The Doctrine of Balaam
A. J Tomlinson

That we mention this as a distinct doctrine may not occasion any great degree of surprise, but to find it unconsciously taught and practiced in these last days might be rather astonishing to some, especially as it may be pointed out in such unexpected places.

There are many doctrines taught in these days, but none to my knowledge is designated as Balaam’s Doctrine. But this does not say that such a doctrine does not exist. Modern names are used to express old theories. We are told that one of the old heathen religions now takes a modern name as it is introduced into the country by Mer. Eddie, viz., “Christian Science.”

This is a time to be particular and careful lest one should become tainted or marred by some false doctrine or delusive spirit and thus be disqualified for the rapture. God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, has given us His Holy Word. In it is the instruction necessary for our spiritual welfare here in this world and our eternal happiness in the world to come.

Although Balaam evidently had some notoriety before, the first time his name is mentioned in history is where Balak, king of the Moabites, called on him to curse Israel. It is very probable that Balaam was a descendent from Abraham by his second wife, Keturah.
It is evident that Balaam was regarded by his people as a mighty man of God. His doctrine was known by the king, for when he called Balaam to curse Israel he said, “For I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.” (Numbers 22:6). In history concerning this man it shows that Balaam had communication with God and that he regarded Him as his God. He declared that he could not go beyond the word of the Lord his God to do less or more.

He is further represented by history as practicing divination, which thing is spoken of as an abomination to God (Deuteronomy 18: 10-12). He is also represented as an enchanter, which also made him an abomination to the Lord. When Balaam was slain by Israel, the record shows he was called a
soothsayer (Joshua 13:22).

Through the counsel of this man Israel joined herself unto Baalpeor and bowed down to the gods of Moab and committed fornication with the Midianitish women. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel for this, and twenty-four thousand of them died of the plague that was sent on them.

It is conjectured that Balaam’s doctrine was so attractive and fascinating that its influence was almost, if not wholly, irresistible. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that Zimri, an Israelite, brought a Midianitish woman right into the camp in the sight of Moses and all the congregation while they were weeping for sorrow over the matter. If he had not been strongly influenced by Balaam’s doctrine and peculiar power he certainly would not have had a the courage to commit such a daring deed.

This doctrine of Balaam and the effect it had on the children of Israel was such an offense to God that His wrath was only appeased when Zimri and Cozbi, the Midianitish woman whom he had brought into the camp of Israel, were both slain. God compliments Phinehas, who slew them, in the very highest terms saying, he “hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel” (Numbers 25: 11-13).

To still more fully show His hatred toward Balaam and his doctrine (because the record shows that Balaam was the cause of the trespass, Numbers 31:16), God orders Moses to vex the Midianites and smite them (Numbers 25:17), and avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites (Numbers 31:2). In this battle Balaam was slain with the sword (Numbers 31:8).

Now, that Balaam had a particular doctrine is shown in the message to the pastor and church at Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-14). While the pastor was a good man and held to the faith of Jesus under the most trying circumstances, yet the Lord had a few things against him, among which was “Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam.” The record goes on to state that he taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, and also shows, as already stated above, that it was that which taught the children of Israel to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

It is plainly seen that this same Balaam doctrine was introduced in the church at Pergamos in the gospel era fifteen hundred forty-eight years after it had appeared in Israel just before he death of Moses. The Lord shows the same displeasure toward it, but this time blames the pastor of the church for allowing it to exist among his members. His wrath is again kindled against the doctrine and those who held to it and him who allowed it to exist. He accused this pastor of a crime which could only be eliminated by repentance. Then He told him that if he did not repent (which infers that this doctrine must be exterminated from his congregation), He Himself would fight against them that held to the abominable doctrine with the sword of His mouth.
Seeing how God’s anger was kindled against this doctrine every time it made its appearance, we readily conclude we are on safe footing when we say He would be just as strongly opposed to it should it make its appearance again. Arriving at this conclusion, then, it behooves us as God’s people to be on the watch-tower for fear we might be tolerating the very thing that God hates.

This doctrine has five distinct qualities that should claim our attention.

1. It is fascinating
2. It despises government
3. It is a stumbling block
4. It teaches to eat things sacrificed to idols
5. It teaches to commit fornication

We will consider these characteristics in the order names.

Webster defines the word Fascinate thus: “To influence the mind or will as if by enchantment; bewitch; captivate; to exercise a bewitching or captivating power.” This is the very thing that caught the Israelites and caused them to err and thus courted the displeasure of God. It had such influence over them that they could scarcely extricate themselves from its cruel grasp when once it had them enfolded in its coils. It was beautiful because it always honored God as being its foundation. Call attention the first answer Balaam gave to the elders of Moab when they came to him as messengers of Balak the king, when the king sent to call him to curse Israel, “Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me” (Numbers 22:8). How much does that sound like a true man of God would do?

