Christian Churches of God
The Doctrine of Balaam and Balaam’s Prophecy
(Edition 1.0 19970531-19970531)
The doctrine of Balaam is often linked with the doctrines of the Nicolaitans and both are condemned by Christ. The link is made from the Greek text of Revelation which can be construed so as to make the link. The doctrines are thus thought to go hand in hand. They do coexist to a certain degree but they are in fact quite distinct doctrines, as we will see. Here we examine how they are derived and how they coexist with the doctrines of the Nicolaitans.
The Doctrine of Balaam and Balaam’s Prophecy
Christ condemns both the doctrines of the Nicolaitans and also the doctrine of Balaam. The standard translation of Revelation 2:14-16 is:
Revelation 2:14-16 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (KJV)
Revelation 2:14-16 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, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. 15 So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicola'itans. 16 Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. (RSV)
The translation of this text relies on the Greek text found, for example, in Nestle but omits from the RSV the word omoiwv homoiõs which Marshall translates as likewise.
The Receptus has the words o misw o misõ which are rendered which I hate. Thus, the translation depends on the text that is used. The words are entirely different. James Nelson Darby, following the critical commentators such as Nestle, translates the text as: So thou also hast those who hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes in like manner.
This is misleading as the doctrines contain similarities but also contain distinct and separate features, which are quite dissimilar. It is entirely possible that the doctrines were lumped together in order that the condemnation by Christ on both doctrines could not be developed to the full in the case of the Nicolaitans as that system had features that had entered mainstream Christianity. Such a problem did not bear examination as it directly in one instance, involved the Godhead and the doctrine of Antichrist. We can deduce this from an examination of John’s first epistle, to the Parthians.
The doctrines of the Nicolaitans have been expounded in the paper The Nicolaitans (No. 202). This paper takes up from there and examines the doctrine of Balaam.
Balaam taught the Moabites and Midianites, the nations surrounding Israel, that they might bring Israel undone in the eyes of God by getting them to sacrifice to idols and to commit fornication. The story is examined below to deal with the problem in its entirety.
Encampments of Israel from Sinai to the occupation
1. The Graves of Lust (see also Num. 11:34). The feeding of the flock is symbolised here.
2. Hazeroth (SHD 2698 yards as enclosed by a wall). Here Yahovah dealt with Aaron and Miriam over the Cushite woman and the central power of Moses. They then went to the wilderness of Paran.
3. Rithmah (the fem. of Spanish Broom (Planta genista); the Juniper tree).
4. The Pomegranate Breach (SHD 7428 Rimmon-peretz i.e. pomegranate of the breach).
5. Libnah (a whitish tree perhaps the storax; poplar).
6. Rissah (SHD 7446 a ruin as dripping to pieces).
7. Meeting Place (Kehelathah; convocation).
8. Mount Shaphar (SHD 8234 beauty derived from to glisten).
9. Haradah (SHD 2732 from SHD 2731 fear and anxiety hence quaking or trembling).
10. Makheloth (assemblies; pl. SHD 4721).
11. Tahath (the depression or bottom).
12. Tarah (SHD 8646 Terach the Father of Abraham; of uncert. deriv.).
13. Mithcah (SHD 4989 fem. of sweetness).
14. Hashmonah (der, from SHD 2831 Kashman meaning firm or capacious in resources hence wealthy or princes. The fem. SHD 2832 here means fertile).
15. Moseroth (SHD 4149 fem. of chastisement hence corrections).
16. Benejaakan (SHD 1142 sons of Jaakan meaning the twisters or tortuous).
17. Hole of the Cleft (SHD 2735 also cave of the cutting).
18. Jotbathah (SHD 3193 from SHD 3192 pleasantness).
19. Abronah (SHD 5684 from SHD 5683 transitional).
20. Ezion-Geber (SHD 6100 backbone-like of a man).
21. Kadesh in the Wilderness of Sin (sanctuary).
22. Mount Hor in the edge of Edom. Here Aaron ascended Mount Hor and died aged 123 years in the 40th year of the Exodus (Num. 33:38-39). Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days (Num. 20:29). From here Israel set out to go around Edom using the way to the Red Sea and the people became impatient (Num. 21:4) and the Lord killed many by means of fiery serpents (Num. 21:6). Moses set up the serpent on the pole and the people were saved in the interim (Num. 21:9) but the symbol became an object of idolatry.
