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Numbers 22:2-25:9Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Parashah 40: Balak 22:2–25:9

[In regular years read with Parashah 39, in leap years read separately]

Now Balak the son of Tzippor saw all that Isra’el had done to the Emori. Mo’av was very afraid of the people, because there were so many of them; Mo’av was overcome with dread because of the people of Isra’el. So Mo’av said to the leaders of Midyan, “This horde will lick up everything around us, the way an ox licks up grass in the field.”

Balak the son of Tzippor was king of Mo’av at that time. He sent messengers to Bil‘am the son of B‘or, at P’tor by the [Euphrates] River in his native land, to tell him, “Listen, a people has come out of Egypt, spread over all the land and settled down next to me. Therefore, please come, and curse this people for me, because they are stronger than I am. Maybe I will be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, for I know that whomever you bless is in fact blessed, and whomever you curse is in fact cursed.” The leaders of Mo’av and Midyan left, taking with them the payment for divining, came to Bil‘am and spoke to him the words of Balak. He said to them, “Stay here tonight, and I will bring you back whatever answer Adonai tells me.” So the princes of Mo’av stayed with Bil‘am.

God came to Bil‘am and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Bil‘am said to God, “Balak the son of Tzippor, king of Mo’av, has sent me this message: 11 ‘The people who came out of Egypt have spread over the land; now, come and curse them for me; maybe I will be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” 12 God answered Bil‘am, “You are not to go with them; you are not to curse the people, because they are blessed.”

(RY: v; LY: ii) 13 Bil‘am got up in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Return to your own land, because Adonai refuses to give me permission to go with you.” 14 The princes of Mo’av got up, returned to Balak and said, “Bil‘am refuses to come with us.”

15 Balak again sent princes, more of them and of higher status than the first group. 16 They went to Bil‘am and said to him, “Here is what Balak the son of Tzippor says: ‘Please don’t let anything keep you from coming to me. 17 I will reward you very well, and whatever you say to me I will do. So please come, and curse this people for me.’” 18 Bil‘am answered the servants of Balak, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of Adonai my God to do anything, great or small. 19 Now, please, you too, stay here tonight; so that I may find out what else Adonai will say to me.” 20 God came to Bil‘am during the night 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.”

(LY: iii) 21 So Bil‘am got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Mo’av. 22 But God’s anger flared up because he went, and the angel of Adonai stationed himself on the path to bar his way. He was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of Adonai standing on the road, drawn sword in hand; so the donkey turned off the road into the field; and Bil‘am had to beat the donkey to get it back on the road. 24 Then the angel of Adonai stood on the road where it became narrow as it passed among the vineyards and had stone walls on both sides. 25 The donkey saw the angel of Adonai and pushed up against the wall, crushing Bil‘am’s foot against the wall. So he beat it again. 26 The angel of Adonai moved ahead and stood in a place so tight that there was no room to turn either right or left. 27 Again the donkey saw the angel of Adonai and lay down under Bil‘am, which made him so angry that he hit the donkey with his stick. 28 But Adonai enabled the donkey to speak, and it said to Bil‘am, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” 29 Bil‘am said to the donkey, “It’s because you’ve been making a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand; I would kill you on the spot!” 30 The donkey said to Bil‘am, “I’m your donkey, right? You’ve ridden me all your life, right? Have I ever treated you like this before?” “No,” he admitted. 31 Then Adonai opened Bil‘am’s eyes, so that he could see the angel of Adonai standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, and he bowed his head and fell on his face. 32 The angel of Adonai said to him, “Why did you hit your donkey three times like that? I have come out here to bar your way, because you are rushing to oppose me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside these three times; and indeed, if she hadn’t turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and saved it alive!” 34 Bil‘am said to the angel of Adonai, “I have sinned. I didn’t know that you were standing on the road to block me. Now, therefore, if what I am doing displeases you, I will go back.” 35 But the angel of Adonai said to Bil‘am, “No, go on with the men; but you are to say only what I tell you to say.” So Bil‘am went along with the princes of Balak.

