God tells Balaam to rise and go with the princes sent by Balak in verse 20. Verse 22 says “God’s anger was kindled because he went”. Why does God get angry when Balaam is doing what he asked of him?
@Abby Great question. I expect we have all wondered the same thing while reading through this story. The short answer is that Balaam was greedy for gain and that was what motivated him to go. It is possible that God gave him a condition - that he should only go ‘if’ the men called upon him. But his real sin was the pursuit of ‘unrighteous gain’. His heart attitude was wrong.
2 Peter 2:15-16 - They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
Why was God angry with Balaam if God was the one who told him to go with the Moabites?
One possible answer lies in the two letter word—“if.” It is easy to read through God’s statement to Balaam and miss the condition that He placed on giving Balaam permission to go: “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them” (verse 20). Matthew Henry concurs, stating that,
God gave him leave to go if the men called him, but he was so fond of the journey that we do not find he stayed for their calling him, but he himself rose up in the morning, got everything ready with all speed, and went with the princes of Moab, who were proud enough that they had carried their point. The apostle describes Balaam’s sin here to be that he ran greedily into an error for reward, Jude 1:11 (2014, Numbers 22:21).
The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary similarly argues that “[t]he displeasure arose partly from his neglecting the condition on which leave was granted him—namely, to wait till the princes of Moab ‘came to call him’ (Numbers 22:20), and because, through desire for ‘the wages of unrighteousness’ (2 Peter 2:15), he entertained the secret purpose of acting in opposition to the solemn charge of God” (2012, Numbers 22:22). Adam Clarke explains,
Mr. Shuckford observes that the pronoun הוא (hu) is sometimes used to denote a person’s doing a thing out of his own head, without regard to the directions of another. Thus in the case of Balaam, when God had allowed him to go with the messengers of Balak, if they came in the morning to call him; because he was more hasty than he ought to have been, and went to them instead of staying till they should come to him, it was said of him, not כי הלך (ki halach), that he went, but כי הולך הוא (ki holech hu), i.e., he went of his own head—without being called (2013, Numbers 22:20).
Do those thoughts help address your question?
Thank you very much, this answers my question. I really appreciate you providing sources to back up your answers. You are a tremendous asset to RZIM. May God continue to fill you with a thirst for knowledge and truth. Blessings.