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Balak and Balaam

22 The Israelites[a] set out, and they encamped on the desert-plateau of Moab, across from Jericho beyond the Jordan. Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel did to the Amorites,[b] and Moab was very terrified in the presence of the people because they[c] were numerous; and Moab dreaded the presence of the Israelites.[d] And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now the crowd will lick up all around us, like a bull devours the grass of the field.” And Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the river,[e] in the land of the children of his people, to summon him, saying, “Look! A people went out from Egypt. Look! They cover the surface of the land;[f] they are about to dwell opposite me. Now, please go, curse this people for me because they[g] are stronger than me; perhaps I will be able to strike them[h] and drive them[i] out from the land because I know whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you cursed is cursed.”

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian went with a fee for divination in their hand; they came to Balaam and spoke the words of Balak to him. He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will return, and I will return word to you, just as Yahweh speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 And Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent word to me, 11 ‘Look! A people went out from Egypt. Look! They cover the surface of the land.[j] Now, go, curse them[k] for me. Perhaps I will be able to attack them[l] and drive them[m] out.” 12 God said to Balaam, “You will not go with them; you will not curse the people, because they[n] are blessed.” 13 Balaam got up in the morning, and he said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your land, because Yahweh refused to allow me to go with you.” 14 The princes of Moab got up and went to Balak, and they said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 Balak again sent many princes, who were more honored than the former.[o] 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor, ‘Please, let nothing keep you from coming to me 17 because I will surely honor you greatly, and all that you say to me I will do. Please, come; curse this people for me.’” 18 Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Even though Balak gives to me his house full of silver and gold, I am not able to go beyond the command of Yahweh[p] my God to do a little or a lot. 19 And now please, you also stay here[q] the night, and let me find out[r] again what Yahweh will say with me.” 20 And God came to Balaam at night, and he said to him, “If the men have come to call you, get up and go with them; but only the word that I will speak to you, you will do.” 21 So Balaam got up in the morning and saddled his donkey, and he went with the princes of Moab.

Balaam and the Angel

22 But God became angry[s] because he was going, and the angel of Yahweh stood in the road as an adversary to him; he was riding on his donkey, and two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand, and the donkey turned aside from the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back to the road. 24 The angel of Yahweh stood in the narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on either side.[t] 25 When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, she pressed herself into the wall, and she pressed the foot of Balaam into the wall, so he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of Yahweh went further ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was not a way to turn aside to the right or left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, she lay down under Balaam, so Balaam became angry,[u] and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Yahweh opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What did I do to you that you struck me these three times?” 29 Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you made a mockery of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now!” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life until this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” He said, “No.”

31 Then Yahweh exposed the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand, and he bowed down and worshiped to his face. 32 The angel of Yahweh said to him, “Why have you struck this donkey three times? Look, I have come out as an adversary because your conduct is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from my face, then I would have killed you and kept her alive.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of Yahweh, “I have sinned because I did not know that you were standing to meet me in the road. Now, if it is displeasing to you,[v] I will turn back.” 35 The angel of Yahweh said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I will speak to you.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him by the city of Moab, which was on the boundary of Aaron at the end of the territory. 37 And Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not urgently send to meet with you? Why did you not come to me? Am I really not able to honor you?” 38 Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I came to you now. Am I really able to speak anything at all? I speak the word that God puts in my mouth.” 39 Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-Huzoth. 40 And Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and he sent them to Balaam and to the princes who were with him. 41 And it happened, in the morning Balak took Balaam and took him up to Bamoth-Baal, and he saw from there the end of the nation.

Balaam’s Oracles

23 Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me this: seven altars. And prepare for me this: seven bulls and seven rams.” And Balak did just as Balaam spoke, and Balak offered Balaam a bull and a ram on the altar. And Balaam said to Balak, “Station yourself at your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps Yahweh will come to meet me, and whatever he shows me I will tell to you.” So he went to a barren height.

And God met with Balaam, and he said to him, “I have arranged seven altars, and I have offered a bull and a ram on the altar.” Yahweh put a word in the mouth of Balaam and said, “Return to Balak, and you must speak thus.” So he returned to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, he and all the leaders of Moab. And he lifted up his oracle and said,

“From Aram Balak lead me,
    from the mountains of the east the king of Moab,
‘Go for me, curse Jacob,
    and go, denounce Israel.’
How can I curse whom God has not cursed,
    and how can I denounce whom Yahweh has not denounced?
Because from the top of the rocks I see him,
    from hilltops I watch him.
Behold, a people who dwell alone,
    they do not consider themselves among the nations.
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob,
    or as a number the fourth part of Israel?
Let my life die the death of an upright person,
    and let my end be like his!”

