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Balak Summons Balaam

22 The Israelis continued their travels, eventually[a] encamping on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River[b] opposite Jericho. Zippor’s son Balak saw everything that Israel had done to the Amorites. As a result, Moab greatly feared the people, because they were so numerous. Because a sense of impending doom was afflicting the Moabites as they faced the Israelis, the Moabites told the elders of Midian, “This horde of people is about to lick up everything around us, like an ox licks up the green ground.”

At that time, Zippor’s son Balak was the king of Moab. He sent messengers to Beor’s son Balaam in Pethor, near the Euphrates[c] River, the land where the descendants of his people originated,[d] to summon his aid. He said, “Look! A group of[e] people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth, and are sitting here right in front of me. So come right now and curse this people for me, because there are too many of them for me to handle.[f] Perhaps I’ll be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, since I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.”

So the elders of Moab and Midian left to visit Balaam, bringing an honorarium with them,[g] and communicated Balak’s concerns to him. In answer, Balaam[h] told them, “Stay here for the night and I’ll bring back a message[i] to you, depending on what the Lord says to me.” So the officers of Moab stayed with Balaam overnight.

God Forbids Balaam to Cooperate

God visited Balaam and asked him, “Who are these men with you?”

10 Then Balaam told God, “Zippor’s son Balak, king of Moab, sent them to me and said, 11 ‘Look! A group of[j] people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth! So come right now and curse them for me. Perhaps I’ll be able to fight against them and drive them out.’”

12 But God told Balaam, “Don’t go with them. Don’t curse the people, because they’re blessed.”

13 So Balaam got up the next morning and told Balak’s officials, “Go back to your homeland, because the Lord has refused me permission to go with you.”

14 So Balak’s officials got up, returned to Balak and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 In response, Balak sent more officers—higher ranking ones, at that!— 16 who approached Balaam with this message: “This is what Zippor’s son Balak says: ‘Don’t let anything get in the way of your coming to me. 17 I’m determined to reward you generously, and I’ll do everything you tell me to do. So come right away and curse this people for me.’”

18 Balaam responded to Balak’s entourage by saying, “Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I won’t double-cross the command of the Lord my God in even the slightest way.[k] 19 Meanwhile, stay here overnight so I may learn what the Lord might say to me.”

20 God came to visit Balaam that same night and told him, “If the men come to call on you, get up and go with them, but be sure to do only what I tell you to do.” 21 The next morning, Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started to leave, accompanied by the Moabite officials.

Balaam’s Donkey Rebukes its Owner

22 At this, the anger of the Lord flared up against Balaam, because he was leaving. So the angel of the Lord stood in the way to oppose him. As Balaam[l] was riding his donkey, accompanied by two of his servants, 23 all of a sudden the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand! The donkey turned off the road and went into an open field. Balaam started beating the donkey in order to turn her back to the road, 24 but the angel of the Lord stood on a narrow path that crossed the vineyards. It had walls on both sides of the path. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she squeezed herself so close to the wall that Balaam’s foot was pressed to the wall. So he beat her again!

26 Then the angel of the Lord went along a little further and stood in a much narrower space, where it was impossible[m] to turn either right or left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. As a result, Balaam got so angry that he started to whip[n] the donkey with his staff.

28 That’s when the Lord enabled the donkey to speak.[o] She asked Balaam, “What did I do to you that you would beat me in the space of only[p] three footsteps?”

29 “Because you’re playing a dirty trick on me,” Balaam answered the donkey. “If only I had a sword in my hand! I’d kill you right now!”

30 But in response, the donkey asked Balaam, “I’m your donkey that you’ve ridden on in the past without incident,[q] am I not, and I’m the same donkey you’re riding on right now, am I not? Am I in the habit of treating you like this?”

“No,” he admitted.

31 Then the Lord enabled Balaam to see, so he observed the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand. So he bowed down and prostrated himself on his face.

32 Then the angel of the Lord asked him, “Why did you beat your donkey in the space of only[r] three footsteps? I’ve come to oppose you, because I say that what you’re doing is perverted. 33 The donkey saw me and turned in front of me in the space of those three footsteps. 34 If she hadn’t turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and left her alive!”

At this, Balaam replied to the angel of the Lord, “I’ve sinned! I didn’t know that you were standing to meet me on the road. So now, since it displeases you, let me go back.”[s]

35 But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with the men, but deliver only the message that I’m going to give you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had arrived, he went out to meet him in the city of Moab on the border of Arnon at the extreme end of his territory. 37 Balak asked Balaam, “Didn’t I repeatedly send for you to summon you? Why didn’t you come to me? I can pay you well,[t] can’t I?”

38 Balaam answered Balak, “Well, I’m here now. I’ve come to you, but I can’t just say anything, can I? I’ll speak only what God puts in my mouth to say.” 39 So accompanied by Balaam and Balak’s officials, Balak traveled to Kiriath-huzoth, 40 where he sacrificed oxen and sheep. 41 The next day, Balak brought Balaam up to Bamoth-baal, where he could see part of the community of Israel.

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 22:1 The Heb. lacks eventually
  2. Numbers 22:1 The Heb. lacks River
  3. Numbers 22:5 The Heb. lacks Euphrates
  4. Numbers 22:5 Or the river of the people of Amaw; LXX reads the river of the land
  5. Numbers 22:5 The Heb. lacks group of
  6. Numbers 22:6 The Heb. lacks to handle
  7. Numbers 22:7 Lit. bringing divinations in their hand
  8. Numbers 22:8 Lit. he
  9. Numbers 22:8 Lit. word
  10. Numbers 22:11 The Heb. lacks group of
  11. Numbers 22:18 Lit. God to do anything whether insignificant or great
  12. Numbers 22:22 Lit. he
  13. Numbers 22:26 Lit. there’s no way
  14. Numbers 22:27 Lit. struck
  15. Numbers 22:28 Lit. Lord opened the donkey’s mouth
  16. Numbers 22:28 The Heb. lacks only
  17. Numbers 22:30 The Heb. lacks without incident
  18. Numbers 22:32 The Heb. lacks only
  19. Numbers 22:34 Lit. let me return to me
  20. Numbers 22:37 Lit. can honor you

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