Balaam, who had come prepared to curse, was forced to bless; the angel who delighted in evil was forced to consent to the blessings; the accuser was turned into an advocate.

There was a cosmic necessity for Balaam to become the instrument of G‑d. He, after all, was the prophet of the gentiles and the spiritual head of all the nations. When our sages commented on the verse, "There never did arise in Israel a prophet like Moses etc.", (Deut. 34:10) they said that amongst the other nations there did arise someone comparable to Moses - Balaam. Surely, they did not mean to compare Moses to Balaam as being equal or similar in holiness, character qualities, relationship with G‑d, etc!

This power had no independent authority at all. It was but an agent of G‑d….

The Zohar (Balak, p. 193b) is very explicit in describing Balaam's low character, giving many examples of his appearing to credit himself with great insights and thereby misleading those who considered him a great seer. Here are a few quotes from that passage in the Zohar: "This wicked man took great pride in claiming to know everything. By doing so, he misled people into believing that he had attained a very high stature. He exaggerated every little achievement of his. Whatever he said concerned the domain of the forces of impurity. He spoke the truth - literally speaking - for anyone listening to him would form the impression that he was the most outstanding of the prophets of the world." When he described himself as "privy to the words of G‑d, aware of the knowledge of the Supreme One", the impression is formed that he was speaking about G‑d in Heaven. In fact he was privy only to words of "god" opposed to the words of "G‑d".

He communicated with the forces of impurity….

He communicated with the forces of impurity, forces considered by the nations as deities. When he spoke about being privy to the Supernal Knowledge, the listener got the impression that Balaam claimed to be privy to G‑d's range of knowledge, whereas in fact he was privy only to the "highest" of the forces of impurity that G‑d has allowed to govern part of nature. Balaam, technically speaking, spoke truthfully, since he had access to a power that in its field was considered supreme. However, the listener did not know that this power had no independent authority at all. It was but an agent of G‑d.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]