Balaam vs Jonah — No Comparison — Or Is There?

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by Mary C. Findley

File:Rembrandt Balaam's Ass.jpg

Here’s a very brief comparison/contrast of Balaam versus Jonah. You let me know what you decide, because frankly, I don’t know what to think about these two guys, except for a couple of observations I’ll make after my list.

Balaam: Summoned by kings with promises of reward.

Jonah: Summoned by God with no promise of any kind.

Balaam: Asked to curse people he didn’t know anything about, or care about, even after God said, “They are blessed.”

Jonah: Sent to hereditary enemies of his people, very nasty folks who should be dead.

Balaam: Told to curse the people so bad things would happen to them.

Jonah: Told to warn the people so that bad things might not happen to them.

Balaam: Went with the ambassadors even though he knew he couldn’t do what Balak wanted

Jonah: Tried to run as far as he could in the other direction

Balaam: Smacked his donkey around and failed to see the Angel of God standing ready to kill him until the donkey talked to him.

Jonah: Almost got the ship’s crew killed and spent 3 days and 3 nights in the great fish (Hey, they both have animal encounters!)

Balaam: Soaked Balak for multiple sacrifices trying to get paid, but failed to curse the children of Israel

Jonah: Seems to have wandered about bleached, bloated, and in rags, shouting his warning, and got the Ninevites to repent.

Balaam: Whispered in Balak’s ear that he could use hot women and cool idols to get Israel in big, big trouble.

Jonah: Sat on a hill in a stick booth under a gourd vine (till it shriveled up and blew away), apparently still hoping the Ninevites might get blasted into nothingness.

Balaam: Got killed by Joshua and his army

Jonah: Got a lecture on loving his enemies and went on to bigger and better prophesies.

File:Prophet Jonah.jpg

Here’s what I did conclude that sort of tips the scales in Jonah’s favor. The sailors Jonah tried to get killed by running all got “saved”! (They sacrificed to the Lord and made vows.) That seems as if it would not have happened if Jonah had done the right thing in the first place. Jonah pretty clearly repented inside the fish, though he did have a backsliding incident up on the hill. (The part where he still wished those people would be dead!) God never really tried to reason with Balaam, but he did have patience and compassion with Jonah. I am more confused than ever about Balaam, but I kinda think I can identify with Jonah, and hope for mercy and grace like he got in spite of my stubbornness. Both these men had a gift from God, and it all came down to how they used it.

Here are a few verses I found that might help you make up your mind in the Balaam vs Jonah controversy.

About Balaam

“Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the Lord, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the Lord speaks, that I will speak.” (Numbers 24:13)

“Therefore, flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, the Lord has held you back from honor.” (Numbers 24:11)

Some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. (Revelation 2:14)

The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain. (Joshua 13:22)

About Jonah

But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3)

Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. (Jonah 1:10)

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4)

He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. (2 Kings 14:25)

Image credits

Rembrant, Balaam’s Ass, Wikimedia Commons, public domain in the US

Michaelangelo, Jonah, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain in the US

Scriptures from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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