Through literary apologetics, this four-part series examines one of the more difficult passages in which to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of love, namely Numbers 31:13-18, which records the mass killing of Midianites including baby boys. As mentioned before, I find this particular passage abhorrent; however, after researching the cultural context, I do recognize that the blame is on the parents of the orphaned boys, not on God or Moses. It is not my intent to treat this subject matter lightly, or even make you like this passage. My only hope is for others who struggle with this passage to see God’s mercy in the situation.
Each part of this series includes excerpts from the literary apologetics novel, Prophecy of the Heir, which covers these events. Please note that Prophecy of the Heir is written as a fantasy novel from the viewpoints of angels and demons, predominately Michael the archangel’s. For your convenience, I have created a brief glossary of terms which will open in a new window, allowing you to switch back and forth at your leisure.
Historical Background: The Israelites had been wandering around the wilderness for the past 400 years. They are now ready to receive the land that God has promised them, but to several countries lie in the way. They have written to the kings of these lands requesting save passage, and vowing to neither eat from their crops, nor drink from the wells. Two of the kings refused, and launched an army against them. Both armies were defeated. When the third king, Balak, heard of this, he summoned a sorcerer from Babylon to put a curse on the Israelites, ensuring they would be slaughtered in the battle he prepared to launch against them. In part one of this series, we saw how Balaam was warned by the Angel of the Lord to not curse the Israelites, to which he reluctantly agreed. In part two, we saw Balaam leave with the king’s men, and again encounter the Angel of the Lord who suspected Balaam would not honor his word. Though he was prepared to kill Balaam, he spared him on the condition that Balaam speak only what God allowed him to.
Part Three: The Curse of Balaam
Michael shifted impatiently as he scanned the distant mountains for any sign of the Prince. He’d been gone several weeks, far longer than necessary to prevent a mortal’s coming.
A voice spoke in his ear. “The sorcerer approaches.”
Michael whirled, but there was no one.
“I thought you left to stop him from coming.”
The Prince materialized beside him, staring straight ahead. “There was a slight quandary concerning his donkey.”
Michael blinked, but suppressing a smirk, refrained from commenting.
* * *
Smoke furled from seven altars. Balaam and the king of Moab gazed down at the Jacovite encampment in the valley. Chemosh and a cohort of Shaityrim surrounded them, and Michael longed for the warlord to instigate a fight.
Balak sniffed at the aroma of roasted rams and bulls, and waved his hand impatiently. “You have offered him the sacrifices you said would appease him,” he said to Balaam. “Now curse them, as I have hired you to do.”
Balaam shifted nervously. “Yes, Your Majesty, but as I’ve told you, I can say only what my lord Elyon allows.”
The sorcerer disappeared into a nearby grove of trees to perform his summoning ritual, and Chemosh moved towards Michael.
“At last, we meet again,” the warlord said. “I have forgotten neither you, nor the vanquishing of my warrior, nor the destruction of my five cities. I made you an oath when we last spoke―an oath I intend to fulfill.”
Hoping Chemosh would draw his sword, Michael kept his expression impassive.
“He will light his candles and burn his incense,” Chemosh said. “And when he returns, he will curse your king’s precious people, and then I will do to them what you did to mine.”
Michael closed his eyes, willing the Shaityr to attack. He imagined the malevolent varlet infuriated by his blinded stance and insulted by his lack of fear. He hoped he hadn’t imagined the faint ring of a sword leaving its sheath.
Steel clashed against steel.
Michael opened his eyes, and, with a sharp arc of his blade, forced the stunned warlord’s sword lower. Before either could retaliate further, Balaam emerged from the grove of trees.
With a grim expression, the sorcerer stood on the edge of the cliff and shouted to the encampment below. “How can I curse those whom Jehuva Elyon has not cursed? How can I condemn those whom he has not condemned? No curse can touch them; no magick can be wielded against them.”
Chemosh’s eyes widened in rage and fear.
Balak growled in shock. “I ordered you to curse them, not bless them!”
“I told you,” Balaam said through gritted teeth. “I can say only what Elyon tells me.”
