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Balak Hires Balaam

22 The Israelites set out and camped on the Plains of Moab along the Jordan across from Jericho. Balak son of Zippor saw everything that Israel had done to the Amorites. So Moab was afraid of the people, because they were so numerous. Moab was terrified because of the Israelites. Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this assembly will eat up everything around us, just as cattle eat up the grass in the field.”

Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to summon Balaam, the son of Beor, from Pethor by the Euphrates River, in the land of his own people.[a]

He said, “Look, a people came out of Egypt. They cover the surface of the land, and they are settling right across from me. Please come now. Curse this people for me, for they are more powerful than I am. Perhaps I will succeed and strike them down, driving them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed.”

The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian went with payments for his occult practices[b] in their hand. They came to Balaam and told him what Balak said.

Balaam said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will report to you what the Lord says to me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with Balaam.

God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?”

10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent messengers to me, who said, 11 ‘Look, the people that has come out of Egypt covers the surface of the land. Now, come, curse them for me. Perhaps I will be able to fight against them and drive them out.’”

12 God said to Balaam, “You are not to go with them. You are not to curse the people, for they are blessed.”

13 Balaam got up in the morning and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your land, because the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

14 The officials of Moab got up and went back to Balak. They said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”

15 So Balak again sent other officials, more numerous and more prestigious than the others. 16 They went to Balaam and said to him, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says, ‘Do not let anything prevent you from coming to me, 17 for I will reward you very richly. Also I will do whatever you tell me. Just come and curse this people for me.’”

18 Balaam responded to Balak’s servants, “Even if Balak would give to me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go against the command of the Lord my God to do anything small or great. 19 But please, stay and spend the night here, and I will find out what else the Lord might say to me.”

20 God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them. However, do only what I tell you.” 21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.

Balaam’s Donkey

22 But God’s anger burned because Balaam was going with them. So the Angel[c] of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand. So the donkey turned off the road and went into the field. Balaam struck the donkey to make it turn back to the road. 24 Then the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards with walls on both sides. 25 The donkey saw the Angel of the Lord and pressed against the wall and squeezed Balaam’s foot against the wall. Balaam struck the donkey again. 26 Then the Angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn to the right or to the left. 27 The donkey saw the Angel of the Lord and lay down under Balaam. Balaam’s anger burned, and he struck the donkey with his staff.

28 The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, which said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?”

29 Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! If only there was a sword in my hand, I would kill you now!”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, the one you have always ridden to this day? Is this what I usually do to you?”

He said, “No.”

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand. Balaam knelt and bowed with his face to the ground. 32 The Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Look, I myself have come out to oppose you, because your way is reckless[d] before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, I would have surely killed you by now and let the donkey live.”

34 Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I didn’t know that you stood in the road to confront me. Now if this is displeasing to you, I will go back.”

35 The Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you will speak only the words that I speak to you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Balak Meets Balaam

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Didn’t I send for you urgently when I summoned you? Why didn’t you come to me? Don’t you know that I can really reward you?”

38 Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you now. But am I really able to say anything? I will speak only the words that God puts in my mouth.”

39 Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep and sent for Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41 In the morning, Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth Baal. From there, he saw the outskirts of the people.

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 22:5 Or in the land of Amaw
  2. Numbers 22:7 This is often translated divination, but divination refers primarily to obtaining occult knowledge. Balak was seeking the exercise of occult power.
  3. Numbers 22:22 Or angel of the Lord
  4. Numbers 22:32 Literally the way is precipitous

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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