READ THE BIBLE IN 2022: This past week, February 20 through 26, we read Numbers 21 through Numbers 36. A key negative-figure this past week was Balaam, a soothsayer hired to curse Israel. Instead, God initially used him to bless Israel. During this part of Balaam’s doings with Israel, the Angel of the Lord intercedes for Israel, which escapes Balaam’s attention but not his donkey’s. Not only does the Angel of the Lord open the donkey’s eyes, He also opens the donkey’s mouth so he can plead his case when Balaam strikes him. Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways, a saying possibly inspired by Hab 1:5. Not able to curse Israel for the Moabite king, Balaam then instructs him how he may lead Israel away from God using Baal worship and temple prostitutes. Balaam’s part in this is mentioned in Numbers 31. The plan almost worked, for “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (Nu 25:3). The decisive action by Eleazar's son, Phinehas, driving a spear through an Israelite man and the Midianite prostitute he dared to bring into camp stopped the plague the Lord had unleashed, a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites. Balaam was a real Bible villain, and is used as an example of evil by Peter (2 Pt 2:15), Jude (11), and John (Rev 2:14). This week, ending March 5, read Deuteronomy 1 - 20.