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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.


  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

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