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22 Then the people of Isra’el traveled on and camped in the plains of Mo’av beyond the Yarden River, opposite Yericho.

Haftarah Hukkat: Shof’tim (Judges) 11:1–33

B’rit Hadashah suggested readings for Parashah Hukkat: Yochanan (John) 3:9–21; 4:3–30; 12:27–50

Parashah 40: Balak 22:2–25:9

[In regular years read with Parashah 39, in leap years read separately]

Now Balak the son of Tzippor saw all that Isra’el had done to the Emori. Mo’av was very afraid of the people, because there were so many of them; Mo’av was overcome with dread because of the people of Isra’el. So Mo’av said to the leaders of Midyan, “This horde will lick up everything around us, the way an ox licks up grass in the field.”

Balak the son of Tzippor was king of Mo’av at that time. He sent messengers to Bil‘am the son of B‘or, at P’tor by the [Euphrates] River in his native land, to tell him, “Listen, a people has come out of Egypt, spread over all the land and settled down next to me. Therefore, please come, and curse this people for me, because they are stronger than I am. Maybe I will be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is in fact blessed, and whomever you curse is in fact cursed.” The leaders of Mo’av and Midyan left, taking with them the payment for divining, came to Bil‘am and spoke to him the words of Balak. He said to them, “Stay here tonight, and I will bring you back whatever answer Adonai tells me.” So the princes of Mo’av stayed with Bil‘am.

God came to Bil‘am and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Bil‘am said to God, “Balak the son of Tzippor, king of Mo’av, has sent me this message: 11 ‘The people who came out of Egypt have spread over the land; now, come and curse them for me; maybe I will be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” 12 God answered Bil‘am, “You are not to go with them; you are not to curse the people, because they are blessed.”

(RY: v; LY: ii) 13 Bil‘am got up in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Return to your own land, because Adonai refuses to give me permission to go with you.” 14 The princes of Mo’av got up, returned to Balak and said, “Bil‘am refuses to come with us.”

15 Balak again sent princes, more of them and of higher status than the first group. 16 They went to Bil‘am and said to him, “Here is what Balak the son of Tzippor says: ‘Please don’t let anything keep you from coming to me. 17 I will reward you very well, and whatever you say to me I will do. So please come, and curse this people for me.’” 18 Bil‘am answered the servants of Balak, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of Adonai my God to do anything, great or small. 19 Now, please, you too, stay here tonight; so that I may find out what else Adonai will say to me.” 20 God came to Bil‘am during the night and said to him, “If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them; but do only what I tell you.”

(LY: iii) 21 So Bil‘am got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Mo’av. 22 But God’s anger flared up because he went, and the angel of Adonai stationed himself on the path to bar his way. He was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of Adonai standing on the road, drawn sword in hand; so the donkey turned off the road into the field; and Bil‘am had to beat the donkey to get it back on the road. 24 Then the angel of Adonai stood on the road where it became narrow as it passed among the vineyards and had stone walls on both sides. 25 The donkey saw the angel of Adonai and pushed up against the wall, crushing Bil‘am’s foot against the wall. So he beat it again. 26 The angel of Adonai moved ahead and stood in a place so tight that there was no room to turn either right or left. 27 Again the donkey saw the angel of Adonai and lay down under Bil‘am, which made him so angry that he hit the donkey with his stick. 28 But Adonai enabled the donkey to speak, and it said to Bil‘am, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” 29 Bil‘am said to the donkey, “It’s because you’ve been making a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand; I would kill you on the spot!” 30 The donkey said to Bil‘am, “I’m your donkey, right? You’ve ridden me all your life, right? Have I ever treated you like this before?” “No,” he admitted. 31 Then Adonai opened Bil‘am’s eyes, so that he could see the angel of Adonai standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, and he bowed his head and fell on his face. 32 The angel of Adonai said to him, “Why did you hit your donkey three times like that? I have come out here to bar your way, because you are rushing to oppose me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside these three times; and indeed, if she hadn’t turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and saved it alive!” 34 Bil‘am said to the angel of Adonai, “I have sinned. I didn’t know that you were standing on the road to block me. Now, therefore, if what I am doing displeases you, I will go back.” 35 But the angel of Adonai said to Bil‘am, “No, go on with the men; but you are to say only what I tell you to say.” So Bil‘am went along with the princes of Balak.

36 When Balak heard that Bil‘am had come, he went out to meet him in the city of Mo’av at the Arnon border, in the farthest reaches of the territory. 37 Balak said to Bil‘am, “I sent more than once to summon you! Why didn’t you come to me? Did you think I couldn’t pay you enough?” 38 Bil‘am replied to Balak, “Here, I’ve come to you! But I have no power of my own to say anything. The word that God puts in my mouth is what I will say.”

(RY: vi, LY: iv) 39 Bil‘am went with Balak. When they arrived at Kiryat-Hutzot, 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, then sent to Bil‘am and the princes with him. 41 In the morning Balak took Bil‘am and brought him up to the high places of Ba‘al; from there he could see a portion of the people.

Balak Summons Balaam

22 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab(A) and camped along the Jordan(B) across from Jericho.(C)

Now Balak son of Zippor(D) saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread(E) because of the Israelites.

The Moabites(F) said to the elders of Midian,(G) “This horde is going to lick up everything(H) around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.(I)

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor,(J) who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River,(K) in his native land. Balak said:

“A people has come out of Egypt;(L) they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse(M) on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land.(N) For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”

The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination.(O) When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

“Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.(P)” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

God came to Balaam(Q) and asked,(R) “Who are these men with you?”

10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”

12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.(S)

13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:

“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely(T) and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse(U) on these people for me.”

18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God.(V) 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.(W)

20 That night God came to Balaam(X) and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”(Y)

Balaam’s Donkey

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry(Z) when he went, and the angel of the Lord(AA) stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword(AB) in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it(AC) to get it back on the road.

24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry(AD) and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth,(AE) and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?(AF)

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.(AG)

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes,(AH) and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now,(AI) but I would have spared it.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned.(AJ) I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

36 When Balak(AK) heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon(AL) border, at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?”

38 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”(AM)

39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep,(AN) and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal,(AO) and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.(AP)

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 22:32 The meaning of the Hebrew for this clause is uncertain.

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