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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The somewhat prominent place that Balaam holds in the Apostolic Age may be appraised by the three references to him in the NT (2 Peter 2:15, Judges 1:11, and Revelation 2:14); by the legends which grew round his name in Hellenistic and Haggadic literature, and later in Muhammadanism; and perhaps by the apparent popularity of the discussion of the ‘Blessings of Balaam’ by Hippolytus. Balaam has become the representative of false teachers and sorcerers, and we may suspect a play on his name in Revelation 2:14 (perhaps = ‘lord of the people’), in order to brand certain Gnostic teachers as making gain for themselves out of the simple folk by the use of magic and by the teaching of a gnosis which tended to laxity of practice. (It is not improbable that in the Nicodemus of John 3 is enshrined a counter-play of words-the Jewish party also, it is hinted, had a false and carnal doctrine of their own.) Balaam becomes in legend a counsellor of Pharaoh; he and his two sons Jannes and Jambres (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ) were compelled to flee from Egypt to Ethiopia, where Balaam reigned as king till conquered by Moses. On this he and his sons returned to Egypt and became the master-magicians who opposed Moses. Finally, Phinehas attacked Balaam, who by his magic flew into the air, but was killed by Phinehas in the power of the Holy Name. See Nicolaitans; also Jewish Encyclopedia ii. 468f.

W. F. Cobb.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Balaam'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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