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Numbers 22-24Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Balak Hires Balaam

22 The Israelites traveled on and camped in the plains of Moab near the Jordan across from Jericho. Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab was terrified of the people because they were numerous, and Moab dreaded the Israelites. So the Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will devour everything around us like an ox eats up the green plants in the field.”

Since Balak son of Zippor was Moab’s king at that time, he sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates in the land of his people.[a][b] Balak said to him: “Look, a people has come out of Egypt; they cover the surface of the land and are living right across from me. Please come and put a curse on these people for me because they are more powerful than I am. I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that those you bless are blessed and those you curse are cursed.”

The elders of Moab and Midian departed with fees for divination in hand. They came to Balaam and reported Balak’s words to him. He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will give you the answer the Lord tells me.” So the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam.

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

10 Balaam replied to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent this message to me: 11 ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the surface of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. I may be able to fight against them and drive them away.’”

12 Then God said to Balaam, “You are not to go with them. You are not to curse this people, for they are blessed.”

13 So Balaam got up the next 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 arose, returned to Balak, and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 Balak sent officials again who were more numerous and higher in rank than the others. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: ‘Let nothing keep you from coming to me, 17 for I will greatly honor you and do whatever you ask me. So please come and put a curse on these people for me!’”

18 But Balaam responded to the servants of Balak, “If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the command of the Lord my God to do anything small or great. 19 Please stay here overnight as the others did, so that I may find out what else the Lord has to tell me.”

20 God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “Since these men have come to summon you, get up and go with them, but you must only do what I tell you.” 21 When he got up in the morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the officials of Moab.

Balaam’s Donkey and the Angel

22 But God was incensed that Balaam was going, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand on the path to oppose him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing on the path with a drawn sword in His hand, she turned off the path and went into the field. So Balaam hit her to return her to the path. 24 Then the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow passage between the vineyards, with a stone wall on either side. 25 The donkey saw the Angel of the Lord and pressed herself against the wall, squeezing Balaam’s foot against it. So he hit her once again. 26 The Angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn to the right or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. So he became furious and beat the donkey with his stick.

28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!”

30 But the donkey said, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?”

“No,” he replied.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword in His hand. Balaam knelt and bowed with his face to the ground. 32 The Angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you, because what you are doing is evil in My sight. 33 The donkey saw Me and turned away from Me these three times. If she had not turned away from Me, I would have killed you by now and let her live.”

34 Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that You were standing in the path to confront me. And now, if it is evil in Your sight, I will go back.”

35 Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you are to say only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite city[c] on the Arnon border at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak asked 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 Balaam said to him, “Look, I have come to you, but can I say anything I want? I must speak only the message God puts in my mouth.” 39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth.[d] 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 to Bamoth-baal.[e] From there he saw the outskirts of the people’s camp.

Balaam’s Oracles

23 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” So Balak did as Balaam directed, and they offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here by your burnt offering while I am gone. Maybe the Lord[f] will meet with me. I will tell you whatever He reveals to me.” So he went to a barren hill.

God[g] met with him and Balaam said to Him, “I have arranged seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” Then the Lord put a message in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak and say what I tell you.”

So he returned to Balak, who was standing there by his burnt offering with all the officials of Moab.

Balaam’s First Oracle

Balaam proclaimed his poem:

Balak brought me from Aram;
the king of Moab, from the eastern mountains:
“Come, put a curse on Jacob for me;
come, denounce Israel!”
How can I curse someone God has not cursed?
How can I denounce someone the Lord has not denounced?
I see them from the top of rocky cliffs,
and I watch them from the hills.
There is a people living alone;
it does not consider itself among the nations.
10 Who has counted the dust of Jacob
or numbered the dust clouds[h] of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright;
let the end of my life be like theirs.

11 “What have you done to me?” Balak asked Balaam. “I brought you to curse my enemies, but look, you have only blessed them!”

12 He answered, “Shouldn’t I say exactly what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Balaam’s Second Oracle

13 Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place where you can see them. You will only see the outskirts of their camp; you won’t see all of them. From there, put a curse on them for me.” 14 So Balak took him to Lookout Field[i] on top of Pisgah, built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

15 Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here by your burnt offering while I seek the Lord over there.”

16 The Lord met with Balaam and put a message in his mouth. Then He said, “Return to Balak and say what I tell you.”

17 So he returned to Balak, who was standing there by his burnt offering with the officials of Moab. Balak asked him, “What did the Lord say?”

