Lesson 66: Numbers 22–29

“Lesson 66: Numbers 22–29,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 66,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 66

Numbers 22–29


After the Israelites defeated the Amorites, the king of Moab (Balak) was afraid the Israelites would destroy his nation as well. Balak asked a prophet named Balaam to curse the Israelites. However, the Lord directed Balaam not to curse the Israelites, so Balaam blessed them instead. Later, Balaam disobeyed the Lord and taught Balak that he could weaken the Israelites by enticing them to commit sin. The Israelites who committed serious sin and turned from the Lord were slain. The Lord then instructed Moses to set Joshua apart to lead Israel.

Suggestions for Teaching

Numbers 22

Balak offers riches and popularity to Balaam if he will curse the Israelites

Before class, place a picture of the Savior at the front of the room. Then position two long pieces of tape about three feet apart and parallel to each other on the floor (so they look like a path that leads to the picture of the Savior).

Begin class by pointing out the picture and the pieces of tape. Explain that the space between the pieces of tape represents the path back to God. Invite a student to stand on the path. Explain that this student represents all of us as we seek to return to God. Then ask the following questions (you may want to write these questions on the board before class):

  • What tactics does Satan use to entice us to get off the path that leads back to God?

  • What are some practices that would help us stay on the path back to God?

Ask the student to return to his or her seat. Invite the class to look for principles that will help them answer these questions as they study Numbers 22–25.

Summarize Numbers 22:1–6 by explaining that after the Israelites defeated the Amorites, the king of Moab (Balak) was afraid of the Israelites. Balak decided to ask a prophet named Balaam to curse the Israelites. Invite students to read Numbers 22:6 silently and look for why Balak asked Balaam to curse the Israelites. Invite them to report what they find.

Invite a student to read Numbers 22:7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Balak tried to convince Balaam to curse the Israelites. (You may need to explain that “the rewards of divination” refers to at least a portion of the payment the king had prepared for Balaam.)

Summarize Numbers 22:8–11 by explaining that after the leaders of Moab and Midian had delivered Balak’s message, the Lord came to Balaam and spoke to him.

Invite students to read Numbers 22:12–13 silently, looking for what God told Balaam not to do.

  • What did God tell Balaam not to do?

  • According to verse 13, how did Balaam respond to the leaders Balak had sent?

Invite a student to read Numbers 22:15–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what King Balak did after Balaam refused his offer.

  • According to verse 15, whom did King Balak send to deliver his message to Balaam?

  • What did King Balak offer Balaam?

  • What truths about how the adversary entices us to sin can we learn from the methods Balak used to entice Balaam to disobey the Lord? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but make sure it is clear that the adversary sometimes uses promises of riches, popularity, and worldly status to entice us to commit sin.)

To help students understand this truth, ask them what unrighteous actions they have seen people do or heard of people doing to gain riches, popularity, or other things that may lead to pleasure. You may want to list their comments on the board.

  • How might the adversary use riches or popularity to distract youth from missionary service? How might riches or popularity distract someone from getting married or having children? (Consider asking additional questions that may be relevant.)

Invite a student to read Numbers 22:18–22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Balaam responded to Balak’s second offer.

  • How did Balaam respond?

  • Why do you think Balaam sought the Lord’s counsel a second time after having already received instruction not to go with Balak’s men?

Explain that the Joseph Smith Translation changes the phrase “rise up, and go with them” in Numbers 22:20 to “rise up, if thou wilt go with them” (italics added). In other words, God was making Balaam responsible for the decision whether to follow God or to go with the princes of Moab.

Point out the phrase “God’s anger was kindled because he went” in verse 22.

  • Why do you think God was angry when Balaam went with the princes of Moab?

Divide students into small groups. Ask them to read Numbers 22:22–34 together, looking for what happened to Balaam because he ignored God’s instructions and warnings and went with King Balak’s men. After sufficient time, ask students to explain what happened to Balaam.

  • What can we learn from Balaam’s experience about what can happen to us when we ignore the Lord’s instructions and warnings? (As students share the principles they have identified, emphasize the following truth: We put ourselves in danger when we ignore the Lord’s instructions and warnings. Consider writing this principle on the board.)

Remind students of the tape on the floor representing the straight and narrow path that we must follow to return to Heavenly Father. Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a few ways they can avoid danger and have the spiritual strength to stay on the straight path that leads back to Heavenly Father. Invite a few students who are willing to share what they wrote.

  • How do you think Balaam put himself in danger by ignoring the Lord’s warning? What possible danger could come to others because of Balaam’s disobedience?

Ask students to think about situations when the Lord gave a warning to them or someone they know. Invite them to ponder what happened when they or the person they know either ignored the warning or obeyed it. You might consider sharing an experience or inviting a few students to share one.

Encourage students to exercise their faith to obey instructions and warnings from the Lord so they can avoid putting themselves in danger.

