Balak, the king of Moab, wanted Balaam to come and curse Israel (Numbers 22:5-6). God told Balaam not to go (Numbers 22:12). Balak used gifts to try and get Balaam to go even though God still did not want him to go (Numbers 22:22). Balaam, instead of cursing Israel, blessed them (Numbers 23:1-11). In this passage Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Numbers 23:10). In the middle of this blessing we find an important lesson. For one to die the death of the righteous, he must first live the life of the righteous. This is something Balaam failed to do. If we want to die the death of the righteous, we cannot follow the example of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15).
Righteousness is truly a biblical subject. The word “righteousness” appears 302 times in the Bible, and the word “righteous” is found 238 times in 225 verses. The Bible defines “righteousness” as simply doing that which is right (1 John 3:7-10; Acts 10:35).
In order for man to be pleasing to God he must be righteous for God is righteous (Matthew 5:6, 48; 6:33; Romans 1:17; Psalm 35:24). To do that which is right (righteousness) one must know what is right. One can know what is right. It is the Word of God; the Bible (Psalm 119:123, 142; John 8:32; 17:17). However, it is not enough just to know what is right, one must do that which is right (Matthew 7:21-23; James 2:17-26; Romans 10:10).
The Bible records many examples of righteous people. Abel was called righteous by the Hebrew writer (Hebrews 11:4). Noah, Daniel, and Job were grouped together as those who were righteous (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). The apostle Peter called Noah a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). Abraham was called a righteous man by the apostle Paul (Galatians 3:6). Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was also called a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:7-8. The parents of John the Baptizer were also described as righteous before God (Luke 1:5-6). Even Pontius Pilate, who did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, recognized that He led a righteous life (Matthew 27:19, 24). And indeed He was Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).
Examples of Unrighteousness
The Bible also gives many examples of those who were unrighteous. Whereas Abel was described as a righteous man, his brother, Cain, was described as a wicked one and a murderer (1 John 3:12). The Bible uses Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of ungodliness (2 Peter 2:6). To be ungodly is to be unrighteous. Many times the nation of Israel was unrighteous. In the wilderness they worshipped a golden calf (Exodus 32:1-6) and because of their hardened hearts, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Numbers 13:30 – 14:4; Hebrews 3:8-17). They wanted an earthly king (1 Samuel 8:7) thereby rejecting Jehovah God as their King and they followed the evil examples of the kings of other nations which led to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Jesus condemned the wickedness of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-33). Wickedness is unrighteousness. The destiny of the unrighteous is eternal punishment (1 Corinthians 6:8-10; Revelation 21:8).
However, the unrighteousness of mankind can be turned to righteousness. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul points out the unrighteousness of man (Romans 4:9-10, 23). In the first three chapters of the same book, Paul dealt with the sins of the Jews and Gentiles—all of mankind. This unrighteousness is not inherited (Ezekiel 18:4, 20-24; Matthew 18:3). Unrighteousness (sin) is something that one does (1 John 1:10; 3:4). Paul also shows what is involved in changing from unrighteousness to righteousness in Romans 6:16-18. In verse 17 it states that one must obey from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered (that is, one must hear the Gospel, repent of his sins, confess Christ as the Son of the living God, be baptised for the forgiveness of his sins, and live according to the Word of Truth). This means that one must turn and resist Satan and submit to God (1 Thessalonians 1:9; James 4:7).
It should be the goal of all to die the death of the righteous but we must remember; to die the death of the righteous one must live the life of the righteous (Psalm 166:15; Proverbs 14:23; Revelation 14:13).