23. Zalmonah (SHD 6758 shadiness).
24. Punon (SHD 6325 perplexity).
25. Oboth (SHD 88 water skins).
26. Ije-abarim or Ijim in the border of Moab (SHD 5856, 5682 the heap of the regions beyond). Numbers 21:12 terms the next camp as the Valley of Zered (SHD 2218 lined with shrubbery). They encamped then on the other side of the Arnon between Moab and the Amorites. They encamped here at Beer or the Well. From the Wilderness they went on to Mattanah (SHD 4980 gift or sacrificial offering), Nahaliel (SHD 5160 valley of God), Bahamoth (or Bemoth SHD 1120 the heights) and then to the valley of Moab (Num. 21:12-20).
27. Dibon-gad (SHD 1769 1410 pining of Gad, son and tribe of Jacob (see also the Babylonian deity of fortune Gad pronounced gawd SHD 1408)).
28. Almon-diblathaim (SHD 5963 towards the veiled or hidden pressed fig cakes).
29. Abarim Mountains by Nebo (regions beyond).
30. Plains of Moab in Jordan near Jericho.
The symbols of the encampments are open to diverse interpretation. The thirty camps equate with the number of the heavenly Council, hence the restoration can be construed as progressive. The number of camps plus the internal references at Ijim total the number of centuries from the Exodus to the end of the six thousand year period of the plan of salvation leading up to the establishment of the Millennium under Messiah which ends at the end of this Jubilee period in 2027/28.
The last encampment extended from the House of Deserts to the Meadow of Acacias in the Plains of Moab (Num. 33:49). Here, Jehovah spoke to Moses and ordered Israel to inhabit the land and drive out its inhabitants or they would become thorns in their eyes and goads in their sides and God would do the same to Israel. They were to divide the land by lot for an inheritance (Num. 33:50-56). Canaan was to be purged as the millennial system was to be purged.
In the final encampment prior to entering the promised land, the Moabites and the Midianites attempted to have Israel cursed by Balaam, son of Beor, the prophet. Thus, the full significance is intended for the period of the Churches just prior to the Millennium. From Revelation 2:12, the prophecy and the example are understood to extend over the period of some five eras of the Church. The camp was to be in a square of twelve tribes in groups of three (Num. 10).
Balaam was instructed not to go with the Moabites/Midianites (Num. 22:12). They entreated him again and offered him money and Balaam said he could not go against God, or beyond the mouth of Yahovah his God, even if they gave him Balak's house full of silver and gold (Num. 22:18). At Numbers 22:20-22 it is stated that elohim came to Balaam that night and said:
Numbers 22:20-22 if the men have come to call you go with them and say only the thing that I speak to you - it you shall do. 21 And Balaam rose up in the morning and saddled his ass and went with the leaders of Moab. 22 And the anger of God glowed because he went. And the Angel of Jehovah stationed himself in the road, as an enemy against him ...
The point here is that Balaam did as the Lord said. He did not disobey, as the Lord had told him to go. This event was within the people who purported to be ministers of God.
Nevertheless, the Angel of YHVH went to confront him. The purpose is shown in verse 35.
Numbers 22:35 And the Angel of Jehovah said to Balaam, Go with the men. But only the word that I speak to you, it shall you speak. And Balaam went with the leaders of Balak.
The problem here was that God knew that Balaam's heart was perverse and that he spoke for gain. Thus, He would not have him curse Israel in His name, which Balaam must have intended to do. Thus, we are viewing an act of prescience. This activity was foreseen as the actions of the priesthood in the last days. The practice of the priests teaching for hire is attacked in Micah 3:11. But, more particularly, Balaam taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel that they might eat food sacrificed to idols. This idolatry was foreseen and prophesied as happening during the Pergammum or Pergammos Church or era.
The activity went hand in hand with the doctrines of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:13-15). The punishment for this is to have Christ war against them with the sword of his mouth as he appeared before Balaam and his donkey in this story. The story was given to warn the priesthood of the dangers of the Babylonian system which is where Balaam came from, i.e. the river, namely the Euphrates basin. He was nevertheless accepted as a priest to the sons of Abraham, namely the Moabites and Midianites. They themselves were worshippers also of false gods and Balaam knew of their duplicity. The Bible is clear that Balaam was priest of God having a place within the sons of Abraham and to whom the Angel of Yahovah appeared.
