The story of Balaam is one of the longest single accounts we have of a confrontation between Israel and her enemies. It is interesting for several reasons.
First, there is Balaam. He lives five hundred miles away to the north near ancient Haran. How did they know about him? He has a reputation as a great wizard. Balaam knows, and has a relationship with, the God of Israel, whom he calls “the Lord my God.” Who is this guy? He’s an example of God working among and through a people other than Israel, but their stories are not told, because Israel is God’s chosen.
Second, there is no interaction between Balaam and Israel. Balaam is not a part of Israel’s experience and Israel would not have known this story had Moses not revealed it in this book. The whole event takes place “behind the scenes” where God is at work protecting His people.
Balak, king of the Moabites is determined to destroy Israel. He avails himself of a great wizard who is not only a powerful sorcerer, but who also has a relationship with the Lord. But all these efforts fail. Meanwhile, Israel is being destroyed by her relationship with the common people of Moab. The message, for them and us, seems plain. All the power of God is not enough to prevent us from evil if we decide to give ourselves over to it. Our attachment to the things of this world, our own desires, and the influences of worldly people can destroy us. The only way to security is to intentionally rid ourselves of worldly influences and hunger and thirst for righteousness.