36 When Balak heard that Bil‘am had come, he went out to meet him in the city of Mo’av at the Arnon border, in the farthest reaches of the territory. 37 Balak said to Bil‘am, “I sent more than once to summon you! Why didn’t you come to me? Did you think I couldn’t pay you enough?” 38 Bil‘am replied to Balak, “Here, I’ve come to you! But I have no power of my own to say anything. The word that God puts in my mouth is what I will say.”

(RY: vi, LY: iv) 39 Bil‘am went with Balak. When they arrived at Kiryat-Hutzot, 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, then sent to Bil‘am and the princes with him. 41 In the morning Balak took Bil‘am and brought him up to the high places of Ba‘al; from there he could see a portion of the people.

23 Bil‘am said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare me seven bulls and seven rams here.” Balak did as Bil‘am said; then Balak and Bil‘am offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Bil‘am said to Balak, “Stand by your burnt offering while I go off; maybe Adonai will come and meet me; and whatever he shows me I will tell you.” He went off to a bare hill. God met Bil‘am, who said to him, “I prepared the seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” Then Adonai put a word in Bil‘am’s mouth and said, “Go on back to Balak, and speak as I tell you.” He went back to him, and there, standing by his burnt offering, he with all the princes of Mo’av, he made his pronouncement:

“Balak, the king of Mo’av,
brings me from Aram, from the eastern hills, saying,
‘Come, curse Ya‘akov for me;
come and denounce Isra’el.’

“How am I to curse
those whom God has not cursed?
How am I to denounce
those whom Adonai has not denounced?

“From the top of the rocks I see them,
from the hills I behold them —
yes, a people that will dwell alone
and not think itself one of the nations.

10 “Who has counted the dust of Ya‘akov
or numbered the ashes of Isra’el?
May I die as the righteous die!
May my end be like theirs!”

11 Balak said to Bil‘am, “What have you done to me?! To curse my enemies is why I brought you; and, here, you have totally blessed them!” 12 He answered, “Mustn’t I take care to say just what Adonai puts in my mouth?”

(LY: v) 13 Balak said to him, “All right, come with me to another place where you can see them. You will see only some of them, not all; but you can curse them for me from there.” 14 He took him through the field of Tzofim to the top of the Pisgah Range, built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15 Bil‘am said to Balak, “Stand here by your burnt offering, while I go over there for a meeting.” 16 Adonai met Bil‘am, put a word in his mouth and said, “Go on back to Balak, and speak as I tell you.” 17 He came to him and stood by his burnt offering, with all the princes of Mo’av. Balak asked him, “What did Adonai say?” 18 Then Bil‘am made his pronouncement:

“Get up, Balak, and listen!
Turn your ears to me, son of Tzippor!

19 “God is not a human who lies
or a mortal who changes his mind.
When he says something, he will do it;
when he makes a promise, he will fulfill it.
20 Look, I am ordered to bless;
when he blesses, I can’t reverse it.

21 “No one has seen guilt in Ya‘akov,
or perceived perversity in Isra’el;
Adonai their God is with them
and acclaimed as king among them.

22 “God, who brought them out of Egypt,
gives them the strength of a wild ox;
23 thus one can’t put a spell on Ya‘akov,
no magic will work against Isra’el.
It can now be said of Ya‘akov and Isra’el,
‘What is this that God has done?!’

24 “Here is a people rising up like a lioness;
like a lion he rears himself up —
he will not lie down till he eats up the prey
and drinks the blood of the slain.”

25 Balak said to Bil‘am, “Obviously, you won’t curse them. But at least don’t bless them!” 26 However, Bil‘am answered Balak, “Didn’t I warn you that I must do everything Adonai says?”

