[First posted on The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/balak-chink-in-our-armor/]
Ibn Ezra Numbers: Balak
Chink in our Armor
“We must watch over our modesty in the presence of those who cannot understand its grounds.” -Jean Rostand
The evil sorcerer, Bilaam, teams up with the powerful King of Moab, Balak, to destroy the people of Israel. Bilaam attempts time and again to blast magical curses against the Israelite nation. However, God intervenes, and Bilaam, instead of cursing Israel, is forced by God to bless Israel.
After three failed attempts, Bilaam is cast away by an enraged King Balak. Israel seemed impervious to any attack. According to Ibn Ezra on Numbers 23:21, Balak does not give up. God’s very blessings provide Balak with a clue as to Israel’s fatal weakness.
One of the blessings mentions that God found “no fault” in Israel. Balak then reasoned (correctly), that if God were to find fault in Israel, they would be vulnerable to curses and destruction. The Rabbis comment that the women of Israel, (and as a result also the men), were modest and faithful in their amorous activities, which pleased God. With this insider information King Balak organizes the seduction of the Israelite men and sends a squad of Moabite and Midianite women to the Israelite camp. Balak knew that if the Israelite men would fall to the prohibited charms of the idol-worshipping women, then God’s impenetrable protection of the Jewish people would stop.
In this sexual attack, Balak is wildly successful. The Israelite men indeed succumb to the temptation, and then without lifting a finger, Balak witnesses God’s own assault upon the people of Israel with a fatal plague that kills 24,000 Israelites in short order.
Not only does God no longer provide defense, but He Himself punishes us for not living and behaving as we are supposed to.
We have a potent armor in God’s protection. We should be careful not to lose it.
To the modest, understanding and forgiving people I dealt with this week. May God’s protection always be with you.