“Unit 14: Day 1, Numbers 22–36,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 14: Day 1,” Old Testament Study Guide
After the Israelites defeated the Amorites, Balak, the king of Moab, was afraid the Israelites would destroy his nation as well. Balak asked a man named Balaam to curse the Israelites. However, the Lord directed Balaam not to curse the Israelites, so Balaam blessed them instead. Later, Balaam acted contrary to the Lord’s will and taught Balak that he could cause the Israelites to stumble by having them consume food offered to idols and by having the Midianite women entice them to commit abominable 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.
Consider what the following scenarios have in common:
A driver is about to turn onto a street when he notices a “Do Not Enter” sign hanging above the road.
A young woman is outside with her friends when an alarm sounds, indicating a severe storm is approaching.
A passenger on an airplane sees the “Fasten Seatbelts” sign come on and hears the captain announce the plane will be experiencing turbulence.
What do these three scenarios have in common? If you were in these situations, how would you respond to the instructions and warnings? What consequences might you experience based on how you choose to respond?
As you study Numbers 22–25, consider how you choose to respond to instructions and warnings.
In Numbers 22:1–11 we learn that Balak, the king of Moab, was afraid the Israelites would destroy his nation. To avoid being destroyed, Balak asked a prophet named Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam was “a prophet from Pethor by the Euphrates” (Bible Dictionary, “Balaam”).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles commented on how in this true account a righteous man tried to serve both the God of heaven and the “greed for wealth and lust for honor.” But “Balaam, the prophet, inspired and mighty as he once was, lost his soul in the end because he set his heart on the things of this world rather than the riches of eternity” (“The Story of a Prophet’s Madness,” New Era, Apr. 1972, 7).
After the leaders of Moab and Midian had delivered King Balak’s request to Balaam, God spoke to him.
Read Numbers 22:12–13, looking for what God told Balaam not to do.
How did Balaam respond to God’s instructions?
When King Balak learned that Balaam had refused his offer, he sent another offer with greater promised rewards to Balaam (see Numbers 22:15–17). Read Numbers 22:18–21, looking for how Balaam responded to King Balak’s second offer.
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” [Joseph Smith Translation, Numbers 22:20; italics added]. In other words, the Lord was making Balaam responsible for the decision to follow God or to go with the princes of Moab. Balaam, however, ignored the Lord’s instructions and chose to go with the princes of Moab.
- Divide a page in your scripture study journal into four sections by drawing a line down the middle and a line across the middle of the page. Write one of the following scripture references as a heading at the top of each section: Numbers 22:22–23; Numbers 22:24–26; Numbers 22:27–30; Numbers 22:31–35. Read the designated verses in each section, and in the section write a short description or draw a picture of what happened to Balaam because he ignored God’s instructions and warnings and went with King Balak’s men.
From Balaam’s experience we learn that we put ourselves in danger when we ignore the Lord’s instructions and warnings.
How do you think Balaam put himself in danger by ignoring the Lord’s warning?
- In your scripture study journal, write about a situation when the Lord gave a warning to you or someone you know. Describe what happened when you or the other person either ignored the warning or obeyed it.
In Numbers 22:36–24:11 we learn that after arriving in Balak’s kingdom, Balaam was again promised great rewards if he would curse Israel. However, instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blessed them.
Read Numbers 24:12–13, and notice how Balaam responded to King Balak’s anger.
Before Balaam left King Balak, he prophesied that the children of Israel would eventually rule over the Moabites. He also prophesied about the Savior. (See Numbers 24:14–25.) Consider marking what Balaam prophesied about the Messiah in Numbers 24:17 (see also Numbers 24:17, footnotes a and b).
Have you ever read a story that had a surprise ending?
The account of Balaam and King Balak has an unanticipated ending. How do you think the account might end?
Read Numbers 25:1–3, looking for what happened when the children of Israel arrived at Moab, Balak’s kingdom. To understand verse 3, it is helpful to know that Baal-peor refers to an idol for the false god Baal, whom the Moabites worshipped (see footnote a).