18 Balaam proclaimed his poem:

Balak, get up and listen;
son of Zippor, pay attention to what I say!
19 God is not a man who lies,
or a son of man who changes His mind.
Does He speak and not act,
or promise and not fulfill?
20 I have indeed received a command to bless;
since He has blessed,[j] I cannot change it.
21 He considers no disaster for Jacob;
He sees no trouble for Israel.[k]
The Lord their God is with them,
and there is rejoicing over the King among them.
22 God brought them out of Egypt;
He is like the horns of a wild ox for them.[l]
23 There is no magic curse against Jacob
and no divination against Israel.
It will now be said about Jacob and Israel,
“What great things God has done!”
24 A people rise up like a lioness;
They rouse themselves like a lion.
They will not lie down until they devour the prey
and drink the blood of the slain.

25 Then Balak told Balaam, “Don’t curse them and don’t bless them!”

26 But Balaam answered him, “Didn’t I tell you: Whatever the Lord says, I must do?”

Balaam’s Third Oracle

27 Again Balak said to Balaam, “Please come. I will take you to another place. Maybe it will be agreeable to God that you can put a curse on them for me there.” 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the wasteland.[m]

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

24 Since Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go to seek omens as on previous occasions, but turned[n] toward the wilderness. When Balaam looked up and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him, and he proclaimed his poem:

The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eyes are opened,[o]
the oracle of one who hears the sayings of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls into a trance with his eyes uncovered:
How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
your dwellings, Israel.
They stretch out like river valleys,[p]
like gardens beside a stream,
like aloes the Lord has planted,
like cedars beside the water.
Water will flow from his buckets,
and his seed will be by abundant water.
His king will be greater than Agag,[q]
and his kingdom will be exalted.
God brought him out of Egypt;
He is like[r] the horns of a wild ox for them.
He will feed on enemy nations
and gnaw their bones;
he will strike them with his arrows.
He crouches, he lies down like a lion
or a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
Those who bless you will be blessed,
and those who curse you will be cursed.

10 Then Balak became furious with Balaam, struck his hands together, and said to him, “I summoned you to put a curse on my enemies, but instead, you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now go to your home! I said I would reward you richly, but look, the Lord has denied you a reward.”

12 Balaam answered Balak, “Didn’t I previously tell the messengers you sent me: 13 If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the Lord’s command, to do anything good or bad of my own will? I will say whatever the Lord says. 14 Now I am going back to my people, but first, let me warn you what these people will do to your people in the future.”

Balaam’s Fourth Oracle

15 Then he proclaimed his poem:

The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eyes are opened;[s]
16 the oracle of one who hears the sayings of God
and has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls into a trance with his eyes uncovered:
17 I see him,[t] but not now;
I perceive him,[u] but not near.
A star will come from Jacob,
and a scepter will arise from Israel.
He will smash the forehead[v] of Moab
and strike down[w] all the Shethites.[x]
18 Edom will become a possession;
Seir will become a possession of its enemies,
but Israel will be triumphant.
19 One who comes from Jacob will rule;
he will destroy the city’s survivors.

20 Then Balaam saw Amalek and proclaimed his poem:

Amalek was first among the nations,
but his future is destruction.

21 Next he saw the Kenites and proclaimed his poem:

Your dwelling place is enduring;
your nest is set in the cliffs.
22 Kain will be destroyed
when Asshur takes you captive.

23 Once more he proclaimed his poem:

Ah, who can live when God does this?
24 Ships will come from the coast of Kittim;
they will afflict Asshur and Eber,
but they too will come to destruction.

25 Balaam then arose and went back to his homeland, and Balak also went his way.

Footnotes:

  1. Numbers 22:5 Sam, Vg, Syr read of the Ammonites
  2. Numbers 22:5 Or of the Amawites
  3. Numbers 22:36 Or at Ir-moab, or at Ar of Moab
  4. Numbers 22:39 = The City of Streets
  5. Numbers 22:41 = The High Places of Baal
  6. Numbers 23:3 DSS, LXX, Sam read Maybe God
  7. Numbers 23:4 DSS, Sam read The Angel of God
  8. Numbers 23:10 Or numbered a fourth
  9. Numbers 23:14 Or to the field of Zophim
  10. Numbers 23:20 Sam, LXX read since I will bless
  11. Numbers 23:21 Or not observe sin in Jacob; not see wrongdoing
  12. Numbers 23:22 Or Egypt; they have the horns of a wild ox
  13. Numbers 23:28 Or overlooks Jeshimon
  14. Numbers 24:1 Lit set his face
  15. Numbers 24:3 LXX reads true; Vg reads closed
  16. Numbers 24:6 Or like date palms
  17. Numbers 24:7 Sam, LXX, Sym, Theod read Gog
  18. Numbers 24:8 Or He has
  19. Numbers 24:15 LXX reads true; Vg reads closed
  20. Numbers 24:17 Or Him
  21. Numbers 24:17 Or Him
  22. Numbers 24:17 Or frontiers
  23. Numbers 24:17 Sam reads and the skulls of; Jr 48:45
  24. Numbers 24:17 Or Sethites

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