But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more.”
The story of Balaam is an interesting one, and not just because of the part of the story where his donkey speaks to him. It is a crucial story because it is clear that regardless of his past practices, Balaam 1) knows he has heard from the true God on this matter, and 2) claims some level of commitment to being faithful to God’s Word. This is seen in his statement that he cannot say “less or more” than what God has given to him. It is seen in his claim that to “the LORD my God.”
But Balaam is a study in decline. His firm resolve that no amount of money could persuade him to curse Israel if this was not God’s command begins to wilt in the repeated offers from Balak. Eventually he caves in, at least to meet with this rich patron who believes Balaam has the power to curse an entire nation. But even then, God has a bigger plan at work. The reluctant “prophet for hire” will still be used to get Balak’s attention and to witness to the greatness of what God is doing with His people Israel.
Balaam, however, would eventually be undone by these slow accommodations to greed. He is known in future generations as a false prophet who loved to gain from wrongdoing (2 Peter 2:15). He would eventually die under the later conquest of Canaan because his advice to Balak resulted in Israel falling to prostitution and idolatry.
The lesson of Balaam is that little choices can lead to major slides from truth and from commitment to God. Balaam was a pagan oracle who had a brief dramatic encounter with the true God, only to fall away into materialistic greed and be judged by God. He serves forever as a warning to be true to God’s message, no matter what tempts us away.