Balak Summons Balaam to Curse Israel
Balaam and the angel, painting from Gustav Jaeger, 1836. Source:wikipedia.org
1 The Israelites set out, and camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho. 2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were so numerous; Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. 4 And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” Now Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is on the Euphrates, in the land of Amaw, to summon him, saying, “A people has come out of Egypt; they have spread over the face of the earth, and they have settled next to me. 6 Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I; perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land; for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed.”
7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam, and gave him Balak’s message. 8 He said to them, “Stay here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, just as the Lord speaks to me”; so the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Balaam said to God, “King Balak son of Zippor of Moab, has sent me this message: 11 ‘A people has come out of Egypt and has spread over the face of the earth; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” 12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam rose in the morning, and said to the officials of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the officials of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”
15 Once again Balak sent officials, more numerous and more distinguished than these. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor: ‘Do not let anything hinder you from coming to me; 17 for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do; come, curse this people for me.’” 18 But Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 19 You remain here, as the others did, so that I may learn what more the Lord may say to me.” 20 That night God came to Balaam 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 to do.” 21 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.
Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel
22 God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. 26 Then the angel of the Lord went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way 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 Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it 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! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30 But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. 32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary, because your way is perverse[b] before me. 33 The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.” 35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but speak only what I tell you to speak.” So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak.
36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at Ir-moab, on the boundary formed by the Arnon, at the farthest point of the boundary. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 38 Balaam said to Balak, “I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say.” 39 Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent them to Balaam and to the officials who were with him.
Balaam’s First Oracle
41 On the next day Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal; and from there he could see part of the people of Israel.
1 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 2 Balak did as Balaam had said; and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offerings while I go aside. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet me. Whatever he shows me I will tell you.” And he went to a bare height.
4 Then God met Balaam; and Balaam said to him, “I have arranged the seven altars, and have offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” 5 The Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you must say.” 6 So he returned to Balak, who was standing beside his burnt offerings with all the officials of Moab. 7 Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:
“Balak has brought me from Aram,
the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:
‘Come, curse Jacob for me;
Come, denounce Israel!’
8 How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?
9 For from the top of the crags I see him,
from the hills I behold him.
Here is a people living alone,
and not reckoning itself among the nations!
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob,
or number the dust-cloud of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
and let my end be like his!”
11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but now you have done nothing but bless them.” 12 He answered, “Must I not take care to say what the Lord puts into my mouth?”
Balaam’s Second Oracle
13 So Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only part of them, and shall not see them all; then curse them for me from there.” 14 So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15 Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offerings, while I meet the Lord over there.” 16 The Lord met Balaam, put a word into his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you shall say.” 17 When he came to him, he was standing beside his burnt offerings with the officials of Moab. Balak said to him, “What has the Lord said?” 18 Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:
“Rise, Balak, and hear;
listen to me, O son of Zippor:
19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
20 See, I received a command to bless;
he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
21 He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob;
nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
acclaimed as a king among them.
22 God, who brings them out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for them.
23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob,
no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
‘See what God has done!’
24 Look, a people rising up like a lioness,
and rousing itself like a lion!
It does not lie down until it has eaten the prey
and drunk the blood of the slain.”
25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.” 26 But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the Lord says, that is what I must do’?”
27 So Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the wasteland. 29 Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30 So Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
Balaam’s Third Oracle
24 Now Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, so he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. 2 Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. Then the spirit of God came upon him, 3 and he uttered his oracle, saying:
“The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is clear,
4 the oracle of one who hears the words of God,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
who falls down, but with eyes uncovered:
5 how fair are your tents, O Jacob,
your encampments, O Israel!
6 Like palm groves that stretch far away,
like gardens beside a river,
like aloes that the Lord has planted,
like cedar trees beside the waters.
7 Water shall flow from his buckets,
and his seed shall have abundant water,
his king shall be higher than Agag,
and his kingdom shall be exalted.
8 God who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
9 He crouched, he lay down like a lion,
and like a lioness; who will rouse him up?
Blessed is everyone who blesses you,
and cursed is everyone who curses you.”
10 Then Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. Balak said to Balaam, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but instead you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now be off with you! Go home! I said, ‘I will reward you richly,’ but the Lord has denied you any reward.” 12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will; what the Lord says, that is what I will say’? 14 So now, I am going to my people; let me advise you what this people will do to your people in days to come.”
Balaam’s Fourth Oracle
15 So he uttered his oracle, saying:
“The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is clear,
16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God,
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
who falls down, but with his eyes uncovered:
17 I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near—
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the borderlands of Moab,
and the territory of all the Shethites.
18 Edom will become a possession,
Seir a possession of its enemies,
while Israel does valiantly.
19 One out of Jacob shall rule,
and destroy the survivors of Ir.”
20 Then he looked on Amalek, and uttered his oracle, saying:
“First among the nations was Amalek,
but its end is to perish forever.”
21 Then he looked on the Kenite, and uttered his oracle, saying:
“Enduring is your dwelling place,
and your nest is set in the rock;
22 yet Kain is destined for burning.
How long shall Asshur take you away captive?”
23 Again he uttered his oracle, saying:
“Alas, who shall live when God does this?
24 But ships shall come from Kittim
and shall afflict Asshur and Eber;
and he also shall perish forever.”
25 Then Balaam got up and went back to his place, and Balak also went his way.