It is an important point here to note that the Moabites lost favour with God because of their duplicity in the worship of false gods. This action may be because they had adopted false systems into their worship already or it is also possible that they changed allegiance because Israel was favoured and they were not. Things did not go their way and they blamed God for the problem after they blamed Balaam. This is common today as the health-wealth gospel. If God does not bless us we are doing something wrong or the group is not right. If misfortune happens to someone then it is because they are sinning. God knows our hearts and He will test us in this attitude and will deal with it until we remove all trace of such thinking. What sin did Stephen or Paul or Peter or James or Symeon commit when they were martyred?
Balaam did as God ordered and sacrificed seven bullocks and seven rams. Balaam spoke with the elohim of Israel, namely the Angel of YHVH, who told him to say:
Numbers 23:7-10 He has lead me from Aram, Balak king of Moab; from the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse Jacob for me; and, Come denounce Israel. 8 How shall I curse him whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce him whom Jehovah has not denounced? 9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and I behold him from the heights. Behold it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. 10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous; yea, let my last end be like his!
Israel was not to be counted among the nations. The end of the righteous is eternal life. All of the nations will become part of Israel by conversion. Thus, the nations will cease to exist. God can only become one and all in all if we are one body undivided.
The importance of this text is that the adversary was attempting to have Israel cursed and, thus, Messiah would be cursed, as it is Messiah who is the him spoken of here. Israel was divided into quarters in accordance with the government structure of the heavenly Host. The last end of Jacob is to be the single nation into which all Gentiles will be drawn as saved under Messiah at the judgment.
Balaam, however, was not content to do the will of the Lord without qualification. Balak asked him again to curse Israel. The story is found complete from Numbers 23:17 to 24:25.
Numbers 23:17-30 And he came to him, and, lo, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, "What has the LORD spoken?" 18 And Balaam took up his discourse, and said, "Rise, Balak, and hear; hearken to me, O son of Zippor: 19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it? 20 Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. 21 He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob; nor has he seen trouble in Israel. The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them. 22 God brings them out of Egypt; they have as it were the horns of the wild ox. 23 For there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel; now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, `What has God wrought!' 24 Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself; it does not lie down till it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain." 25 And Balak said to Balaam, "Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all." 26 But Balaam answered Balak, "Did I not tell you, `All that the LORD says, that I must do'?" 27 And Balak said to Balaam, "Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there." 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Pe'or, that overlooks the desert. 29 And Balaam said to Balak, "Build for me here seven altars, and provide for me here seven bulls and seven rams." 30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
Numbers 24:1-25 When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and saw Israel encamping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, 3 and he took up his discourse, and said, "The oracle of Balaam the son of Be'or, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, 4 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, but having his eyes uncovered: 5 how fair are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! 6 Like valleys that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the LORD has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. 7 Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. 8 God brings him out of Egypt; he has as it were the horns of the wild ox, he shall eat up the nations his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces, and pierce them through with his arrows. 9 He couched, he lay down like a lion, and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed be every one who blesses you, and cursed be every one who curses you." 10 And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, "I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. 11 Therefore now flee to your place; I said, `I will certainly honor you,' but the LORD has held you back from honor." 12 And Balaam said to Balak, "Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13 `If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will; what the LORD speaks, that will I speak'? 14 And now, behold, I am going to my people; come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days." 15 And he took up his discourse, and said, "The oracle of Balaam the son of Be'or, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, 16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, but having his eyes uncovered: 17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth. 18 Edom shall be dispossessed, Se'ir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed, while Israel does valiantly. 19 By Jacob shall dominion be exercised, and the survivors of cities be destroyed!" 20 Then he looked on Am'alek, and took up his discourse, and said, "Am'alek was the first of the nations, but in the end he shall come to destruction." 21 And he looked on the Ken'ite, and took up his discourse, and said, "Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock; 22 nevertheless Kain shall be wasted. How long shall Asshur take you away captive?" 23 And he took up his discourse, and said, "Alas, who shall live when God does this? 24 But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and Eber; and he also shall come to destruction." 25 Then Balaam rose, and went back to his place; and Balak also went his way. (RSV)
The reason for the blessings is made more obvious from Numbers 24:17 ff where the Messiah is referred to as the Morning Star and Sceptre who shall break down the Moabites and the sons of tumult. This reference is to the Amalekites and Kenites and refers to the destruction of the Assyrians by the Kittim who were understood to be the Roman Empire (see esp. Dead Sea Scrolls) which extended from the empire of iron of Daniel 2 into the last of iron and clay, which is destroyed by Messiah (Dan. 2:45) and which is the last of the beasts, the fourth of Daniel 7:7. This last empire extends over a protracted period and has seven heads or dynastic eras and ten horns as kingdoms of the last phase (Rev. 17:1-18).