(RY: vii, LY: vi) 27 Balak said to Bil‘am, “Come, I will take you now to another place; maybe it will please God for you to curse them for me from there.” 28 Balak took Bil‘am to the top of P‘or, overlooking the desert. 29 Bil‘am said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare me seven bulls and seven rams.” 30 Balak did as Bil‘am said and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

24 When Bil‘am saw that it pleased Adonai to bless Isra’el, he didn’t go, as at the other times, to make use of divination, but looked out toward the desert. Bil‘am raised his eyes and saw Isra’el encamped tribe by tribe. Then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he made his pronouncement:

“This is the speech of Bil‘am, son of B‘or;
the speech of the man whose eyes have been opened;
the speech of him who hears God’s words;
who sees what Shaddai sees,
who has fallen, yet has open eyes:

“How lovely are your tents, Ya‘akov;
your encampments, Isra’el!
They spread out like valleys,
like gardens by the riverside,
like succulent aloes planted by Adonai,
like cedar trees next to the water.

“Water will flow from their branches,
their seed will have water aplenty.
Their king will be higher than Agag
and his kingdom lifted high.
God, who brought them out of Egypt,
gives them the strength of a wild ox.
They will devour the nations opposing them,
break their bones, pierce them with their arrows.

“When they lie down they crouch like a lion,
or like a lioness — who dares to rouse it?
Blessed be all who bless you!
Cursed be all who curse you!”

10 Balak blazed with fury against Bil‘am. He struck his hands together and said to Bil‘am, “I summoned you to curse my enemies. But here, you have done nothing but bless them — three times already! 11 Now you had better escape to your own place! I had planned to reward you very well, but now Adonai has deprived you of payment.”

12 Bil‘am answered Balak, “Didn’t I tell the messengers you sent me 13 that even if Balak would give me his palace full of silver and gold, I could not of my own accord go beyond the word of Adonai to do either good or bad? that what Adonai said is what I would say? (LY: vii) 14 But now that I am going back to my own people, come, I will warn you what this people will do to your people in the acharit-hayamim. 15 So he made his pronouncement:

“This is the speech of Bil‘am, son of B‘or;
the speech of the man whose eyes have been opened;
16 the speech of him who hears God’s words;
who knows what ‘Elyon knows,
who sees what Shaddai sees,
who has fallen, yet has open eyes:

17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not soon —
a star will step forth from Ya‘akov,
a scepter will arise from Isra’el,
to crush the corners of Mo’av
and destroy all descendants of Shet.
18 His enemies will be his possessions —
Edom and Se‘ir, possessions.
Isra’el will do valiantly,
19 From Ya‘akov will come someone who will rule,
and he will destroy what is left of the city.”

20 He saw ‘Amalek and made this pronouncement:

“First among nations was ‘Amalek,
but destruction will be its end.”

21 He saw the Keini and made this pronouncement:

“Though your dwelling is firm,
your nest set on rock,
22 Kayin will be wasted
while captive to Ashur.”

23 Finally, he made this pronouncement:

“Oh no! Who can live when God does this?
24 But ships will come from the coast of Kittim
to subdue Ashur and subdue ‘Ever,
but they too will come to destruction.”

25 Then Bil‘am got up, left and returned to his home; and Balak too went his way.

25 Isra’el stayed at Sheetim, and there the people began whoring with the women of Mo’av. These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, where the people ate and bowed down to their gods. With Isra’el thus joined to Ba‘al-P‘or, the anger of Adonai blazed up against Isra’el.

Adonai said to Moshe, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them facing the sun before Adonai, so that the raging fury of Adonai will turn away from Isra’el.” Moshe said to the judges of Isra’el, “Each of you is to put to death those in his tribe who have joined themselves to Ba‘al-P‘or.”

Just then, in the sight of Moshe and the whole community of Isra’el, as they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting, a man from Isra’el came by, bringing to his family a woman from Midyan. (Maftir) When Pinchas the son of El‘azar, the son of Aharon the cohen, saw it, he got up from the middle of the crowd, took a spear in his hand, and pursued the man from Isra’el right into the inner part of the tent, where he thrust his spear through both of them — the man from Isra’el and the woman through her stomach. Thus was the plague among the people of Isra’el stopped; nevertheless, 24,000 died in the plague.

Haftarah Balak: Mikhah (Micah) 5:6(7)– 6:8

B’rit Hadashah suggested readings for Parashah Balak: 2 Kefa (2 Peter) 2:1–22; Y’hudah (Jude) 11; Revelation 2:14–15

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.

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