That this doctrine despises government is shown by the way Israel yielded to its influence in the face of God-given laws that forbade intermingling with other nations and their gods. The influence over them was so strong that, right in the face of God, His laws, and Moses with all of his objections and warning, this continued until twenty-four thousand people perished under God’s wrath. That it despises government is shown by Peter and Jude, both of which mention the Balaam doctrine in connection with those who despise government (2 Peter 2:10; Jude 8)

That it is a “stumbling block” is plainly shown at Revelation 2:14. The doctrine is the cause, for Balaam taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before Israel. This signifies that Balak would not have been able to do what he did had it not been for the teaching (doctrine) of Balaam. Balak thought Balaam was the great power of God just like the people of Samaria thought Simon was the great power of God. Indeed Balaam recognized God in all of the delusive actions he performed before Balak. This is, no doubt, what caught Israel, because he always represented himself as being “led of the Lord.” Having on the face of it the name of God, and its constituents claiming to be led of the Lord is what makes it such a dangerous stumbling block. That which is or looks to be the nearest right, and yet is not right, is the most apt to deceive those who want to be right.

Right in the face of Acts 15:29 that doctrine taught to eat things sacrificed to idols. “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols.” It is evident that Paul had to contend with some who were influenced by this doctrine when he wrote and advised them to have nothing to do with meats offered to idols for the sake of the weaker brethren, and accounted it as sin against Christ to sit at meat in the idol’s temple. This doctrine carries with it a self-willed disposition. “I’m going to do what the Lord shows me whether it pleases folks or not.” I have often heard this and similar expressions, but never thought of it at the time in connection with the Balaam doctrine.

The fifth and last characteristic of this doctrine we will consider at this time is that it teaches to commit fornication. Of course it has its slick, slimy, magical way to do it so that the victim is innocently deceived and wholly in the dark. Zimri, the character above referred to, was so duped by its wily influence that he brought the Midianitish woman into the camp of Israel and took her into one of the tents right in the presence of Moses and the congregation of Israel. It is the Balaam doctrine that is followed when men and women get to kissing each other in obedience, as they say, to Paul and Peter where they teach to greet each other with a kiss. It carries them on into more daring deeds of sin and vice and all the time declares “The Lord led me.”

Peter, as well as Revelation 2:14, shows that this doctrine comes right into the church and takes hold of those who may be very spiritual. Notice he states that they have forsaken the right way as if they have once been in the right way (2 Peter 2:15). The first description of them as he gives it is that they refuse to recognize government. They say haughtily, “I’m going to let the Lord lead me. I don’t expect to be governed by man.” “I’ll do so and so if the Lord shows me.” The Lord showed me to do this and I’m going to do it whether anybody likes it or not.” Peter says they are presumptuous, self-willed and not afraid to speak evil of dignities (those in authority) (2 Peter 2:10). Peter shows further that they are spots and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceiving while they feast with you. Then they will come right into the midst of the true worshipers and appear to be the most spiritual of any while they boast of how the Lord has led them and revealed to them such great things. Their testimonies will sound like a real child of God, but you can soon locate them when they reject or show that they despise government or authority.
Peter further describes them saying, “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling (they seem sweet and lovely and pleasant and entertaining in manner and conversation) unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:14, 15).


Please notice he says they are gone astray following the way of Balaam. What was the way of Balaam? Turn to the record and you will see that he would not go at first, even at the call of the king who had the highest authority, unless the Lord should speak unto him. The record shows that he had a conversation with God and He said, “Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people.” So he told the princes, after he arose next morning, that “the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you.”

After this Balak sent other princes more honorable than the first. Balaam had them to tarry overnight also, “that I may know what the Lord will say to me more.” The record shows another conversation between this diviner and God. In this conversation it shows that God told him to go with the men. Notice that first it is said God told him not to go, and now He tells him to go. The next thing we notice is that God’s anger was kindled against Balaam because he went. In the next conversation we read that the angel of the Lord told him to go with the men. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak, Then Balaam tried twice to curse Israel and finally said, “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.”
I have already shown that a diviner and an enchanter was an abomination to God, and Balaam acknowledges in the above statement that he is both and was doing his very best to divine and enchant against Israel. Now, Peter says that these people who despise and reject government are following the way of Balaam. The record shows that God told Balaam not to go. Then the angel finally told him to go and he did so, and tried to enchant and divine against Israel. All this time, according to the Word of God, he was an abomination in the sight of God, and yet seemed to be especially careful that God showed him to do everything he did.

