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Numbers 22-24 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

Balaam Is Hired to Curse Israel

22 Then the Israelites moved and set up camp across from Jericho, on the plains of Moab east of the Jordan River.

Balak, son of Zippor, saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. The Moabites were very afraid because there were so many Israelites. Besides, the Moabites couldn’t stand these people.

So the Moabites said to the leaders of Midian, “All those people will eventually eat up everything around us the same way an ox eats up the grass in a field.”

At that time Balak, son of Zippor, was king of Moab. He sent messengers to summon Balaam, son of Beor, who was at Pethor, on the Euphrates River, in the land where his people lived. Balak’s message was, “A nation has just come here from Egypt. They’ve spread out all over the countryside and are setting up their camp here in front of me. Please come and curse these people for me, because they are too strong for me. Maybe then I’ll be able to defeat them and force them out of the country. I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.”

The leaders of Moab and Midian left, taking money with them to pay for Balaam’s services. They came to Balaam and told him what Balak had said.

“Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I’ll report to you what the Lord tells me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.

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

10 Balaam answered, “Balak, son of King Zippor of Moab, sent them with this message: 11 ‘Some people have just come from Egypt and are spreading out all over the countryside. Now come and curse them for me. Maybe I’ll be able to fight them and force them out.’”

12 But God said to Balaam, “Don’t go with them! Don’t curse these people, because they are blessed.”

13 When Balaam got up in the morning, he said to Balak’s princes, “Go back to your own country, because the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

14 So the Moabite princes went back to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 Balak sent a larger group of more highly respected princes. 16 When they came to Balaam, they said to him, “This is what Balak, son of Zippor, says: Don’t let anything keep you from coming to me. 17 I will make sure you are richly rewarded, and I will do whatever you ask. Please, come and curse these people for me.”

18 But Balaam answered Balak’s servants, “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I couldn’t disobey the command of the Lord my God no matter whether the request was important or not. 19 Now, why don’t you stay here tonight, as the others did, and I’ll find out what else the Lord may have to tell me.”

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “If these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Balaam’s Journey to Moab

21 When Balaam got up in the morning, he saddled his donkey and left with the Moabite princes.

22 God became angry that he was going. So the Messenger of the Lord stood in the road to stop him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. 23 When the donkey saw the Messenger of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn, the donkey turned off the road into a field. Balaam hit the donkey to get it back on the road.

24 Where the road went through the vineyards, it was narrow, with stone walls on both sides. Now the Messenger of the Lord stood there. 25 When the donkey saw the Messenger of the Lord, it moved over and pinned Balaam’s foot against the wall. So Balaam hit the donkey again.

26 Then the Messenger of the Lord moved ahead and stood in a narrower place where there was no room to turn to the right or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the Messenger of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam. Balaam became so angry he hit the donkey with his stick. 28 Then the Lord made the donkey speak, and it asked Balaam, “What have I done to make you hit me three times?”

29 Balaam answered, “You’ve made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “I’m your own donkey. You’ve always ridden me. Have I ever done this to you before?”

“No,” he answered.

31 Then the Lord let Balaam see the Messenger of the Lord who was standing in the road with his sword drawn. So Balaam knelt, bowing with his face touching the ground.

32 The Messenger of the Lord asked him, “Why have you hit your donkey three times like this? I’ve come here to stop you because the trip you’re taking is evil. [a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, I would certainly have killed you by now but spared the donkey.”

34 Balaam said to the Messenger of the Lord, “I’ve sinned. I didn’t know you were standing there in the road to stop me. If you still think this trip is evil, I’ll go back.”

35 The Messenger of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but say only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s princes.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at Ir Moab, in the region of the Arnon Valley, right on the border of Moab. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Why didn’t you come when I summoned you? You knew I’d be able to reward you.”

38 Balaam replied, “Well, I’ve come to you now. But I can’t say whatever I want to. I can only say what God tells me to say.”

39 Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle, sheep, and goats, and sent some of the meat to Balaam and the princes who were with him.

41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal. From there he could see the outskirts of the Israelites’ camp.

Balaam’s First Prophecy

23 Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” Balak did what Balaam told him, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offering while I’m gone. Maybe the Lord will come and meet with me. I will tell you whatever he reveals to me.” Then Balaam went off to a higher place where there were no trees.

God came to him, and Balaam said, “I have set up seven altars, and I offered a bull and a ram on each altar.”

The Lord told Balaam, “Go back to Balak, and give him my message.”

So he went back to Balak and found him standing beside his burnt offering with all the princes of Moab. Then Balaam delivered this message:

“Balak brought me from Aram.
The king of Moab summoned me from the eastern mountains.
    ‘Come, curse Jacob for me,’ he said.
    ‘Come, condemn Israel.’
How can I curse those whom God hasn’t cursed?
How can I condemn those whom the Lord hasn’t condemned?
    I see them from the top of rocky cliffs,
    I look at them from the hills.
        I see a nation that lives by itself,
            people who do not consider themselves
                to be like other nations.
10 The descendants of Jacob are like specks of dust.
    Who can count them
        or number even one-fourth of the people of Israel?
Let me die the death of innocent people.
Let my end be like theirs.”

11 Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, but all you’ve done is bless them!”

