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Numbers 22-25The Message (MSG)

Balaam

22 The People of Israel marched on and camped on the Plains of Moab at Jordan-Jericho.

2-3 Balak son of Zippor learned of all that Israel had done to the Amorites. The people of Moab were in a total panic because of Israel. There were so many of them! They were terrorized.

4-5 Moab spoke to the leaders of Midian: “Look, this mob is going to clean us out—a bunch of crows picking a carcass clean.”

Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent emissaries to get Balaam son of Beor, who lived at Pethor on the banks of the Euphrates River, his homeland.

5-6 Balak’s emissaries said, “Look. A people has come up out of Egypt, and they’re all over the place! And they’re pressing hard on me. Come and curse them for me—they’re too much for me. Maybe then I can beat them; we’ll attack and drive them out of the country. You have a reputation: Those you bless stay blessed; those you curse stay cursed.”

7-8 The leaders of Moab and Midian were soon on their way, with the fee for the cursing tucked safely in their wallets. When they got to Balaam, they gave him Balak’s message.

“Stay here for the night,” Balaam said. “In the morning I’ll deliver the answer that God gives me.”

The Moabite nobles stayed with him.

Then God came to Balaam. He asked, “So who are these men here with you?”

10-11 Balaam answered, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent them with a message: ‘Look, the people that came up out of Egypt are all over the place! Come and curse them for me. Maybe then I’ll be able to attack and drive them out of the country.’”

12 God said to Balaam, “Don’t go with them. And don’t curse the others—they are a blessed people.”

13 The next morning Balaam got up and told Balak’s nobles, “Go back home; God refuses to give me permission to go with you.”

14 So the Moabite nobles left, came back to Balak, and said, “Balaam wouldn’t come with us.”

15-17 Balak sent another group of nobles, higher ranking and more distinguished. They came to Balaam and said, “Balak son of Zippor says, ‘Please, don’t refuse to come to me. I will honor and reward you lavishly—anything you tell me to do, I’ll do; I’ll pay anything—only come and curse this people.’”

18-19 Balaam answered Balak’s servants: “Even if Balak gave me his house stuffed with silver and gold, I wouldn’t be able to defy the orders of my God to do anything, whether big or little. But come along and stay with me tonight as the others did; I’ll see what God will say to me this time.”

20 God came to Balaam that night and said, “Since these men have come all this way to see you, go ahead and go with them. But make sure you do absolutely nothing other than what I tell you.”

21-23 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went off with the noblemen from Moab. As he was going, though, God’s anger flared. The angel of God stood in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, she veered off the road into the ditch. Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road.

24-25 But as they were going through a vineyard, with a fence on either side, the donkey again saw God’s angel blocking the way and veered into the fence, crushing Balaam’s foot against the fence. Balaam hit her again.

26-27 God’s angel blocked the way yet again—a very narrow passage this time; there was no getting through on the right or left. Seeing the angel, Balaam’s donkey sat down under him. Balaam lost his temper; he beat the donkey with his stick.

28 Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: “What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam said, “Because you’ve been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you’ve ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?”

He said, “No.”

31 Then God helped Balaam see what was going on: He saw God’s angel blocking the way, brandishing a sword. Balaam fell to the ground, his face in the dirt.

32-33 God’s angel said to him: “Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you’re getting way ahead of yourself. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she hadn’t, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off.”

34 Balaam said to God’s angel, “I have sinned. I had no idea you were standing in the road blocking my way. If you don’t like what I’m doing, I’ll head back.”

35 But God’s angel said to Balaam, “Go ahead and go with them. But only say what I tell you to say—absolutely no other word.”

And so Balaam continued to go with Balak’s nobles.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him in the Moabite town that was on the banks of the Arnon, right on the boundary of his land.

37 Balak said to Balaam, “Didn’t I send an urgent message for help? Why didn’t you come when I called? Do you think I can’t pay you enough?”

38 Balaam said to Balak, “Well, I’m here now. But I can’t tell you just anything. I can speak only words that God gives me—no others.”

