“With opened eyes, I see Him not of now,
And through God’s words behold Him from afar.
In heaven’s fields, a furrow God will plough
And out of Jacob there will sprout a star;
From Israel a scepter will arise
When seen that sapling of celestial light;
Then Moab He shall crush between the eyes,
The sons of Sheth break down before His might.
This star will conquer Edom easily;
Seir, His rivals, also shall be dispossessed.
For Israel, now doing valiantly,
Shall never run its course as all the rest.
Behold this rising ruler give up breath:
This king of Israel will conquer death.
When I read this passage for the first time recently, I was rather astonished to find myself reading a messianic prophecy. Here? In Numbers? Through the lips of a pagan, one who was hired to curse Israel no less? Perhaps I should not have been overly surprised, given the fact that Christ is prophesied in Genesis 3, just after the Fall, as well as in multiple other places, yet I still greatly appreciated the discovered. After all, I think there is a great joy to be found in discovering the times that God told His people about our coming savior, that it was foretold from the very beginning and repeatedly.
The other element I was amazed to discover is that this is the prophecy, which the magi from East heeded in Matthew 2! It makes sense that a famous pagan Eastern prophet would have his sayings recorded, available to non-Israelites. I had just generally assumed that the prophecy about Jacob’s Star was somewhere in Isaiah or another of the prophets later in the Old Testament. But this is the prophecy! In this passage, Balaam is prophesying the coming saviour who will conquer the world, and most significantly death (it is important to note that he is also prophesying King David who will later conquer Moab and Sheth).
I know you probably aren’t thinking about Christmas yet (since I work in retail, the decorations are already coming up), but neither were Balaam or the Israelites more than a millenium before Christ’s birth. So why not celebrate our Savior’s birth just a little bit ahead of time? His birth and ultimate conquering of death are always cause for joy and peace on Earth.