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War With the Canaanites

21 The Canaanite king of Arad lived in the Negev. He heard that the Israelites were coming on the road to Atharim, so the king went out and attacked the Israelites. Arad captured some of the people and made them prisoners. Then the Israelites made a special promise to the Lord: “Please help us defeat these people. If you do this, we will give their cities to you. We will totally destroy them.”

The Lord listened to the Israelites and helped them defeat the Canaanites. They completely destroyed the Canaanites and their cities. So that place was named Hormah.[a]

The Bronze Snake

The Israelites left Mount Hor and traveled on the road that goes to the Red Sea. They did this to go around the country of Edom. But the people became impatient. They began complaining against God and Moses. The people said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? We will die here in the desert! There is no bread and no water! And we hate this terrible food!”

So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people. The snakes bit the people, and many of the Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We know that we sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord. Ask him to take away these snakes.” So Moses prayed for them.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. If anyone is bitten by a snake, that person should look at the bronze snake on the pole. Then that person will not die.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Then when a snake bit anyone, that person looked at the bronze snake on the pole and lived.

The Trip to Moab

10 The Israelites left that place and camped at Oboth. 11 Then they left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim in the desert east of Moab. 12 They left that place and camped in Zered Valley. 13 Then they moved and camped across from the Arnon River in the desert. This river started at the Ammonite border. The valley was the border between Moab and the Amorites. 14 That is why these words are written in the Book of the Wars of the Lord:

“… and Waheb in Suphah, and the Valleys of the Arnon, 15 and the hills by the valleys that lead to the town of Ar. These places are at the border of Moab.”

16 The Israelites left that place and traveled to Beer.[b] There is a well in Beer, where the Lord said to Moses, “Bring the people together here, and I will give them water.” 17 Then the Israelites sang this song:

“Well, flow with water!
    Sing about it!
18 Great men dug this well.
    Important leaders dug this well.
They dug this well with their staffs and walking sticks.
    It is a gift in the desert.”[c]

19 The people traveled from Mattanah to Nahaliel. Then they traveled from Nahaliel to Bamoth. 20 They traveled from Bamoth to the Valley of Moab. In this place the top of the Pisgah Mountain looks over the desert.

Sihon and Og

21 The Israelites sent some men to King Sihon of the Amorites. The men said to the king,

22 “Allow us to travel through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard. We will not drink water from any of your wells. We will travel only along King’s Road. We will stay on that road until we have traveled through your country.”

23 But King Sihon would not allow the Israelites to travel through his country. He gathered together his army and marched out to the desert to fight against the Israelites. The king’s army fought against the Israelites at Jahaz.

24 But the Israelites defeated the king and took his land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River. The Israelites took the land as far as the Ammonite border. They stopped at that border because it was strongly defended by the Ammonites. 25 Israel took all the Amorite cities and began living in them. They even defeated the city of Heshbon and all the small towns around it. 26 Heshbon was the city where Sihon, the Amorite king, lived. In the past Sihon had fought with the king of Moab. Sihon had taken the land as far as the Arnon River. 27 That is why the singers sing this song:

“Go in and rebuild Heshbon!
    Make Sihon’s city strong.
28 A fire began in Heshbon.
    That fire began in Sihon’s city.
The fire destroyed Ar in Moab.
    It burned the hills above Arnon River.
29 It is bad for you, Moab.
    You lost Chemosh’s people.
His sons ran away.
    His daughters were taken prisoners by Sihon, king of the Amorites.
30 But we defeated those Amorites.
    We destroyed their towns from Heshbon to Dibon,
    from Nashim to Nophah, near Medeba.”

31 So the Israelites made their camp in the land of the Amorites.

32 Moses sent some men to look at the town of Jazer. Then the Israelites captured that town and the small towns that were around it. They forced the Amorites who were living there to leave.

33 Then the Israelites traveled on the road toward Bashan. King Og of Bashan got his army and marched out to meet the Israelites. He fought against them at Edrei.

34 But the Lord said to Moses, “Don’t be afraid of that king. I will allow you to defeat him. You will take his whole army and all his land. Do the same to him as you did to Sihon, the Amorite king who lived in Heshbon.”

35 So the Israelites defeated Og and his army. They killed him, his sons, and all his army. Then the Israelites took all his land.

Balaam and the King of Moab

22 Then the Israelites traveled to the Jordan Valley in Moab. They camped near the Jordan River across from Jericho.

2-3 Balak son of Zippor saw everything the Israelites had done to the Amorites. The king of Moab was very frightened of the Israelites because there were so many of them. He was very afraid.

The king of Moab said to the leaders of Midian, “This large group of people will destroy everything around us, the way an ox eats all the grass in a field.”

Balak son of Zippor was the king of Moab at this time. He sent some men to Balaam son of Beor. Balaam was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River. This was where Balaam’s people lived.[d] This was Balak’s message:

“A new nation of people has come out of Egypt. There are so many people that they cover all the land. They have camped next to me. Come and help me. These people are too powerful for me. I know that you have great power. If you bless people, good things happen to them. And if you curse people, bad things happen to them. So come and curse these people. Maybe then I will be able to defeat them and force them to leave my country.”

The leaders of Moab and Midian left. They went to talk to Balaam. They carried with them money to pay him for his service.[e] Then they told him what Balak had said.