The last empire is of the seven but is an eighth. It is a beast which contains ten kings who give it their power and authority to make war on the Lamb. This system is ruled by a religious whore who follows after the Babylonian system which is characterised by Balaam. The beast, however, at the last days turns on the whore and destroys her (Rev. 17:16-18).
The reason for the key prophecy here is that we are looking at a religious system which purports to act on the instructions of God and which exists within the very Churches of God. However, it is, in fact, of the Babylonian system and teaches those doctrines undermining Israel from the outset.
The doctrine of Balaam is the breaking down of the law system of the Bible by indirect means.
Balaam had, in fact, taught the Moabites after this episode to get around the blessings of the Lord by causing Israel to commit idolatry and thus come into condemnation under the law (Num. 31:16). The Moabite women had invited Israel to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate of the food sacrificed to idols and bowed down to their gods and, thus, Israel yoked itself to Baal of Peor, the Canaanite god of storms and fertility, worshipped at the cult centre of Peor (Num. 25:1-5).
From Numbers 25:4 it is apparent that the penalty was paid by the leaders of the people who had led Israel into error. The Lord commanded that all the chiefs of the people were hung in the sun as a measure of corporate responsibility. This teaching for hire so detested by God occurs within the Churches of God and is accompanied by the doctrines of the Nicolaitans. Nicolaitan is derived from the two stems Nico or Nike and laos hence laitans – meaning, in effect, to conquer the people or laity. The sense is of people as not one’s own and, hence, they are not the same people. It is the people who are of God and the rulers are of the apostate system.
The doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans differ in the sense that they are both affected by the Mystery cults and both teach the sacrifice to idols of the false system. However, the doctrine of Balaam was more identified with the teaching for hire within the same system; whereas the Nicolaitans are not identified as being of the same system at all, merely apostates, or people espousing a false religion within the system – and that is the real problem.
The problem of eating food sacrificed to idols is endemic within the system of the first centuries under paganism and the Greco-Roman system. Paul mentioned this problem. This was a very serious and real issue of those times. Most meat had the real possibility that it had been sacrificed to idols. He deals with the problem in Romans because the problem the Church faced was that if they knowingly ate food sacrificed to idols they fell under the injunctions given against the activities in the Torah and for which Israel and Moab and Midian were punished.
Romans 14:1-23 As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. 2 One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." 12 So each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean. 15 If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; 18 he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; 21 it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves. 23 But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (RSV)
The problem here is that the entire system of butchery was interlinked with the sacrificial system of the Gentiles in whatever cult they followed. In much the same way as today, there were kosher butchers. Slaves could not avail themselves of such a luxury and were dependent upon the goodwill of the House for what they ate. The real issue was that if they did not know that it had been sacrificed to an idol then it was of no consequence and that nothing of itself was unclean. It was only knowingly participating in food sacrificed to idols that made it unclean. In fact it brought on the member the punishments entailed by eating such food within biblical law. This problem was common throughout the Roman and Hellenised world. This is dealt with by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians also as they were a large cult centre. They were also enmeshed in the cultic rites of prostitution in the various temples. Like the food problem, cultic prostitution was endemic in Asia Minor from the earliest days of the Babylonians and before.
1Corinthians 8:1-13 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." "Knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if one loves God, one is known by him. 4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth -- as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords" -- 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall. (RSV)
The injunction is to prevent another stumbling but not to assume that all meat was sacrificed to idols unless known otherwise. The reverse was to be the case and was a matter of faith. Thus, Paul says let no man judge you in meats (Col. 2:16).
