(Num. 22:21) Why does God command Balaam to go to Balak, but then, he gets angry with Balaam for going?

CLAIM: Originally, God tells Balaam: “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you” (Num. 22:21). But, in the very next verse, he gets angry with Balaam for going with him. Is this a sign of caprice on God’s behalf?

RESPONSE: While Balaam blesses Israel three times in this account (Num. 24:10), he is far from innocent in his motives. Later in Numbers, we read, “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor” (Num. 31:16). Even though Balaam doesn’t curse Israel, apparently, he gave the Moabites the idea to stumble the men of Israel with sexual immorality and Baal worship—thus incurring the curse of God in this way. Moreover, Balaam “practiced divination” (Josh. 13:22 NIV), which was a capital crime in Israel.

The NT authors consider Balaam to be a type of false prophets, who desire to get rich off of false teaching (2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14). Balaam must have had evil motives in going to visit with Balak. Since God knows the heart (1 Chron. 28:9; Ps. 44:21; Jer. 17:10; Heb. 4:13), he must have been angry with him for his poor motives. This is, no doubt, why Balaam is killed with these Pagan kings later in the chapter: “They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword” (Num. 31:8).