A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. Numbers 24:17
William Shakespeare was a master of the insult, a “quality” that actor Barry Kraft adeptly leverages with his Shakespeare Insult Generator. The clever book consists of obscure insults drawn from Shakespeare’s plays. For instance, you might disparage someone by saying, “Thou thrasonical, logger-headed rampallian”—which is so much more creative than saying, “You brag a lot and you’re not very smart, you scoundrel!”
Kraft’s light-hearted book is in good fun. But an ancient king of Moab tried to pay a mysterious prophet not merely to insult the Israelites but to outright curse them. “Come and put a curse on these people,” King Balak told Balaam (Numbers 22:6). Instead, Balaam enraged the king by blessing the Hebrew people—multiple times (24:10). One of his blessings included this prophecy: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near” (24:17). Clearly the individual in view is not yet on the scene, but just who is Balaam talking about? The next line holds a clue. “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (v. 17). The “star” would one day lead wise men to the promised Child (Matthew 2:1–2).
An ancient Mesopotamian prophet who knew nothing of Messiah pointed the world to a future sign declaring His arrival. From an unlikely source came not cursing, but blessing.
How does Numbers 24 help you see the Christmas story differently? How might it change the way you act when you encounter people opposing the work of God?
God, please give me eyes to see Your hand at work in all things.
The English Bible follows the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) in calling this book “Numbers,” due to its emphasis on numbering the tribes and the soldiers of Israel. The Hebrew title of Old Testament books is usually based on the opening words of the book. Here, the Hebrew title is found in the fifth Hebrew word—which means “in the desert.” Moses is almost universally regarded as the author of this book and the rest of the opening five books of the Bible as well. The Bible Knowledge Commentary suggests that Numbers was written at the conclusion of the wilderness wanderings of Israel and prior to the repetition of the law of Sinai found in Deuteronomy based on the book’s final verse (Numbers 36:13): “These are the commands and regulations the Lord gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.”
Learn more about the documents that make up the Old and New Testaments.