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication.

The first of these is very general, and can easily be squared with the OT story: it could simply refer to the fact that Balaam responded to Balak's offer of a reward. He refused to do anything that God forbade, but he was nevertheless motivated to use his prophetic powers for financial gain. He acted cautiously, but his heart was still in the wrong place.

The second is similar but a bit more specific, in that here Balaam dies in Kora's rebellion. That is not mentioned in the original story, which ends with Balaam's departure. So where did the idea come from? It seems unlikely to be an original revelation from God, since Jude is comparing the actions of Balaam to the way people of his own day were behaving. He would surely have used something his readers were familiar with to illustrate his point - not to confuse the issue by introducing new never-before-heard-of information.

The third is more specific still. Where in the OT does it tell us that Balaam taught Balak to make the Israelites sin? Certainly nowhere in the Torah***. Some may say "Well John was a 'revelator', so why shouldn't he be 'revelating' new facts?" But if so, how would the people of Pergamum already have heard of this "teaching" to follow it? Unless of course they were simply leading each other into sin and not associating what they were doing with Balaam - but again it would have made more sense for John to have compared their behaviour with something they already knew about, rather than choosing that moment to inject new information.

I can only suppose that a lot more was known about Balaam at the time than has actually made it into the Torah. For one thing, the book of Numbers introduces Balaam without even telling us properly who he is. It's as if he was already too well known to need much explanation. (An equivalent for us might be Merlin or Robin Hood or Paul Bunyan.) Perhaps there were lots of stories of Balaam - the mysterious sorcerer/prophet who could talk to his donkey, and that John and Jude are alluding to some of these.

*** OK I was wrong about this - as mordorbund and Scott pointed out, there's a reference to it in Numbers 31.

Edited by Jamie123
Wrong information

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1 hour ago, Jamie123 said:

The second is similar but a bit more specific, in that here Balaam dies in Kora's rebellion. That is not mentioned in the original story, which ends with Balaam's departure. So where did the idea come from? It seems unlikely to be an original revelation from God, since Jude is comparing the actions of Balaam to the way people of his own day were behaving. He would surely have used something his readers were familiar with to illustrate his point - not to confuse the issue by introducing new never-before-heard-of information.

The Torah says Balaam was slain in battle (Numbers 31). Verse 16 says what the offense was (although Balaam did not curse Israel, off-screen he advised Balak that the Lord's favor only works on principles of righteousness, so all blessings can be negated if they succumb to temptation - so feel free to tempt). As for the reference in Jude, it's not suggesting that Balaam (or Cain for that matter) died with Korah. It's saying that all 3 are guilty of the same sin of rebellion wrapped in righteousness. The 3 examples are used as a progression. Cain rebelled, Balaam compounded the error by profiting off of it, but (as with Korah) God will destroy them (can't use Balaam as the example unless Jude wants the church accused of assigning members to be "avenging angels" (danites) since he was killed by Israelite soldiers).

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2 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

 

Where in the OT does it tell us that Balaam taught Balak to make the Israelites sin? Certainly nowhere in the Torah.

The Torah and Old Testament does say that Balaam enticed the Israelites to sin.  It is in Numbers 31:16:

They were the same ones who were involved with the children of Israel on Balaam's advice to betray the Lord over the incident of Peor, resulting in a plague among the congregation of the Lord.   טזהֵ֣ן הֵ֜נָּה הָי֨וּ לִבְנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בִּדְבַ֣ר בִּלְעָ֔ם לִמְסָר־מַ֥עַל בַּֽיהֹוָ֖ה עַל־דְּבַ֣ר פְּע֑וֹר וַתְּהִ֥י הַמַּגֵּפָ֖ה בַּֽעֲדַ֥ת יְהֹוָֽה:

Old Testament KJV:

16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.

If you look up the matter of Peor, it is in previous chapters:

Numbers 25:1-5: 

1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.

2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.

3 And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.

4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.

5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.

So according to the OT and Torah (in chapter 31), it was Balaam who enticed the Israelites into worshipping Baal-peor, which led to a plague and the execution (of note, "hanging" in the OT was done by crucifixtion [the Romans weren't the first to do this] or impaling, not by rope) of many Isralites.  

In addition to the OT and Torah, the Tamud says specifically that Balaam was wicked.

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1 hour ago, mordorbund said:

The Torah says Balaam was slain in battle (Numbers 31). Verse 16 says what the offense was (although Balaam did not curse Israel, off-screen he advised Balak that the Lord's favor only works on principles of righteousness, so all blessings can be negated if they succumb to temptation - so feel free to tempt).

Wow - you're absolutely right! The reference is tucked away in Chapter 31 - a good 5 chapters on from where the Peor incident is described (which does not mention Balaam's part in it at all!) No one could say that the Bible is especially well organized!

