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On the following morning Balaam gave the elders of Moab his answer, saying that he would not follow Balak's call, but not betraying to them the truth, that God hat forbidden him to curse Israel. He said instead, "God said to me, 'Go not with these men, for that would be beneath thy dignity, but await nobler ambassadors.'" [732] Balaam's plan was to insult Balak, so that he should send no further messengers to him, and no one might discover that he could accomplish nothing beyond the word of God. His expectations, however, were disappointed. The ambassadors in their turn, not quite painstaking in their representation of the truth, told their king that Balaam considered it beneath his dignity to appear in their escort, making no mention of God, but speaking as if the refusal came simply and exclusively from Balaam. [733]

Balak thereupon sent more honorable ambassadors to Balaam, until he was at last obliged to admit that he could undertake nothing against God's command. Even then, it is true, he did not admit that his acceptance or refusal of Balak's invitation depended entirely upon God, but declared that he could, if he wished, do as he chose, but did not choose to transgress God's prohibition. In his second embassy Balak promised Balaam more for his service than he had offered him the first time. Balaam's answer was as follows: "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God." These words characterize the man, who had three bad qualities: a jealous eye, a haughty spirit, and a greedy soul. His jealousy was the reason why he wanted to curse Israel, whom he envied for their good fortune; in his haughtiness, he told the first messengers the falsehood that God would not let him go with them because it would be beneath his dignity; and his avarice was expressed in his answer to the second embassy in which he not only surreptitiously mentioned Balak's gold and silver, but spoke his mind by explaining to them that their master could not adequately compensate him for his service, saying, "If Balak were to hire hosts against Israel, his success would still be doubtful, whereas he should be certain of success if he hired me!"

He did not, however, give even the second embassy a decisive answer, but said to them also, "I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Now therefore I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will speak unto me more." These words of his held unconscious prophecies: "I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord," was as much as to say that he could not put the blessings of God to Israel to naught. "Tarry ye also here this night," contained the prophecy that this second embassy would be as much disappointed as the first, for although Balaam accompanied the second messengers, still he had no power to curse Israel, but only to bless them. Finally, the words, "What the Lord will speak unto me more," held a prediction that God would bestow even more benedictions upon the Israelites through him.

"God permits man to go upon the way he chooses to go." When God appeared to Balaam the first time he said to him, "Thou shalt not go with them;" but when Balaam still did not relinquish his desire to go to Balak, God would not interfere. Hence, at His second appearance, God said to Balaam, "If the men be come to call thee, rise up, go with them; but only the word which I speak unto thee, that shalt thou do." [734]

"Audacity prevails even before God." Balaam's steadfast insistence upon his wish wrested from God his consent to Balaam's journey to Moab. [735] He warned him of its consequences, saying to him: "I take no pleasure in the destruction of sinners, but if thou are bound to go to thy destruction, do so! Whosoever leads righteous men astray upon an evil way, will fall into the ditch of his own digging!" Balaam was misled by God's behavior toward him, and thus plunged into destruction. When God first appeared to him and asked him, "What men are these with thee?" this blasphemer thought: "God know them not. It seems clear that there are times when He is not aware of what goes on, and I shall now be able to do with His children as I wish." Balaam was misled by God because he had with his words seduced to unchastity people who had up to his time lived in purity. [736] God's apparent change of decision, that first prohibited him from going to Balak, and then permitted him to do so, completely bewildered him, so that he thought, "God at first said to me, 'Go thou not with them,' but the second time He said, 'Go with them.' So too will He change His words, 'Curse them not,' into 'Curse them.'" Just as Balaam was confused by God, so too were the magicians that Balak had sent to him. At the first visit these had through their magic lore established that he would accept Balak's invitation, but God made him decline it; at the second time, on the other hand, they established that he would not accept the invitation, and God made him obey their summons. [737]

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