Revelation: Pergamum; Food, Sex, and the gods…

Revelation 2:14  But I have a few things against you, because you have there 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. 

The Bible introduces us to Balaam and Balak in the book of Numbers chapters 22-25. The meanings of their names are not pleasant. Balak means “devastator”. And Balaam means “not of the people” or “devourer”.

The general overview of how these two got together is noted in Numbers 23:7 And Balaam took up his discourse and said, “From Aram Balak has brought me, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains: ‘Come, curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!’

Balaam was from Aram or modern day Syria. He was a prophet. Balak was the King of Moab or modern day Jordan. Moab was the area east of the Dead Sea south of modern day Ammon, Jordan. Balak needed a curse on nation Israel. And Balak called on Balaam to do the job.

Granted, Balaam never cursed Israel as Balak begged repeatedly. But it was Balaam and Balak who introduced practices that were in direct disobedience to God’s Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law. They are summarized in Numbers 25:1-3.

Numbers 25:1 While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab.

The Israeli men began to לזנות/zanah in the Hebrew. Translated and defined as: commit fornication or adultery; to be a cult prostitute; figuratively, to be unfaithful to God. The women were from Moab under King Balak.

Numbers 25:2 For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.

Food sacrifices to gods are noted throughout time. Give thanks for the food…to our god. Balaam and Balak were a part of this practice. The church at Corinth had issues with this practice as did the church at Pergamum. Today, animal sacrifices and gifting the meat are part of the Muslim holiday Eid.

Numbers 25:3 So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel.

Balaam would go on to encourage another religion, Baal worship. He is the son of Peor. Numbers 22:5 So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor…

Israel הנצמדים/tsamad with the worship of Baal. They fastened or yoked with a false god.

Israelis were led to a false god by sexual enticement and a full belly. Israel had become unequally yoked to a false god.

The church at Pergamum was having the same problems as ancient Israel. The church was falling into the same trap set by a prophet and a king from the book of Numbers. Balaam and Balak’s influence had been baked into Jewish culture for over 1,600 years. History was repeating itself. Jesus is making an observation relative to history. A point was being made to the local body at Pergamum.

God’s attitude toward this behavior has not changed…and the LORD was angry against Israel.

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