39-40 Balaam then accompanied Balak to Kiriath Huzoth (Street-Town). Balak slaughtered cattle and sheep for sacrifices and presented them to Balaam and the nobles who were with him.

41 At daybreak Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal (The Heights of Baal) so that he could get a good view of some of the people.

23 Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and then prepare seven bulls and seven rams.”

Balak did it. Then Balaam and Balak sacrificed a bull and a ram on each of the altars.

Balaam instructed Balak: “Stand watch here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I go off by myself. Maybe God will come and meet with me. Whatever he shows or tells me, I’ll report to you.” Then he went off by himself.

God did meet with Balaam. Balaam said, “I’ve set up seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.”

Then God gave Balaam a message: “Return to Balak and give him this message.”

6-10 He went back and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and with him all the nobles of Moab. Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:

Balak led me here from Aram,
    the king of Moab all the way from the eastern mountains.
“Go, curse Jacob for me;
    go, damn Israel.”
How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
    How can I damn whom God has not damned?
From rock pinnacles I see them,
    from hilltops I survey them:
Look! a people camping off by themselves,
    thinking themselves outsiders among nations.
But who could ever count the dust of Jacob
    or take a census of cloud-of-dust Israel?
I want to die like these right-living people!
    I want an end just like theirs!

11 Balak said to Balaam, “What’s this? I brought you here to curse my enemies, and all you’ve done is bless them.”

12 Balaam answered, “Don’t I have to be careful to say what God gives me to say?”

13 Balak said to him, “Go with me to another place from which you can only see the outskirts of their camp—you won’t be able to see the whole camp. From there, curse them for my sake.”

14 So he took him to Watchmen’s Meadow at the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars there and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

15 Balaam said to Balak, “Take up your station here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I meet with him over there.”

16 God met with Balaam and gave him a message. He said, “Return to Balak and give him the message.”

17-24 Balaam returned and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and the nobles of Moab with him. Balak said to him, “What did God say?” Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:

On your feet, Balak. Listen,
    listen carefully son of Zippor:
God is not man, one given to lies,
    and not a son of man changing his mind.
Does he speak and not do what he says?
    Does he promise and not come through?
I was brought here to bless;
    and now he’s blessed—how can I change that?
He has no bone to pick with Jacob,
    he sees nothing wrong with Israel.
God is with them,
    and they’re with him, shouting praises to their King.
God brought them out of Egypt,
    rampaging like a wild ox.
No magic spells can bind Jacob,
    no incantations can hold back Israel.
People will look at Jacob and Israel and say,
    “What a great thing has God done!”
Look, a people rising to its feet, stretching like a lion,
    a king-of-the-beasts, aroused,
Unsleeping, unresting until its hunt is over
    and it’s eaten and drunk its fill.

25 Balak said to Balaam, “Well, if you can’t curse them, at least don’t bless them.”

26 Balaam replied to Balak, “Didn’t I tell you earlier: ‘All God speaks, and only what he speaks, I speak’?”

27-28 Balak said to Balaam, “Please, let me take you to another place; maybe we can find the right place in God’s eyes where you’ll be able to curse them for me.” So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, with a vista over the Jeshimon (Wasteland).

29 Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars for me here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for sacrifice.”

30 Balak did it and presented an offering of a bull and a ram on each of the altars.

24 1-3 By now Balaam realized that God wanted to bless Israel. So he didn’t work in any sorcery as he had done earlier. He turned and looked out over the wilderness. As Balaam looked, he saw Israel camped tribe by tribe. The Spirit of God came on him, and he spoke his oracle-message:

3-9 Decree of Balaam son of Beor,
        yes, decree of a man with 20/20 vision;
    Decree of a man who hears God speak,
        who sees what The Strong God shows him,
    Who falls on his face in worship,
        who sees what’s really going on.
    What beautiful tents, Jacob,
        oh, your homes, Israel!
    Like valleys stretching out in the distance,
        like gardens planted by rivers,
    Like sweet herbs planted by the gardener God,
        like red cedars by pools and springs,
    Their buckets will brim with water,
        their seed will spread life everywhere.
    Their king will tower over Agag and his ilk,
        their kingdom surpassingly majestic.
    God brought them out of Egypt,
        rampaging like a wild ox,
    Gulping enemies like morsels of meat,
        crushing their bones, snapping their arrows.
    Israel crouches like a lion and naps,
        king-of-the-beasts—who dares disturb him?
    Whoever blesses you is blessed,
        whoever curses you is cursed.

