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22 The people of Israel now traveled to the plains of Moab and camped east of the Jordan River opposite Jericho. 2-3 When King Balak of Moab (the son of Zippor) realized how many of them there were, and when he learned what they had done to the Amorites, he and his people were terrified. They quickly consulted with the leaders of Midian.

“This mob will eat us like an ox eats grass,” they exclaimed.

So King Balak 5-6 sent messengers to Balaam (son of Beor) who was living in his native land of Pethor, near the Euphrates River. He begged Balaam to come and help him.

“A vast horde of people has arrived from Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth and are headed toward me,” he frantically explained. “Please come and curse them for me, so that I can drive them out of my land; for I know what fantastic blessings fall on those whom you bless, and I also know that those whom you curse are doomed.”

The messengers he sent were some of the top leaders of Moab and Midian. They went to Balaam with money in hand and urgently explained to him what Balak wanted.

“Stay here overnight,” Balaam said, “and I’ll tell you in the morning whatever the Lord directs me to say.” So they did.

That night God came to Balaam and asked him, “Who are these men?”

10 “They have come from King Balak of Moab,” he replied. 11 “The king says that a vast horde of people from Egypt has arrived at his border, and he wants me to go at once and curse them, in the hope that he can battle them successfully.”

12 “Don’t do it!” God told him. “You are not to curse them, for I have blessed them!”

13 The next morning Balaam told the men, “Go on home! The Lord won’t let me do it.”

14 So King Balak’s ambassadors returned without him and reported his refusal. 15 Balak tried again. This time he sent a larger number of even more distinguished ambassadors than the former group. 16-17 They came to Balaam with this message:

“King Balak pleads with you to come. He promises you great honors plus any payment you ask. Name your own figure! Only come and curse these people for us.”

18 But Balaam replied, “If he were to give me a palace filled with silver and gold, I could do nothing contrary to the command of the Lord my God. 19 However, stay here tonight so that I can find out whether the Lord will add anything to what he said before.”

20 That night God told Balaam, “You may get up and go with these men, but be sure to say only what I tell you to.”

21 So the next morning he saddled his donkey and started off with them. 22-23 But God was angry about Balaam’s eager attitude,[a] so he sent an Angel to stand in the road to kill him. As Balaam and two servants were riding along, Balaam’s donkey suddenly saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword. She bolted off the road into a field, but Balaam beat her back onto the road. 24 Now the Angel of the Lord stood at a place where the road went between two vineyard walls. 25 When the donkey saw him standing there, she squirmed past by pressing against the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot in the process. So he beat her again. 26 Then the Angel of the Lord moved farther down the road and stood in a place so narrow that the donkey couldn’t get by at all. 27 So she lay down in the road! In a great fit of temper Balaam beat her again with his staff.

28 Then the Lord caused the donkey to speak! “What have I done that deserves your beating me these three times?” she asked.

29 “Because you have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “I wish I had a sword with me, for I would kill you.”

30 “Have I ever done anything like this before in my entire life?” the donkey asked.

“No,” he admitted.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the Angel standing in the roadway with drawn sword, and he fell flat on the ground before him.

32 “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the Angel demanded. “I have come to stop you because you are headed for destruction. 33 Three times the donkey saw me and shied away from me; otherwise I would certainly have killed you by now and spared her.”

34 Then Balaam confessed, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were there. I will go back home if you don’t want me to go on.”

35 But the Angel told him, “Go with the men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with them. 36 When King Balak heard that Balaam was on the way, he left the capital and went out to meet him at the Arnon River, at the border of his land.

37 “Why did you delay so long?” he asked Balaam. “Didn’t you believe me when I said I would give you great honors?”

38 Balaam replied, “I have come, but I have no power to say anything except what God tells me to say; and that is what I shall speak.” 39 Balaam accompanied the king to Kiriathhuzoth, 40 where King Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and gave animals to Balaam and the ambassadors for their sacrifices. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam to the top of Mount Bamoth-baal, from which he could see the people of Israel spread out before him.


  1. Numbers 22:22 God was angry about Balaam’s eager attitude, literally, “God was angry because he went.” He said much more than God had told him to. See 25:1-3; 31:16.

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)


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