11 And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have surely blessed them!” 12 He answered and said, “Should I not speak[w] what Yahweh puts in my mouth?”

13 Then Balak said, “Please walk with me to another place where you will see them, but you will only see part of them and will not see all of them; and curse them for me from there.” 14 So he took him to the field of Zophim to the top of Pisgah, and he built seven altars, and he offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15 Balaam[x] said to Balak, “Station yourself here at the burnt offering while I myself meet with Yahweh there.” 16 Then Yahweh met with Balaam, and he put a word in his mouth, and he said, “Return to Balak, and you must speak thus.” 17 He came to him, and behold, he was standing at his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, “What has Yahweh spoken?” 18 Then he uttered[y] his oracle, and said,

“Stand up, Balak, and hear;
    listen to me, son of Zippor!
19 God is not a man, that he should lie,
    nor a son of humankind,
that he should change his mind.
    Has he said, and will he not do it?
And has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
20     Behold, I have received a command to bless;
when he has blessed, I cannot cause it to return.
21     He has no regard for evil in Jacob,
and he does not see trouble in Israel;
    Yahweh his God is with him,
and a shout[z] of a king is among them.[aa]
22     God, who brings them out from Egypt,
is like the strength[ab] of a wild ox for them.[ac]
23     Because there is no sorcery against Jacob,
and there is no divination against Israel.
    Now[ad] it will be said to Jacob and Israel,
    what God has done!
24 Look! the people will rise like the lion;
    he raises himself and will not lie down
until he eats the prey
    and drinks the blood of the slain.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them[ae] at all, nor bless them[af] at all!” 26 But Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Whatever Yahweh speaks I will do’?”

27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Please, come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be acceptable to[ag] God, and you will curse for me from there.” 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which looks down on the face of the Jeshimon.[ah] 29 And Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me these seven altars, and prepare for me these seven bulls and seven rams.” 30 Balak did just as Balaam said, and he offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

Balaam Continues to Utter Oracles

24 And Balaam saw that it pleased[ai] Yahweh to bless Israel, and he did not go as other times[aj] to seek out[ak] sorcery; instead, he set his face toward the desert. Balaam lift up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling according to its tribes, and the spirit of God was upon it.[al] He uttered[am] his oracle and said,

“The declaration of Balaam son Beor,
    the declaration of the man whose eyes are closed,
the declaration of the hearer of God’s words,[an]
    who sees the revelation of Shaddai,[ao]
falling down but whose eyes are uncovered.
    How good are your tents, O Jacob,
your dwellings, O Israel!
    They are spread out like valleys,
like gardens on a river,
    like aloes planted by Yahweh,
like cedars at the waters.
    He will pour water from his buckets,
and his offspring will be like many waters;
    his king will be higher than Agag,
and his kingdom will be exalted.
    God, who brings him out from Egypt,
is like the strength[ap] of a wild ox for him.
    He will devour the nations who are his enemies;
he will break their bones;
    he will pierce them with his arrows.
He crouches, he lies down like a lion,
    and like a lioness, who will rouse him?
They who bless you will be blessed,
    and they who curse you will be cursed.”

10 Then Balak became angry with[aq] Balaam, and he clapped his hands and said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, but look, you have surely blessed them these three times. 11 Flee[ar] to your place now. I said I would richly honor you, but look, Yahweh has withheld honor from you.” 12 Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak gave to me the fullness of his house full of silver and gold, I am not able to go beyond the command of Yahweh[as] to do good or evil, from my heart; what Yahweh speaks, I will speak’?[at] 14 And now, look, I am about to go to my people; I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the following days.”[au]

15 And he uttered[av] his oracle and said,

“The declaration of Balaam son of Beor,
    and the declaration of the man whose eye is closed,
16 the declaration of the hearer of God’s words,[aw]
    and the knower of the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of Shaddai,[ax]
    who is falling, and his eyes are revealed.
17 I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near;
a star will go out from Jacob,
    and a scepter will rise from Israel;
it will crush the foreheads of Moab
    and destroy all the children of Seth.
18 Edom will be a captive;
    Seir, its enemies, will be a captive,
and Israel will be acting courageously.[ay]
19     Someone[az] from Jacob will rule
and will destroy a remnant[ba] from the city.”
20     And he looked at Amalek, uttered[bb] his oracle, and said,
“Amalek is first[bc] of the nations,
    but his future will be forever ruin.”