12 Balaam answered, “I must say what the Lord tells me to say.”

Balaam’s Second Prophecy

13 Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place, where you can see the Israelites. You will see only some of them, not all of them. Curse them for me from there.”

14 So he took him to the Field of Zophim[b] on top of Mount Pisgah, where he built seven altars. He offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offering while I meet with God over there.”

16 The Lord came to Balaam and told him, “Go back to Balak, and give him my message.”

17 He came to Balak and found him standing beside his burnt offering with the princes of Moab. Balak asked him, “What did the Lord say?” 18 Then Balaam delivered this message:

“Stand up, Balak, and listen!
    Hear me, son of Zippor!
19 God is not like people. He tells no lies.
    He is not like humans. He doesn’t change his mind.
        When he says something, he does it.
        When he makes a promise, he keeps it.
20 I have received a command to bless.
    He has blessed, and I can’t change it.
21 He doesn’t want any trouble for the descendants of Jacob.
    He sees no misfortune for the people of Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
    praised as their king.
22 The God who brought them out of Egypt
    has the strength of a wild bull.
23         No spell can curse the descendants of Jacob.
        No magic can harm the people of Israel.
Now it will be said of Jacob and Israel:
    ‘See what God has done!’
24 Here is a nation that attacks like a lioness
    and is as ferocious as a lion.
        It doesn’t lie down until it eats its prey
            and drinks the blood of its victim.”

25 Balak said to Balaam, “If you won’t curse them, then at least don’t bless them!”

26 Balaam answered, “Didn’t I tell you that I must do whatever the Lord says?”

27 Balak said to Balaam, “Come, let me take you to another place. Maybe God wants you to curse them for me from there.” 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Mount Peor, which overlooks Jeshimon.

29 Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30 Balak did what Balaam told him, and he offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

Balaam’s Third Prophecy

24 When Balaam saw that the Lord wanted to bless Israel, he didn’t look for omens as he had done before. He turned toward the desert, looked up, and saw Israel’s camp grouped by tribes. The Spirit of God entered him, and he delivered this message:

“This is the message of Balaam, son of Beor.
This is the message of the man whose eyesight is clear.[c]
This is the message of the one who hears God’s words,
    has a vision from the Almighty,
        and falls into a trance with his eyes open:
    How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
        and the places where you live, Israel.
    Your tents spread out like rivers,
        like gardens by a river,
        like aloes planted by the Lord,
        like cedars by the water.
    Water will flow from their buckets,
        and their crops will have plenty of water.
    Their king will be greater than Agag,
        and their kingdom will be considered the best.
    The God who brought them out of Egypt
        has the strength of a wild bull.
    He will devour nations that are his enemies,
        crush their bones,
            and pierce them with arrows.
    His people lie down and rest like a lion.
    They are like a lioness. Who dares to disturb them?
    Those who bless you will be blessed!
    Those who curse you will be cursed!”

Balaam’s Fourth Prophecy

10 Balak became angry with Balaam. He clapped his hands and said, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, and now you have blessed them three times. 11 Get out of here! Go home! I said I’d reward you richly, but the Lord has made you lose your reward.”

12 Balaam answered Balak, “I told the messengers you sent me, 13 ‘Even if Balak would give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I couldn’t disobey the Lord’s command no matter how good or bad the request might seem to me. I must say only what the Lord says.’ 14 Even though I’m going back to my people, I’ll give you some advice. I’ll tell you what these people will do to your people in the days to come.”

15 Then Balaam delivered this message:

“This is the message of Balaam, son of Beor.
This is the message of the man whose eyesight is clear.
16 This is the message of the one who hears God’s words,
    receives knowledge from the Most High,
        has a vision from the Almighty,
            and falls into a trance with his eyes open:
17     I see someone who is not here now.
    I look at someone who is not nearby.
        A star will come from Jacob.
        A scepter will rise from Israel.
            He will crush the heads of the Moabites
                and destroy all the people of Sheth.[d]
18     Edom will be conquered,
        and Seir, his enemy, will be conquered.
            So Israel will become wealthy.
19 He will rule from Jacob
    and destroy whoever is left in their cities.”

20 Then Balaam saw the Amalekites and delivered this message:

“Amalek was first among the nations,
    but in the end it will be destroyed.”

21 Then he saw the Kenites and delivered this message:

“You have a permanent place to live.
Your nest is built in a rock.
22     But it is destined to be burned, you descendants of Cain,
        when Assyria takes you as prisoners of war.”[e]

23 He delivered this message:

“Oh no! Who will live when God decides to do this?
24 Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus.
    They will conquer Assyria and Eber.
        But they, too, will be totally destroyed.”

25 Then Balaam got up and went back home, and Balak also went on his way.

Footnotes:

  1. Numbers 22:33 Greek; Hebrew meaning of “because . . . evil” uncertain.
  2. Numbers 23:14 Or “to a lookout point.”
  3. Numbers 24:3 Greek, Targum; Hebrew meaning uncertain.
  4. Numbers 24:17 Or “all the descendants of Seth.”
  5. Numbers 24:22 There is a play on words here among Hebrew qeyniy (Kenite), qinneka (your nest), and qayin (Cain).
GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

Copyright © 1995 by God's Word to the Nations. Used by permission of God's Word Mission Society.

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