Summarize Numbers 22:35–41 by explaining that the angel told Balaam he could continue his journey to see Balak but was to speak only the words the Lord told him to speak. When Balaam arrived in Balak’s kingdom, the king again promised Balaam wealth and popularity if he would curse Israel. The next day Balak took Balaam to see the encampment of the children of Israel.

Numbers 23–24

Balaam blesses Israel and prophesies of the coming of the Savior

Summarize Numbers 23 by explaining that King Balak asked Balaam to curse the Israelites, but Balaam blessed them instead.

Invite a student to read Numbers 24:10–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how King Balak responded after Balaam blessed the children of Israel.

  • What did King Balak say Balaam had lost because he had chosen to obey the Lord?

  • How is King Balak’s response similar to what Satan does to tempt us?

  • According to verses 12–13, how did Balaam respond to King Balak?

Summarize Numbers 24:14–25 by explaining that before Balaam left King Balak, Balaam prophesied that the children of Israel would eventually rule over the Moabites. He also prophesied that the Savior would one day come from the house of Israel.

Numbers 25

Israelites who commit serious sins are slain

Ask students if they have ever read a story that had a surprise ending. Invite a few students to share examples with the class. Explain that the account of Balaam and King Balak has an unanticipated ending. Ask students to explain how they think the account might end.

Invite a student to read Numbers 25:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what happened when the children of Israel came to Moab, Balak’s kingdom. (To help students understand verse 3, point out footnote a and explain that Israel gathered with the people of Moab at a place called Peor to worship a false god.)

  • What did some of the Israelites do when they came to Moab?

Invite a student to read Revelation 2:14 aloud. Explain that this verse adds detail about Balaam’s interactions with King Balak. Ask the class to follow along and look for an insight into what happened to bring about the events described in Numbers 25:1–3.

  • According to this passage in Revelation, what did Balaam teach Balak to do? Is this how you expected this account to end? Why or why not?

  • Why would worshipping false gods and committing sexual sin be a stumbling block for the Israelites?

  • What principles can we learn from this account about how sin affects us? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: Sin stops us from progressing spiritually and causes us to lose God’s protection and power. Write this truth on the board.)

Explain that King Balak enticed the Israelites to commit sin because he knew that without the Lord’s power they would not be able to successfully conquer his kingdom.

  • How is this similar to Satan’s tactics?

Ask students to ponder what behaviors or attitudes may be stumbling blocks in their lives right now. Testify that if they have left the straight and narrow path and stumbled over sin, they can repent and return to the path. Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how the truth written on the board can help them stay on the path that leads back to their Heavenly Father.

Summarize Numbers 25:4–18 by explaining that the Lord instructed Moses that the children of Israel who had turned to idol worship were to be slain.

Numbers 26–29

The children of Israel are numbered again, and Moses sets Joshua apart to lead Israel

Summarize Numbers 26–29 by explaining that the men of Israel who were at least 20 years old were numbered again. Only Caleb and Joshua remained from the group of men who had been numbered at Sinai. Moses was told that he would not enter the promised land (see Numbers 27:12–14; see also Deuteronomy 3:26–29; 4:21; 32:48–52; D&C 84:23–25). The Lord directed Moses to call Joshua and set him apart to lead Israel. You may want to suggest that students mark Numbers 27:18–20, which describes how Moses set Joshua apart.

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths taught in today’s lesson. Encourage students to apply what they have learned so they can remain on the path that will lead them back to their Heavenly Father.

Commentary and Background Information

Numbers 22:5–6. Who was Balaam?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles commented on the account of Balaam in the article “The Story of a Prophet’s Madness” (New Era, Apr. 1972, 4–7). Elder McConkie discussed how, in this true account, a righteous man tried to serve both the God of heaven and his lust for wealth and the honors of men. In the end, the prophet Balaam lost his soul because he set his heart on the things of this world rather than the riches of eternity.

Numbers 22:28. “And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass”

“The rebuke received by Balaam from an animal wrought upon by the Spirit of God is a singular event in history. Speculation on how the deed was accomplished is useless. It is certain that the beast spoke in a way understandable to Balaam. Other scriptures indicate that when animals are filled with the divine Spirit and celestialized, they will be able to express themselves in ways presently denied them (see Revelation 4:6, 9D&C 77:2–4). Balaam is not recorded as showing surprise at this phenomenon, which circumstance has led some to suggest that Balaam’s mind was troubled because of his attempt to serve both God and mammon. Had he been more thoughtful, the unusual behavior of his otherwise obedient mount would have caused him to look about to discover the trouble. Then perchance he would have discovered the angel’s presence” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 209–10).

Numbers 24:17. “Star out of Jacob”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the importance of the Savior being the “Star out of Jacob”:

“‘In figurative language, the spirit hosts in pre-existence are referred to as the stars of heaven.’ (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., pp. 765–66.) The morning stars who joined with all the sons of God when the foundations of the earth were laid were the noble and preeminent spirits. As the Star who came out of Jacob, Christ is thus the most outstanding one of all the hosts of that unnumbered house” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 182).