However, the doctrines of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans involved direct involvement in the Mystery cults and their cultic meals. This was ancient and the sacrifice of the goat and the cultic preparation of it in the milk of its mother was an ancient ritual condemned by the Torah (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21). This is specifically condemned three times. It also is used specifically in textual reference to the firstfruits and the three feast seasons (ibid.).
The priesthood is also condemned for their attitude and for condemning the sacrifices provided by the Lord. This is the sense of Malachi 1. The priests offer blind and polluted food as sacrifices but they then disdain the Lord’s table when they say the table is polluted and the food for it may be despised (Mal. 1:6-14; 2:1-12).
Malachi 1:1-14 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Mal'achi. 2 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How hast thou loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob's brother?" says the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but I have hated Esau; I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert." 4 If Edom says, "We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins," the LORD of hosts says, "They may build, but I will tear down, till they are called the wicked country, the people with whom the LORD is angry for ever." 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, "Great is the LORD, beyond the border of Israel!" 6 "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, `How have we despised thy name?' 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. And you say, `How have we polluted it?' By thinking that the LORD's table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that no evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that no evil? Present that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10 Oh, that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire upon my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the LORD's table is polluted, and the food for it may be despised. 13 `What a weariness this is,' you say, and you sniff at me, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished; for I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name is feared among the nations. (RSV)
This warning is given to the priests of Levi at the close of the Old Testament canon before it was compiled at the death of Ezra coinciding with Alexander the Great in 321 CE (Seder Olam Rabbah 30).
Malachi 2:1-12 "And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung upon your faces, the dung of your offerings, and I will put you out of my presence [3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. (KJV)]. 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may hold, says the LORD of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him, that he might fear; and he feared me, he stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction." 10 Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob, for the man who does this, any to witness or answer, or to bring an offering to the LORD of hosts! (RSV)
The problem existed for centuries.
Micah 3:10-11 who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong. 11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; yet they lean upon the LORD and say, "Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No evil shall come upon us." (RSV)
This corruption was also endemic within the Church from the early days and John warns of the problem in his letter to the Parthians at 1John.
These priests brought in false doctrines. John identifies the nature of the problem in his epistle. From the paper The Nicolaitans (No. 202) we can see the Gnostic influence in the church.
The introduction of the Mystery cults was systematic and undermined the church. The ministry taught for hire and they seduced the brethren to false gods. The lessons and doctrine they taught leading up to and taken as doctrine from the Councils of Nicaea in 325 CE and Constantinople in 381 CE was a doctrine of demons and the entire system from that time was of food sacrificed to idols on the altars of the churches.
They introduced false doctrines regarding meats and celibacy (see the paper Vegetarianism and the Bible (No. 183)). They separated the structure of the church into priests and laity in the same way the Mystery cults and the pagans did. The priests assumed the educated esoteric elect, and the laity worshipped by rote and the utterance of meaningless repetitions in form condemned by Christ.
Matthew 6:5-7 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (KJV)
The system of Baal was as a mindless adherence to priests in form. The entire Gentile system worshipped in form. One could ascribe any symbolism they liked to a sacrifice as long as the form was correct. In the same way, the priesthood of the last days in such systems tried to usurp the authority of God and reduce the understanding of the elect.
Hence, the priesthood ruled over the laity as an esoteric priesthood, which taught for hire. This error, the doctrine of Balaam and of the Baal system of Jezebel and the whore of Revelation, has been extant for centuries and is the basis of the failures in the Pergammum and Thyatiran eras and the near total failure of the Laodiceans of the last days. This is one of the major reasons why the Laodiceans are spewed out of God's mouth (Rev. 3:16). The priesthood is culpable and the priesthood will pay with their lives according to the penalty stated by the mouth of God at Numbers 25:4. The priesthood is not that of the nations. Christ, as the Angel of YHVH, is specifically mentioned as threatening Balaam here.
We are called out from the nations. We must continue in the faith. We must not be subverted. We must fight hard to develop the Holy Spirit in power, imparting knowledge in truth and without fear.