Balak, King of Moab

Numbers 22:2 Now saw Balak, the son of Zippor, את all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 Moab was very afraid of the people, because there were so many of them: Moab was overcome with stress, because of the Children of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, Now shall lick up (consume us), this company (Israelites) את־ all that is around us, as licks up the ox את the grass of the field. Balak, the son of Zippor, was king of the Moabites at that time. C-MATS

Question: Why did the Moabites and the Midianites come together to fight Israel? Moab and Midian had been traditional enemies, but now they came together in response to the perceived threat from Israel, which, they feared, would uproot and utterly destroy everything in its path, as an ox pulls out the roots of grass so that nothing is left of it. Seeking some formula to save itself, Moab hoped that the Midianites, among whom Moses had lived when he fled Egypt as a boy, could shed light on the reason for his success and how he could be defeated. The Midianites said that his strength lay in his mouth, so the Moabites sent for the evil prophet Balaam, whose power lay in his ability to curse.

Question: How can we resolve conflicts? Balaam and Balak were enemies from two warring nations, but they banded together as allies to reach their common goal of fighting against the Israelite people. While they cooperated to do evil, we can use the same principle of focusing on our common goals, and cooperating to do good. Many times when we are involved in a conflict, we can get so wrapped up in our immediate goal and what we see is preventing it, that we can develop a ‘tunnel vision’ and become blinded to what would otherwise be obvious. When things aren’t working out, and we find ourselves getting frustrated, it always pays to try to cool down, or look for more cool-headed advice. Usually the answer is closer than it seems.

Question: Is it possible to find a common goal with every adversary? Generally it is, if you dig deep enough. The trick is to ponder the underlying motivation of a person’s behavior and respond to it rather than his negative behavior. Some common motivations people have are: a desire for respect, or attention, or to be at peace or friendship with others.

Question: Is it ever appropriate to compete rather than cooperate? There is no doubt that competition can be a big motivator, and get people to push themselves harder than they would otherwise. When the competition is one where both parties accomplish more because of it, it can be very positive. But when the object of the competition is to bring the other one down rather than to use it as a tool to bring oneself up, it is generally negative and spiritually harmful.

Spiritual Exercise: Find ways to cooperate with others this week instead of tearing them down.