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1 minute ago, Scott said:

The Torah and Old Testament does say that Balaam enticed the Israelites to sin.  It is in Numbers 31:16:

Yeah - mordorbund pointed that out too. 

2 minutes ago, Scott said:

So according to the OT and Torah (in chapter 31), it was Balaam who enticed the Israelites into worshipping Baal-peor, which led to a plague and the execution (of note, "hanging" in the OT was done by crucifixtion [the Romans weren't the first to do this] or impaling, not by rope) of many Isralites. 

Jewish crucifiction? That's interesting! Where did you get this information from?

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2 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

Jewish crucifiction? That's interesting! Where did you get this information from?

Archeological studies, Biblical analysis, historical records, and other writings (both Hebrew and non-Hebrew) indicate that the Hebrews and Persians (as far as known, the Persians were the first to do this) used crucifixtion (and impaling) as a form of punishment when displaying the body as a deterrent was done. The Bible implies this as well.

For a standard execution during OT times, according to Rabbinical law the methods used were beheading, burning, stoning, and strangling.

If the Hebrews wanted to display the bodies, it was done by impaling or crucifixtion.  Those words weren't used though since the word crucify was translated from Greek which wasn't used in the Old Testament.  The English translations of the Bible use the words hung on a tree as crufixtion.

So getting back to the Bible and where it is implied, see Galatians 3:13:

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
 

Notice that it says that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law since he was made a curse by being the one who hung on a tree.  Hangeth from a tree is used as a term for crucifixtion. 


Notice also that it says for it is written. So where was a written and do we have a record of it?  Yes we do.  See Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

22 ¶ And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:

23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God; that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Notice that Paul in Galatians uses the phrase that Jesus became a curse because he was hung on a tree.  The words hangeth on a tree were used in the place of crucifixtion.  Paul also says that it was previously written that everyone who dies in the same manner was cursed.   The same phrases were used in the Old Testament such as in the above scripture in Deuteronomy.

All archeological/written evidence found so far as least indicates that the words hung used in the Old Testament indicate impalings or crucifictions rather than what we think of today as hangings.  Thus far there has been a lot of evidence pointing towards impalings and forms of crucifixtions during Old Testament times, but none towards hanging as lynching. In the New Testament, the suicide of Judas Iscariot seems to point towards a roped hanging (Matthew 27:5), but this isn't certain since Acts 1:18-19 seems to indicate a different method of death:

18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

Anyway, back to the OT, it is believed that scriptures such as the one in Deuteronomy refer to crucifixtions (or a form thereof-exact methods are not known) and scriptures such as 2 Samuel 21:6 refer to impalings:

Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord did choose. And the king said, I will give them.

(Of note some versions of the Bible even use the words impale rather than hang in the above verse).

Concerning the Hebrews/Jews closer to Christ and Roman times, it is also known that the the king of Judea, the Jewish King Alexander Jannaeus (the second Hasmonean king) crucified 800 people around 88 BC, which helped lead up to the Judean Civil War.  This is recorded in historic sources such as the Jewish War and the Antiquites of the Jews.  

See here if you want to read more since the souced book is now out of print and very expensive:


https://books.google.com/books?id=pbpSjsz_uY8C&pg=PA46#v=onepage&q&f=false

image.png.ade581275fa33fb362098a882f8a1b1a.png

During the Feast of the Tabernacles, where 6000 total people were killed, though many, but not all were crucified.  See here for a pretty good summary of the killings at the Feast of the Tabernacles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Jannaeus#Feast_of_Tabernacles

During the Jewish holiday Sukkot, Alexander Jannaeus, while officiating as the High Priest at the Temple in Jerusalem, demonstrated his displeasure against the Pharisees by refusing to perform the water libation ceremony properly: instead of pouring it on the altar, he poured it on his feet. The crowd responded with shock at his mockery and showed their displeasure by pelting him with etrogim (citrons). They made the situation worse by insulting him. They called him a descendant of the captives and unsuitable to hold office and to sacrifice. Outraged, he killed six thousand people. Alexander also had wooden barriers built around the altar and the temple preventing people from going near him. Only the priest were permitted to enter. This incident during the Feast of Tabernacles was a major factor leading up to the Judean Civil War.

So, yes crucifixtion existed long before Roman times and during Biblical times, including among the Hebrews/Jews.

Concening impalement used by the Hebrews, such as used by King David in 2 Samuel 21:6, that wasn't a pleasant way to go either. 

It has been used as a punishment for centuries.

Image result for impalements

Related image

It wasn't a quick death.  It was a long and drawn out process.  Usually for males, a sharpened stake was inserted into the anus.  For females, it was the vagina.   Over a long period of time, the persons own body weight would slowly cause the stake to pentrate the body until it came out the throat, mouth, or neck.   The time that it took to die was several days and sometimes over a week.  

This might be getting off topic here and there is a lot to say, so if anyone really is interested in more discussion, perhaps a second thread is in order?

Edited by Scott

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