MESSIAH-3/How did Bilaam loose one eye?


© 2018 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner

Bilaam and the Messiah-3/

How did Bilaam loose One Eye?

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1. Blaam’s plan

The prophet knew that he would be given three opportunities to examine Israel,  whereby he would address the King Blalak’s three claims against Israel:

About Israel’s origin: are they what they claim to be, the legitimate descendants of the Patriarchs?

About their faith: Is Israel truthful to their faith as they claim? .

  About Israel’s  society: Can they be counted among the civilized world| as a nation?

Moreover, the Angel of YHVH had informed him via the she donkey that he would have to speak out only the  worlds that YHVH would place in his mouth, no different than the donkey.  Yet, like the she donkey, he would also be given three levels of freedom to deviate in his heart and curse Israel;Thus

In the first revelation (about their origin) he would be given much leeway to go right or left in his heart

In the second revelation (about their faith ) he would be given less leeway to deviate, and he might even crash his leg  or suffer a personal bodily damage

In the third and last revelation (about their society ) he would be given absolutely no leeway to go right or lleft,  back or forth.  His lips and heart would concur.

And yet, despite all these restrictions, he hoped he woudl finnd a fault in Israel’s defense and curse them in YHVH eyes.


2. Bilaam’s first revelation: Israel’s origin

 King Balak first took Prophet Bilaam to a low level hill, called the Baal Plateau, from where he would see only the “outskirt of Israel’s camp” as it says:

“And it came to pass on the morning
that Balak took Bilaam and brought him up
into the Baal Platforms (Bamot Baal.)
And he saw from there the outskirts of the people.”
(Numbers 22:41)

As an experienced prosecutor, King Balak knew that to taint a person or a nation one needs only to focus on a certain fault, however small, then magnify it in the court’s eyes. This strategy is easier than smearing a person as a whole.
This is why, the rabbis said, the wise king took the prophet to a low-level hill from where he could see only the outskirt of Israel’s camp.  Seeing their entire camp  would be overwhelming.

But there was another reason for checking Israel from that height. The name Baal Platforms says it all. The Canaanite deity Baal was the god of FERTILITY and PROCREATION.  Its worshipers indulged in sexual orgies and sacred prostitution (no wonder it was so popular.) From that ‘low height’ the prophet gazed at Israel’s ‘low part’ of the body, meaning: their procreation.

Now the prophet could address King Balak’s first accusation against Israel: their origin. Were they indeed what they claimed to be, the descendants of the patriarchs?

Invoking the Seven Commandments
Now the king offered seven sacrifices to YHVH on seven altars, thereby invoking Fthe seven Commandments of Noah. He adapted for a while a posture of piety.  The rabbis said that despite his past, his new posture was sincere. He would be nicely rewarded for it. .

Then the prophet walked away “shefi,” in subdued mode, into the field, not unlike his she-donkey had done on her first revelation. He stood alone, wrapped in sincere prayer, invoking Abraham’s submission (Numbers 23: 3). The prophet was a sincere Noahide.

His  prayer, the rabbis said, shattered the Heavenly Court.  Israel was in peril.  If he finds a blemish in their wayt of procreation, he would pierce their defense in YHVH eyes.

Indeed, ELKM appeared to him then YHVH.  He would be given words to say, but a leeway to scrutinize Israel in his heart. After returning  to King Balak altars, he began his prophecy.  First he uttered bombastic words of appraisal to the hosting king, then he said: :

“What shall I curse, that whom El did not curse?
Against whom would I express rage, whom YHVH did no express rage?
For from the top of the rocks I see him,
and from the hills I behold him,
It is a people that dwell alone,
and among the nations it is not reckoned.
(Numbers 23:9-10)

The simple explanation of his words is that he stood on rocks and hills to examine Israel’s camp.  But the name
of the place, the Baal Plateau, suggests that he observed Israel’s fertility mode.  And the word that YHVH placed in his mouth were clear: They were indeed the descendants of the patriarchs (rocks) and the mothers ’ Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah (hills). They were not a product of sexual abuse by their Egyptian masters. They were not aam, as King Balak had suggested.

How sure was he in the truthfulness of his words? he says: :

“Who can count the dust, afar, of Jacob,
and the number of the ‘fourth parts,’ rova, of Israel?”

Again, the simple explanation of those words is that he was impressed by their numbers (rova, quarter of their numbers.)  He saw only a quarter, so h knew how large their camps was.