Now listen! I once knew a man who lived at Sweetwater, Tennessee. He claimed he was sanctified. He told me that the Lord told him he would have to quit using tobacco before He would sanctify him. He did quit it and was sanctified. Afterward, he said the Lord showed him to use tobacco and he could still retain his sanctification. This is one instance where a man was following in the way of Balaam’s doctrine. Another case: A gentleman once said the Lord showed him that sanctification was an instantaneous experience obtained subsequent to justification. He claimed the experience and preached it that way a number of years. When the “Finished Word” doctrine came before him, he claimed the Lord showed him that justification and sanctification came at the same time.

The Balaam doctrine emphasizes such expressions as “The Lord shows, “ and “The Lord leads,” and “the Spirit directs,” and yet the showing is one thing one time and an opposite or contrary thing at another time and shows the lack of stability, just like Peter says, and rejects and despises government. At the same time, those affected by it seem to be the most loving people you ever saw. Peter says further of them, “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest…For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error” (2Peter 2:17, 18). This shows they have influence over others until they lure them away from the true path. They promise them liberty and tell them it is wrong to recognize government; that the Holy Ghost should lead everyone and no one should have the oversight or pre-eminence over another. And “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption” (2 Peter 2:19).

You will please notice that when Balaam had tried in vain to curse Israel twice, in the third attempt he instructed Balak to build the seven altars and offer the seven bullocks and seven rams, but “when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments,” but pronounced a blessing on them and acknowledged they were God’s peculiar people.
When Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ unto them, Simon, the sorcerer, believed too, and fell right in with Philip and acknowledged that he was a man of God. This man went so far as to be baptized by Philip, thereby lending his influence in favor of God’s work and people. But when Peter and John went down there they discovered that his heart was not right in the sight of God. Before this he had been looked upon by all as the great power of God. Although his heart was not right he could point out God’s people. Balaam’s heart was not right, but he could point out God’s people.

See another instance at Acts 16:16, “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” This woman was both a soothsayer and a diviner just like Balaam was, and she could point out those men of God. She seemed to take a delight in following with them and saying they were men of God until Paul became grieved and commanded the spirit to come out of her. “And he came out the same hour.”

For fear some may misunderstand our meaning and think we are objecting to divine guidance or being led of the Spirit because of some expressions in this article, I wish to state that I am in full harmony with divine guidance. Those who know me well know I teach that the Holy Ghost is our Guide and His promptings and leadings should be obeyed. I am only showing how the Balaam doctrine will cause people to so nearly imitate the genuine in their expressions and actions that is can scarcely be detected. Some have expressed it as their opinion that Balaam was a good man and a real prophet of God because the record shows how he consulted with God in everything before he acted. It has been only with difficulty that we have convinced them that he was a bad man, a deceiver and false prophet. People who believe Balaam to have been a good man and a prophet of God because the record shows he recognized God in all of his dealings with Balak and consulted Him before he would give an answer, would be an easy prey to those in possession and under the influence of the Balaam doctrine today.

I could name a number of people who have evidently been under the influence of the Balaam doctrine. Their fruits have shown it plainly. Some have been right among us and to all appearance the best and most spiritual people in the services. Some of these have confessed to me that, “The Lord showed then” to do certain things that the Bible condemns.

This is another proof of our need of the gifts of the Spirit- Wisdom, Discernment, etc- that we may be better equipped for the war that is raging at this present time. Beloved, we must move up and meet the conditions and receive the gifts or meet with disappointment and defeat.


In continuing this subject, I wish to call attention to the address delivered by Zimri to Moses and the congregation, in defiance of government and the God-given laws to Israel, while he was under the influence of the damnable Balaam doctrine just before his death. I give it in full as recorded by Josephus, the Jewish historian:

But Zimri arose up ….. and said, "Yes, indeed, Moses, thou art at liberty to make use of such laws as thou art so fond of, and hast, by accustoming thyself to them, made them firm; otherwise, if things had not been thus, thou hadst often been punished before now, and hadst known that the Hebrews are not easily put upon; but thou shalt not have me one of thy followers in thy tyrannical commands, for thou dost nothing else hitherto, but, under pretense of laws, and of God, wickedly impose on us slavery, and gain dominion to thyself, while thou deprivest us of the sweetness of life, which consists in acting according to our own wills, and is the right of free-men, and of those that have no lord over them. Nay, indeed, this man is harder upon the Hebrews then were the Egyptians themselves, as pretending to punish, according to his laws, every one's acting what is most agreeable to himself; but thou thyself better deservest to suffer punishment, who presumest to abolish what every one acknowledges to be what is good for him, and aimest to make thy single opinion to have more force than that of all the rest; and what I now do, and think to be right, I shall not hereafter deny to be according to my own sentiments. I have married, as thou sayest rightly, a strange woman, and thou hearest what I do from myself as from one that is free, for truly I did not intend to conceal myself. I also own that I sacrificed to those gods to whom you do not think it fit to sacrifice; and I think it right to come at truth by inquiring of many people, and not like one that lives under tyranny, to suffer the whole hope of my life to depend upon one man; nor shall any one find cause to rejoice who declares himself to have more authority over my actions than myself."