Revelation 2:14 adds detail about Balaam’s interactions with King Balak. Read Revelation 2:14, looking for an insight into what happened to bring about the ending of this account (see also Numbers 31:16).
What did Balaam teach King Balak to do?
Worshipping false gods and committing sexual sin were stumbling blocks for the Israelites because they lost the Lord’s power and protection when they sinned. A principle we learn from Numbers 25 is that sin stops us from progressing spiritually and causes us to lose God’s protection and power.
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. It is important to remember that Israel’s army could not be defeated because they had God’s protection and power. The only way they could be defeated was by losing God’s protection and power through sin. Similarly, Satan cannot defeat us unless we choose to commit sin.
In Numbers 25:4–18 we learn that the Lord instructed Moses that the children of Israel who had turned to idol worship were to be slain. Such a severe action was needed because “if Israel lost power with God by tolerating evil in their midst, innocent people would die in the wars with the Canaanites when Israel crossed over Jordan” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 210).
Numbers 26 explains that the men of Israel who were at least 20 years old were numbered again. Only Caleb and Joshua remained from the group who had been numbered at Sinai (see Numbers 26:65). Numbers 27 records that the Lord told Moses 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. Consider marking phrases in Numbers 27:18–20, 23 that describe how Moses set Joshua apart. In Numbers 28–29, various rules for sacrifices were set forth. In Numbers 30, Moses taught Israelite leaders the Lord’s standard for promises, vows, and oaths.
What blessings have you received that are so great you feel you could never repay Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
As you continue your study of the book of Numbers, look for truths that can help you know how you can better express gratitude for your blessings.
Read Numbers 31:1–4, looking for what the Lord directed the Israelites to do to the Midianites.
The phrase “avenge the Lord of Midian” in verse 3 means the Israelites were commanded to carry out the Lord’s judgment on the Midianites for their wickedness in influencing the Israelites to worship false gods and commit sexual sins.
Numbers 31:6–47 explains that the Israelites succeeded in this war and took the Midianites’ possessions. Balaam, who was living among the Midianites at the time of this war, was also killed (see Numbers 31:8). Read Numbers 31:48–49, looking for how many Israelite soldiers died in this war with the Midianites.
The phrase “there lacketh not one man of us” means that no one was killed. For some people, having their life spared by the Lord would be included in a personal list of blessings like the one you wrote earlier in this section. It was beyond the Israelites’ ability to repay the Lord for this blessing, and yet they still wanted to express their gratitude.
Read Numbers 31:50, looking for what the officers of the army of Israel brought to Moses to show their gratitude.
An oblation is something given as an offering or gift to the Lord. The phrase “to make an atonement for our souls” (Numbers 31:50) means that by making their offering, the officers were trying to reconcile the debt they felt to the Lord for sparing their lives. Although no payment could adequately repay the Lord, their offering showed that they acknowledged and were grateful for His blessings of protection.
The following is one principle we can learn from the example of these Israelite officers: We can show our gratitude for the Lord’s blessings by making offerings to Him.
- Answer two or more of the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What are some offerings or gifts we can give to the Lord to show our gratitude for His blessings in our lives?
How have you been blessed by showing gratitude to the Lord through your actions?
What offering will you give the Lord to show your gratitude for blessings He has given you?
Numbers 32 contains an account of a request made by the tribes of Reuben and Gad to receive their land inheritances east of the Jordan River. Moses agreed to their request on the condition that the men of those tribes would assist the other tribes in driving out the inhabitants of the promised land and obtaining their own inheritances.
Numbers 33–36 contains an account of Moses reviewing Israel’s journeys from Egypt to Canaan, the Lord’s instructions to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, and Moses’s instructions about land inheritances and cities among the inheritances of the Levites in which individuals guilty of manslaughter could receive refuge and prevent anyone from taking revenge on them before proper justice could be accomplished.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Numbers 22–36 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: