A celebrated diviner, of the city Pethor, on the Euphrates, Numbers 22:5. Balak, king of Moab, having seen the multitudes of Israel, and fearing they would attack his country, sent for Balaam, who was famous for his supposed supernatural powers, to come and curse them. Balaam, though eager for gain, was led to ask counsel of God, who forbade his going. Balak afterwards sent other deputies, whom Balaam finally accompanied without the approval of God, who sent an angel to meet and warn him in the way. Here occurred the miracle of Balaam’s ass, Numbers 22:22,35. But instead of cursing, he was constrained by the Spirit of God to bless the children of Israel. This he did a second and a third time, to the extreme mortification of Balak, who dismissed him in great anger. Balaam subsequently foretold what Israel should in future times do to the nations round about; and after having advised Balak to engage Israel in idolatry and whoredom, that they might offend God and be forsaken by him, quitted his territories for his own land. This bad counsel was pursued; the young women of Moab inveigled the Hebrews to the impure and idolatrous worship of Baal-Peor, for which 24,000 Israelites were slain, Numbers 25:1-9 31:16 2 Peter 2:15 Jude 1:11 Revelation 2:14.
Balaam was probably a descendant of Shem, and possessed many just ideas of the true God. He calls Him "the Lord my God," Numbers 22:18; and yet he seems to have been only an enchanter and false prophet, like many in the times of the kings of Israel, until he came in collision with the people of God. In this transaction he was made a bearer, against his own will, of the sublime messages of Jehovah; yet his heart remained unchanged, and he did not "the death of the righteous," Numbers 31:8 Joshua 13:22.