21 And he looked at the Kenites,[bd] uttered[be] his oracle, and said,

“Steady is your dwelling place;
    in the rock is your nest.
22 Nevertheless, the Kenite will be burned;
    how long will Asshur keep[bf] you captive?”

23 Again he uttered[bg] his oracle and said,

“Woe, who will live when God establishes this?[bh]
24     The ships will come from the hand of the Kittim,
and they will afflict Asshur and will afflict Eber;
    also he will be forever ruin.”

25 Then Balaam got up and went and returned to his place, and Balak also went on his way.


  1. Numbers 22:1 Literally “sons/children of Israel”
  2. Numbers 22:2 Hebrew “Amorite”
  3. Numbers 22:3 Hebrew “he” or “it”
  4. Numbers 22:3 Literally “sons/children of Israel”
  5. Numbers 22:5 That is, the Euphrates
  6. Numbers 22:5 Literally “the eye of the land”
  7. Numbers 22:6 Hebrew “he”
  8. Numbers 22:6 Hebrew “he”
  9. Numbers 22:6 Hebrew “he”
  10. Numbers 22:11 Literally “the eye of the land”
  11. Numbers 22:11 Hebrew “him”
  12. Numbers 22:11 Hebrew “him”
  13. Numbers 22:11 Hebrew “him”
  14. Numbers 22:12 Hebrew “he”
  15. Numbers 22:15 Literally “than these”
  16. Numbers 22:18 Literally “the mouth of Yahweh”
  17. Numbers 22:19 Literally “please stay in this”
  18. Numbers 22:19 Literally “let me know”
  19. Numbers 22:22 Literally “God’s nose became hot”
  20. Numbers 22:24 Literally “a wall from this and a wall from this”
  21. Numbers 22:27 Literally “Balaam’s nose became hot”
  22. Numbers 22:34 Literally “if it is evil in your eyes”
  23. Numbers 23:12 Literally “Should I not observe to speak”
  24. Numbers 23:15 Hebrew “He”
  25. Numbers 23:18 Literally “he lifted up”
  26. Numbers 23:21 Or “a blast”
  27. Numbers 23:21 Hebrew “him”
  28. Numbers 23:22 Or “like the horns”
  29. Numbers 23:22 Hebrew “him”
  30. Numbers 23:23 Or “At the right time”
  31. Numbers 23:25 Hebrew “him”
  32. Numbers 23:25 Hebrew “him”
  33. Numbers 23:27 Literally “it will be right in the eyes of”
  34. Numbers 23:28 Or “the wasteland”
  35. Numbers 24:1 Literally “it was good in the eyes of Yahweh”
  36. Numbers 24:1 Literally “as time on time”
  37. Numbers 24:1 Literally “to meet”
  38. Numbers 24:2 That is, Israel
  39. Numbers 24:3 Literally “lifted up”
  40. Numbers 24:4 Or “God’s sayings”
  41. Numbers 24:4 Often translated “the Almighty”
  42. Numbers 24:8 Or “the horns”
  43. Numbers 24:10 Literally “the nose of Balak became hot against”
  44. Numbers 24:11 Literally “Flee for yourself”
  45. Numbers 24:13 Literally “the mouth of Yahweh”
  46. Numbers 24:13 Hebrew “I will speak it”
  47. Numbers 24:14 Literally “in the last of the days”
  48. Numbers 24:15 Literally “lifted up”
  49. Numbers 24:16 Or “God’s sayings”
  50. Numbers 24:16 Often translated “the Almighty”
  51. Numbers 24:18 Literally “with physical strength”
  52. Numbers 24:19 Hebrew “He”
  53. Numbers 24:19 Or “survivor”
  54. Numbers 24:20 Literally “lifted up”
  55. Numbers 24:20 Or “among”
  56. Numbers 24:21 Hebrew “Kenite”
  57. Numbers 24:21 Literally “lifted up”
  58. Numbers 24:22 Hebrew “take”
  59. Numbers 24:23 Literally “lifted up”
  60. Numbers 24:23 Hebrew “it”