God tells Balaam that he should not go with Balak’s men, that he should not curse Israel, and that Israel is blessed.
Balaam doesn’t pass on the whole message. Balak does not want to hear that Israel is blessed and that Balaam won’t curse them. Balaam just says that he can’t go with them back to Balak. It’s as if Balaam thinks he can manipulate the situation. Remember, he doesn’t know the God of Israel, the unchanging God of Israel. He knows the petty gods of the nations who act like humans.
Balak tries again and offers Balaam more. Balaam tries again. He’s not standing on God’s Word. He didn’t believe God’s Word that he couldn’t curse Israel because they were blessed. Now, I recommend reading verse twenty in the King James or New King James version. I know of other passages where I believe that is the translation that gets the “If” statement right, while other translations manipulate what the Hebrew says.
The KJV says, “If the men come to call you, go with them.” There are other translations that say, “Since they called you, go with them.” Only the first translation makes sense to me because of what follows. Balaam rises and goes with them. Then it says that God is angry because He went. We know God is not fickle. We know that God isn’t wishy-washy about what He wants. We know that God is just.
How could He be angry with Balaam for obeying His direct order? Does that sound right? It doesn’t sound right to me. I think the Scripture says, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them.” And Balaam doesn’t wait for the condition to be met.
Balaam doesn’t wait to see if God’s going to arrange for Balaam to go by having the men come and call him in the morning. He doesn’t want to wait on God. He doesn’t trust that God is going to decide the way Balaam wants, and Balaam takes matters into his own hands. He decides to get up and go with them, still not sharing the whole truth about Israel, believing that he might manipulate and control the situation for his gain.
Another little side note: In the coming verses, we’ll also read that God calls Balaam “perverse.” So even if you want to accept a different translation for verse 20, we know Balaam’s heart is warped in what he’s really desiring.