The oracles of Balaam are an important part of the Balaam story. It is not that they are simply blessings on Israel, but rather that they offer insight to Israel’s relationship with God as well as her future.
In the first two pronouncements, Israel is presented as the admirable people of God’s preference. Though Balaam is not an Israelite, he would like to be one and he wishes his future – even his death – could be like theirs (23:10). Once God has made up His mind about something (in this case, the election of Israel), that mind cannot be changed. Because God has shown preference for Israel, no people, power or god can stand against this God’s chosen ones (23:23-24). God’s blessing radiates from them so powerfully that those not of Israel will be blessed simply because they showed Israel favor (24:9).
I think it is important to notice the great partiality God has for His people. The Moabites were not God’s people. Neither were the people of Amalek or Assur or Eber. Israel was His people, and he preferred them above all others. That great preference has not diminished in the mind of God. The oracles of Balaam underscore for Christians today how important they are above all other people.
And why are we important?
Because we are so very numerous?
Because we are so very powerful and well connected?
Because we live such holy lives?
No, no, no to them all. It is for only one reason. He prefers us because we, through Jesus, belong to Him.
Verse 17 of chapter twenty-four foresees the coming of a king from Israel. It is a distant vision. Balaam says: “I see him but not now; I behold him but not near.” Who is this king? Perhaps the writer is speaking of David. Perhaps he is speaking of Christ. Israel, of course, would not, at this time, understand either interpretation but it would lead her to hopeful expectation of a super king whose ascension would usher in the fulfillment of the promises of God’s preference. Balaam describes the king as a rising star. The coming great king is a theme that will be repeated in the Old Testament and find fulfillment in Jesus whose star appeared in the east (Matthew 2:2) and who is himself, after all, the “bright and morning star” (Revelation 22:16).