23 Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and then prepare seven bulls and seven rams.”

Balak did it. Then Balaam and Balak sacrificed a bull and a ram on each of the altars.

Balaam instructed Balak: “Stand watch here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I go off by myself. Maybe God will come and meet with me. Whatever he shows or tells me, I’ll report to you.” Then he went off by himself.

God did meet with Balaam. Balaam said, “I’ve set up seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.”

Then God gave Balaam a message: “Return to Balak and give him this message.”

6-10 He went back and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and with him all the nobles of Moab. Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:

Balak led me here from Aram,
    the king of Moab all the way from the eastern mountains.
“Go, curse Jacob for me;
    go, damn Israel.”
How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
    How can I damn whom God has not damned?
From rock pinnacles I see them,
    from hilltops I survey them:
Look! a people camping off by themselves,
    thinking themselves outsiders among nations.
But who could ever count the dust of Jacob
    or take a census of cloud-of-dust Israel?
I want to die like these right-living people!
    I want an end just like theirs!

11 Balak said to Balaam, “What’s this? I brought you here to curse my enemies, and all you’ve done is bless them.”

12 Balaam answered, “Don’t I have to be careful to say what God gives me to say?”

13 Balak said to him, “Go with me to another place from which you can only see the outskirts of their camp—you won’t be able to see the whole camp. From there, curse them for my sake.”

14 So he took him to Watchmen’s Meadow at the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars there and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

15 Balaam said to Balak, “Take up your station here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I meet with him over there.”

16 God met with Balaam and gave him a message. He said, “Return to Balak and give him the message.”

17-24 Balaam returned and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and the nobles of Moab with him. Balak said to him, “What did God say?” Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:

On your feet, Balak. Listen,
    listen carefully son of Zippor:
God is not man, one given to lies,
    and not a son of man changing his mind.
Does he speak and not do what he says?
    Does he promise and not come through?
I was brought here to bless;
    and now he’s blessed—how can I change that?
He has no bone to pick with Jacob,
    he sees nothing wrong with Israel.
God is with them,
    and they’re with him, shouting praises to their King.
God brought them out of Egypt,
    rampaging like a wild ox.
No magic spells can bind Jacob,
    no incantations can hold back Israel.
People will look at Jacob and Israel and say,
    “What a great thing has God done!”
Look, a people rising to its feet, stretching like a lion,
    a king-of-the-beasts, aroused,
Unsleeping, unresting until its hunt is over
    and it’s eaten and drunk its fill.

25 Balak said to Balaam, “Well, if you can’t curse them, at least don’t bless them.”

26 Balaam replied to Balak, “Didn’t I tell you earlier: ‘All God speaks, and only what he speaks, I speak’?”

27-28 Balak said to Balaam, “Please, let me take you to another place; maybe we can find the right place in God’s eyes where you’ll be able to curse them for me.” So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, with a vista over the Jeshimon (Wasteland).

29 Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars for me here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for sacrifice.”

30 Balak did it and presented an offering of a bull and a ram on each of the altars.

Balaam’s First Message

23 Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams(A) for me.” Balak did as Balaam said, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar.(B)

Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your offering while I go aside. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet with me.(C) Whatever he reveals to me I will tell you.” Then he went off to a barren height.

God met with him,(D) and Balaam said, “I have prepared seven altars, and on each altar I have offered a bull and a ram.”

The Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth(E) and said, “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”(F)

So he went back to him and found him standing beside his offering, with all the Moabite officials.(G) Then Balaam(H) spoke his message:(I)

“Balak brought me from Aram,(J)
    the king of Moab from the eastern mountains.(K)
‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me;
    come, denounce Israel.’(L)
How can I curse
    those whom God has not cursed?(M)
How can I denounce
    those whom the Lord has not denounced?(N)
From the rocky peaks I see them,
    from the heights I view them.(O)
I see a people who live apart
    and do not consider themselves one of the nations.(P)
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob(Q)
    or number even a fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,(R)
    and may my final end be like theirs!(S)

11 Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies,(T) but you have done nothing but bless them!”(U)

12 He answered, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”(V)

Balaam’s Second Message

13 Then Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place(W) where you can see them; you will not see them all but only the outskirts of their camp.(X) And from there, curse them for me.(Y) 14 So he took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah,(Z) and there he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.(AA)

15 Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your offering while I meet with him over there.”

16 The Lord met with Balaam and put a word in his mouth(AB) and said, “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”

17 So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the Moabite officials.(AC) Balak asked him, “What did the Lord say?”

18 Then he spoke his message:(AD)

“Arise, Balak, and listen;
    hear me, son of Zippor.(AE)
19 God is not human,(AF) that he should lie,(AG)
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.(AH)
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise(AI) and not fulfill?
20 I have received a command to bless;(AJ)
    he has blessed,(AK) and I cannot change it.(AL)

21 “No misfortune is seen in Jacob,(AM)
    no misery observed[a] in Israel.(AN)
The Lord their God is with them;(AO)
    the shout of the King(AP) is among them.
22 God brought them out of Egypt;(AQ)
    they have the strength of a wild ox.(AR)
23 There is no divination against[b] Jacob,
    no evil omens(AS) against[c] Israel.
It will now be said of Jacob
    and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’
24 The people rise like a lioness;(AT)
    they rouse themselves like a lion(AU)
that does not rest till it devours its prey
    and drinks the blood(AV) of its victims.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!”

26 Balaam answered, “Did I not tell you I must do whatever the Lord says?”(AW)

Balaam’s Third Message

27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Come, let me take you to another place.(AX) Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me(AY) from there.” 28 And Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor,(AZ) overlooking the wasteland.

29 Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30 Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.(BA)

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 23:21 Or He has not looked on Jacob’s offenses / or on the wrongs found
  2. Numbers 23:23 Or in
  3. Numbers 23:23 Or in

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