10-11 Balak lost his temper with Balaam. He shook his fist. He said to Balaam: “I got you in here to curse my enemies and what have you done? Blessed them! Blessed them three times! Get out of here! Go home! I told you I would pay you well, but you’re getting nothing. You can blame God.”

12-15 Balaam said to Balak, “Didn’t I tell you up front when you sent your emissaries, ‘Even if Balak gave me his palace stuffed with silver and gold, I couldn’t do anything on my own, whether good or bad, that went against God’s command’? I’m leaving for home and my people, but I warn you of what this people will do to your people in the days to come.” Then he spoke his oracle-message:

15-19 Decree of Balaam son of Beor,
        decree of the man with 20/20 vision,
    Decree of the man who hears godly speech,
        who knows what’s going on with the High God,
    Who sees what The Strong God reveals,
        who bows in worship and sees what’s real.
    I see him, but not right now,
        I perceive him, but not right here;
    A star rises from Jacob
        a scepter from Israel,
    Crushing the heads of Moab,
        the skulls of all the noisy windbags;
    I see Edom sold off at auction,
        enemy Seir marked down at the flea market,
        while Israel walks off with the trophies.
    A ruler is coming from Jacob
        who’ll destroy what’s left in the city.

20 Then Balaam spotted Amalek and delivered an oracle-message. He said,

Amalek, you’re in first place among nations right now,
    but you’re going to come in last, ruined.

21-22 He saw the Kenites and delivered his oracle-message to them:

Your home is in a nice secure place,
    like a nest high on the face of a cliff.
Still, you Kenites will look stupid
    when Asshur takes you prisoner.

23-24 Balaam spoke his final oracle-message:

Doom! Who stands a chance
    when God starts in?
Sea-Peoples, raiders from across the sea,
    will harass Asshur and Eber,
But they’ll also come to nothing,
    just like all the rest.

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

The Orgy at Shittim

25 1-3 While Israel was camped at Shittim (Acacia Grove), the men began to have sex with the Moabite women. It started when the women invited the men to their sex-and-religion worship. They ate together and then worshiped their gods. Israel ended up joining in the worship of the Baal of Peor. God was furious, his anger blazing out against Israel.

God said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of Israel and kill them by hanging, leaving them publicly exposed in order to turn God’s anger away from Israel.”

Moses issued orders to the judges of Israel: “Each of you must execute the men under your jurisdiction who joined in the worship of Baal Peor.”

6-9 Just then, while everyone was weeping in penitence at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, an Israelite man, flaunting his behavior in front of Moses and the whole assembly, paraded a Midianite woman into his family tent. Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw what he was doing, grabbed his spear, and followed them into the tent. With one thrust he drove the spear through the two of them, the man of Israel and the woman, right through their private parts. That stopped the plague from continuing among the People of Israel. But 24,000 had already died.

10-13 God spoke to Moses: “Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has stopped my anger against the People of Israel. Because he was as zealous for my honor as I myself am, I didn’t kill all the People of Israel in my zeal. So tell him that I am making a Covenant-of-Peace with him. He and his descendants are joined in a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the People of Israel.”

14-15 The name of the man of Israel who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the head of the Simeonite family. And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.

16-18 God spoke to Moses: “From here on make the Midianites your enemies. Fight them tooth and nail. They turned out to be your enemies when they seduced you in the business of Peor and that woman Cozbi, daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed at the time of the plague in the matter of Peor.”

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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