Balaam said to them, “Stay here for the night. I will talk to the Lord and tell you the answer he gives me.” So the leaders of Moab stayed there with Balaam that night.

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

10 Balaam said to God, “The king of Moab, Balak son of Zippor, sent them to give me a message. 11 This is the message: A new nation of people has come out of Egypt. There are so many people that they cover the land. So come and curse these people. Then maybe I will be able to fight them and force them to leave my land.”

12 But God said to Balaam, “Don’t go with them. You must not curse those people. They are my people.”

13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to leaders from Balak, “Go back to your own country. The Lord will not let me go with you.”

14 So the leaders of Moab went back to Balak and told him this. They said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 So Balak sent other leaders to Balaam. This time he sent many more than the first time. And these leaders were much more important than the first ones he sent. 16 They went to Balaam and said, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says to you: Please don’t let anything stop you from coming. 17 I will pay you very much,[f] and I will do whatever you ask. Come and curse these people for me.”

18 Balaam gave Balak’s officials his answer. He said, “I must obey the Lord my God. I cannot do anything, great or small, against his command. Even if King Balak gives me his beautiful home filled with silver and gold, I will not do anything against the Lord’s command. 19 But you can stay here tonight like the other men did, and during the night I will learn what the Lord wants to tell me.”

20 That night, God came to Balaam. God said, “These men have come again to ask you to go with them. So you can go with them. But do only what I tell you to do.”

Balaam and His Donkey

21 The next morning, Balaam got up, put a saddle on his donkey, and went with the Moabite leaders. 22 Balaam was riding on his donkey. Two of his servants were with him. While Balaam was traveling, God became angry. So the Lord’s angel stood in the road in front of Balaam to stop[g] him.

23 When Balaam’s donkey saw the Lord’s angel standing in the road with a sword in his hand, the donkey turned from the road and went into the field. Balaam could not see the angel, so he was very angry at the donkey. He hit the donkey and forced it to go back on the road.

24 Later, the Lord’s angel stood at a place where the road became narrow. This was between two vineyards. There were walls on both sides of the road. 25 Again the donkey saw the Lord’s angel. So the donkey walked very close to one wall. This crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So Balaam hit his donkey again.

26 Later, the Lord’s angel stood at another place where the road became narrow. There was no place where the donkey could go around him. It could not turn to the left or to the right. 27 The donkey saw the Lord’s angel. So the donkey lay down with Balaam sitting on top of it. Balaam was very angry at the donkey. So he hit it with his walking stick.

28 Then the Lord caused the donkey to speak. The donkey said to Balaam, “Why are you angry at me? What have I done to you? You have hit me three times!”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made me look foolish. If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now!”

30 But the donkey said to Balaam, “Look, I am your donkey. You have ridden me for so many years. And you know that I have never done this to you before!”

“That is true,” Balaam said.

31 Then the Lord allowed Balaam to see the angel. The Lord’s angel was standing in the road, holding a sword in his hand. Balaam bowed low to the ground.

32 Then the Lord’s angel asked Balaam, “Why did you hit your donkey three times? I am the one who came to stop you. But just in time,[h] 33 your donkey saw me and turned away from me. That happened three times. If the donkey had not turned away, I probably would have killed you already. And I would have let your donkey live.”

34 Then Balaam said to the Lord’s angel, “I have sinned. I did not know that you were standing in the road. If I am doing wrong, I will go back home.”

35 Then the Lord’s angel said to Balaam, “No, you can go with these men. But be careful. Speak only the words that I will tell you to say.” So Balaam went with the leaders that Balak had sent.

36 Balak heard that Balaam was coming. So Balak went out to meet him at the Moabite town[i] near the Arnon River. This was at the northern border of his country. 37 When Balak saw Balaam, he said to him, “I asked you before to come. I told you it was very important. Why didn’t you come to me? Did you think I might not be able to pay you?”

38 Balaam answered, “Well, I am here now. I came, but I might not be able to do what you asked. I can only say the words God tells me to say.”

39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak killed some cattle and some sheep as his sacrifice. He gave some of the meat to Balaam and some to the leaders who were with him.

41 The next morning Balak took Balaam to the town of Bamoth Baal. From there they could see part of the Israelite camp.


  1. Numbers 21:3 Hormah This name means “completely destroyed” or “a gift given totally to God.” See Lev. 27:28-29.
  2. Numbers 21:16 Beer This Hebrew name means “well.”
  3. Numbers 21:18 gift in the desert In Hebrew this is the name “Mattanah.”
  4. Numbers 22:5 This … lived Or “This was the land of the Ammonites.”
  5. Numbers 22:7 for his service Or “for the things he needed to make curses.” In ancient times, when people asked bad things to happen to other people, they often wrote the curses on special bowls and used them in ceremonies. They did this to try to force these bad things to happen. See Deut. 18:10.
  6. Numbers 22:17 I will pay you very much Or “I will honor you very much.”
  7. Numbers 22:22 stop Or “oppose” or “accuse.” Also in verse 32.
  8. Numbers 22:32 But just in time Or “You should not be going this way,” or “You are not doing right.” The Hebrew text here is hard to understand.
  9. Numbers 22:36 Moabite town Or possibly, “Ar Moab.”

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