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"Balaam and Judas"
Parallel Lives of the New Testament
Part 5 of 12
Clarence E. Macartney
Balaam is one of those wandering stars of whom Jude
speaks in his brief, but volcanic Epistle. There is no
doubt that he was a star; nor is there any doubt that
he was also a wandering star, quenched in darkness.
His history is such that it could hardly have been
forgotten, even had there been no New Testament
references to him. But Peter, Jude, and John, all
refer to him and hold him up as a warning to
He is a wandering star; and how difficult it is to
follow him in his wandering. A strange, complex,
contradictory, paradoxical character he is. But so is
every man; and how strange are the devious courses of
every human heart. The heart of man is deceitful above
all else. Who can know it? Balaam is undoubtedly one
of the greatest geniuses of the Bible. He hailed the
future of Israel with some of the most magnificent and
most familiar prophecies of the Scriptures. The lips
of the devout and faithful will repeat them to the end
of time: "God is not a man that He should lie; neither
the son of man, that He should repent." "Let me die
the death of the righteous, and let my last end be
like his." "I shall see Him, but not now: I shall
behold Him, but not nigh; there shall come a Star out
of Jacob and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel."
These prophecies tower like mountains among the Psalms
and predictions of the Bible. Yet Peter writes of the
"madness of the prophet," and Jude of the "error of
Balaam," and John of the "doctrine of Balaam." The two
verses which compass the history of Balaam are these:
"Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last
end be like his." . . . "Balaam, also, the son of
Beor, they slew with the sword." His prayer tells us
the kind of death he wanted to die; but the record in
the Book of Numbers tells us of the wretched death
which he did d ...
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