To allay Balaam’s superstitions, Balak ordered the entire procession to another cliff. Seven more bulls and rams were sacrificed, but Balaam returned from consulting the Prince and blessed them yet again.
Chemosh’s fear mounted. He would have to give account not only to Marduk, but to the dark lord himself. “Curse them, you fool!” he shouted at Balaam. “Curse them!”
Consumed with the gold he’d forfeited, Balaam followed Balak to yet another cliff.
“You will pay for this!” Chemosh hissed at Michael.
Before Michael could stop him, the warlord lunged for Balaam, dematerializing into his body. Knowing Chemosh intended to invoke a curse through possession, Michael drew his sword, but hesitated, fearing an attack would kill the mortal.
A rush of wind whipped Michael’s hair, and he turned to see the Shekinah soaring up the mountainside.
Able to see the luminous dove, the possessed Balaam was so mesmerized by it that he failed to step aside, even as it flew straight towards him and disappeared into his being.
Screaming in pain, Chemosh was thrust from the mortal.
King Elyon’s voice thundered from the sorcerer’s lips, reverberating off the mountains and across the valley. “How beautiful are the sacred people of Elyon. Their king will be greater than any other; their kingdom exalted above all nations. Blessed is the one who blesses them; cursed is the one who curses them.”
Balak erupted in rage. “Flee to your home, without honor and without riches! For it is this Elyon whom you serve, who has withheld your honor from you!”
The dove flew from Balaam and soared back into the royal tent. Still stunned from the Shekinah’s possession, the sorcerer turned to Balak. “Elyon has shown me a vision,” he said. “I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. In the distant future, a star shall rise from the House of Jacov; a scepter from amongst the sacred people. He will crush the heads of the nations against him. Alas, who can survive unless Elyon allows it?”
Balak’s eyes bulged. “Get out of my sight!”
Fear and hate etched Chemosh’s face. “I swear to you, Michael, when I am through with the Habiru, you will wish he had cursed them!”
* * *
Chemosh’s scream of rage echoed across the terrace above his temple in Moab. His fists clenched. Word of the sorcerer’s botched curse attempt would spread quickly, and though not his blunder, Chemosh knew the blame would fall on him.
“Do not fail. Do not fail,” he said, mimicking Marduk’s words. “Perhaps I wouldn’t have failed had your imbecile sorcerer performed as ordered!”
Across the city, a dejected Balaam tethered his donkey in a stable beside a local inn. Chemosh scowled, and pounded the terrace rail, then stormed into the citadel, enraged that Marduk had gotten him into this predicament.
He scored the conference table with his knife, then stabbed it with all his might. “Michael will pay!”
“Don’t be a fool.”
Startled, Chemosh looked up as his commander stepped from the shadows.
“You could never defeat Michael,” Marduk said. “From what I heard, he fought you with his eyes closed.”
Indignation compounded Chemosh’s fear, but he suppressed a retort.
Marduk withdrew the knife from the table and ran his fingers across the blade. “Besides,” he said. “Michael is mine.”
* * *
Passing through the walls of the local inn, Chemosh found an infuriated Balaam drinking away his rage against both Balak and Elyon.
“This Elyon you serve―rather merciless, is he not?” Chemosh whispered to his mind. “Didn’t you do what he commanded? And yet he does not reward you?”
Balaam snorted in disgust and tipped back his goblet, then shouted to the inn keeper for another.
“Revenge,” Chemosh whispered. “Seek revenge against Elyon and his sacred people!”
An attentive look crept over the sorcerer’s face, and Chemosh knew his words had penetrated the sorcerer’s thoughts.
“You know Elyon’s protection of the Habiru is conditional upon their loyalty,” he continued. “Without his protection, they are in effect cursed, and thus vulnerable in battle, which is all Balak desires―entitling you to your money.”
A grin spread over Balaam’s face, and Chemosh leaned forward, whispering the rest of Marduk’s plan to the sorcerer’s mind.
Prophecy of the Heir. Volume I, Book 1 of The Chronicles of Time. Chapter 6, Dunes of the Damned. Crimson Moon Press. 2nd Edition. 2014