1. Exposition

What was the teaching of Balaam?

Revelation 2:14 (ESV)

14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

Balaam was a pagan seer who gave advice to Balak in the days of Israel’s sojourn in the desert. Balak had wanted Balaam to curse Israel so as to break their power, but the Lord prohibited Balaam from doing so; instead, Balaam blessed Israel (Numbers 22:1–24:25). Balaam, though, was frustrated with his inability to curse Israel. So he offered Balak advice on how he could yet defeat Israel (Numbers 31:16). In step with his advice, the young women of Moab offered their bodies to the young men of Israel (Numbers 25:1–3, Numbers 25:6), and did so in service to their Baal. What God had intended as an expression of love and allegiance within marriage (and godly marriage at that), the young men of Israel embraced as answer to their passions with the consent of their leaders (Numbers 25:4a), and did so in service to an empty idol. This provoked God’s wrath so that he punished his people (Numbers 25:4b, Numbers 25:9). The “teaching of Balaam,” then, is the notion that heathen practices in the world ought not to be repugnant to the children of God. Persons in the Pergamum church went in Balaam’s direction, advising fellow Christians that it was alright to link up with the pious of other religions and join them in eating food sacrificed to their idols and participating in the immorality that characterized their worship.