Surely the readers will see in this speech a masterpiece of boldness and contemptuous disregard to government. This is none other than anarchy. This man was one of the princes of Israel, the head of the tribe of Simeon-one who would be expected to be loyal to his government for the sake of his high position if nothing else. In this speech he reproached his own fathers, the man Moses whom God had chosen to govern Israel and execute His laws, and the God of his fathers and His laws, and scornfully and disdainfully declare himself an anarchist. This prince of Israel never would have been guilty of this baneful disregard for government and his God had he not been overpowered by the accursed Balaam doctrine.

I wish to call attention to the close resemblance of this man’s speech and the eighth verse of Jude: “Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.” Zimri was guilty of these three charges. He defiled his flesh by taking a strange woman for his wife: he declared plainly that he despised dominion, and in accusing Moses in the basest of terms he spake evil of one of the highest dignitaries that ever put his foot upon this earth.

Jude informs us that at the very time when God’s people should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, “there are certain men crept in unawares.” These are the same people he calls filthy dreamers that defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities, just like Zimri did, and proceeds to show, in the eleventh verse, that “they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam…” This shows that the Balaam doctrine will prevail in a measure and come right in amongst God’s people who are earnestly contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints. If that contending for the faith refers to us at this time, then we may expect that the Balaam doctrine will be exerting its baneful influence in our midst. In verse twelve, Jude further states that those holding to the Balaam doctrine will be spots in the feasts of charity that God’s people are enjoying, and that they will take part in the service just like they were God’s children and enjoy it as they feed themselves without fear.

Another point in Zimri’s speech to which I wish to call attention is where he accused Moses under pretense of laws and of God, trying to gain dominion to himself while he deprived others “of the sweetness of life, which consists in acting according to our own wills, and is the right of free men.” Remember this was spoken under the influence of the Balaam doctrine. If one who is acting for God in some high position is accused of trying to gain dominion over others, though he is only doing his duty, and such accusers declare they do not expect to have a “boss” over them and reject God’s order and organization, they can well be classed with those influenced by the Balaam doctrine. Jude says of such, “These by they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 19).

The last point in the speech of this prince of Israel that we wish to consider is where he said, “I think it right to come at truth by inquiring of many people.” There could be nothing said more befitting to the conditions existing today. Seekers after truth are going the rounds to hear every doctrine that comes along. Many of those we call our own people are taking up the theory of Zimri, which was inspired by the Balaam doctrine, and are going to hear some of the many different teachings that are going the rounds. They say they like to hear all sides and learn what others teach. This certainly shows rather an unsettled and dissatisfied condition and that they are not content with God’s laws and government. “O my people, remember now that Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord” (Micah 6:5)

The Balaam doctrine allured Zimri and got him so fastened in its coils that he was unable to throw it off, so it led him to his death. Peter and Jude both declare that those who follow Balaam’s doctrine will be led to their own destruction. “But these, as natural brute beats…speak evil of the thing s that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption” (2 Peter 2:12). “Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 11)


In the glowing light that God’s Word throws upon the Balaam doctrine, the close resemblance it has to the real truth, the fascinating effect it has upon its adherents, I tremble for the future of some people I know. Some came to us a few years ago and claimed the Lord showed them that we were right and wanted to enlist with us in the battle for our Lord. They took the obligation and were enthusiastic and worked earnestly for a while, but later they claimed they changed their views and did not believe this was the true Church of God and they separated themselves from us. Doesn’t this look about like the effect the Balaam doctrine had upon Zimri? John tells us of the last time thus: “Whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for it they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:18, 19).

While some like Zimri, have evidently been caught in the fascinating coils of the doctrine of Balaam and joined anarchists and “do as I please” and “according to my own will” solitude, others ware seeking the glorious light of the Church of God. Scores and hundreds are casting away their preconceived notions and traditions, opinions and selfwills and are coming “to their own company” (Acts 4:23), amid songs and triumphant shouts of victory with everlasting joy upon their heads and obtaining joy and gladness. (Isaiah 51:11).
The work of gathering in and gathering out will continue until God gets His people to come to His terms which will be, “And the multitude of them that believe were of one heart and one soul.” And great grace will be upon all and Zion will again blossom as the rose.