But the rabbis had a better insight.  The prophet was impressed by Israel’s WAY OF PROCREATION (rova):
He was saying: Who can count the number of Israel’s young, circumcised lads ‘ofer’) who enter marriages in their virginity? Who can count the number of Israel’s young brides who enter their marriage in their virginity?
They are unlike any other nation on Earth!  Their sex life is pure! Therefore I know that they are indeed the descendants of the Patriarchs.

King Balak was not pleased. But the prophet didn’t budge. “As I’ve told you, I can say only what YHVH is saying to me.”  In his heart, though, he remembered  that the Angel of YHVH had given him a leeway to escape to the right or left when he had his first revelation. He still had a hope to find a blemish in Israel on that level of procreation.

3. Bilaam ’s second revelation: Israel’s Faith

Deeply frustrated, King Balak took Prophet Bilaam to a higher plateau, named “The Scouts’ Fields” (Numbers 24: 14.) From there the prophet saw a larger segment of Israel’s camp. and he scrutinized their faith.

The name “Scout’s Fields” tells it all.  Scouts cover their brows with their hands to see the horizon. Israel does the same when reciting the shama, saying that “YHVH Our ELKM, YHVH is One.”

After offering the seven sacrifices to YHVH, Billam had his second revelation.  This time about Israel’s faith.  Were they sincere as they claimed?

This time he also paid no attention to the king’s honor. The words of YHVH flew fluently from his mouth. He said: :

‘Rise up Balk and hear, give ear to me, you Son of Zippor!
E-L is not a man that He should be deceitful,
nor the son of man that He should relent,
Would He say and not do, or speak and not perform?”

“He had not behold iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen perverseness in Israel
YHVH, his ELoKiM, is with him,
and a trumpet blast of a King is with him…
Surely there is no divination in Jacob, nor sorcery in Israel…

Israel do not mix God with humans.  They do not believe in sorcery and divination, or in astrology.  They wake up in the morning to recite the Shma, and they lie down on their beds at night reciting the shema. They accept the yoke of G-d Kingship twice daily with no exception.  On Rosh Hashanah they blow the  trumpets and horns to announce YHVH Kingship and repent.  Yes, their faith is purse and true.

A proof for this interpretation? I the Second Temple time, 2200 years ago, the rabbis incorporate those very words of Bilaam in the Shema.  Later they took it out to shorten the daily prayer.

The king’s anger inflamed
King Balak became more furious with the prophet.  The prophet defended himself saying he had no choice, yet he remembered that the Angel of YHVH had left him a restricted room to deviate and curse Israel.  He still had his chance to find or create a fault in Israel.


4. How did the Prophet Bilaam loose one eye?

King Balak now took the prophet to the third, highest Plataea from where he would observe the entire camp of Israel,  Perhaps he would find a blemish here?

The prophet at that point was deeply disturbed.  He had exhausted the two opportunities he had been given to deviate and curse Israel, yet he had found no fault in them.  . He knew that in the next revelation he would have no choice but to say and think the same. And he did not know yet the purpose of all these worlds that he had been saying.  Where was the Heavenly Court leading him? .

Without any introductory worlds, the prophet ordered the king to build again the seven altars for YHVH at the new site, the Baal Peor.  He decided to follow, his time, the truth in his heart whatever and wherever it would lead him.

Standing on the highest level he watched Israel camp in its entirety. It was such a delight sight that the Spirit of ELKM descended pn him and he parable and said:     :

“This is the speech of a man whose one eye has been blocked
Who has fallen, with a vision….” (Numbers 24:3)

What happened to his eye? He explains this as follows:

“The words of the one who hears the saying of El 

who sees the vision of Shaday

while fallen and with uncovered eyes…” (24: 4)

He had lost an eye because of a vision. The Name Shaday represents G-d’s leadership as a provider.

The story goes like that: soon after his last, second revelation, just before speaking the third one on Israel’s society, he had a Vision in which he saw Shaday “examining people’s semen and eggs!”

This sight made him lough. “G-d,” he said, “what are you doing? Why are you engaged in such filthy work? what are you looking for in this semen? ”
But G-d did not lough back.  Instead, God said sincerely: “I’m looking for the drop, from which a righteous person would rise…”
“G-d, do you see such a drop somewhere?” Bilaam asked, still laughing.
“Yes, I do” G-d answered. Look, it is here! ” And He pointed at… King Balak!

This shocked the prophet so much he fell to the ground, as he attests himself.  As he fell, he also lost an eye, because of his laughter.

yet with his one remaining eye he could see more than other people see in both eyes.

And what he saw shocked him even more.

On that we\ll dwell next class.