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Numbers 23-25 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Balaam’s First Message

23 Balaam said, “Build seven altars here. And prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” Balak did what Balaam asked. Then Balak and Balaam killed a ram and a bull on each of the altars.

Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here near this altar. I will go to another place. Then the Lord will come to me, and he will tell me what I must say.” Then Balaam went away to a higher place.

God came to Balaam at that place, and Balaam said, “I have prepared seven altars. And I have killed a bull and a ram as a sacrifice on each altar.”

Then the Lord gave Balaam a message for Balak and said, “Go back to Balak and say the things that I have given you to say.”

So Balaam went back to Balak. Balak was still standing near the altar, and all the leaders of Moab were standing there with them. Then Balaam spoke, and this was his message:

“Balak, the king of Moab,
    brought me here from the eastern mountains of Aram.
Balak said to me,
    ‘Come, curse Jacob for me.
    Come, speak against the Israelites.’
But God is not against them,
    so I cannot speak against them either!
The Lord has not asked for bad things to happen to these people.
    So I cannot do that either.
I see these people from the mountain.
    I see them from the high hills.
They live alone.
    They are not part of another nation.
10 Who can count Jacob’s people?
    They are as many as the grains of dust.
    No one can count even a fourth of the Israelites.
Let me die like a good man.
    Let my life end as happy as theirs!”

11 Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them!”

12 But Balaam answered, “I must say the things that the Lord tells me to say.”

13 Then Balak said to him, “So come with me to another place. At that place you can see more of these people. You cannot see all of them—you can only see part of them. Maybe from that place you can curse them for me.” 14 So Balak led Balaam to Watchmen Hills.[a] This was on top of Mount Pisgah. There Balak built seven altars and killed a bull and a ram on each altar as a sacrifice.

15 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here by this altar while I go meet with God over there.”

16 So the Lord came to Balaam and told Balaam what to say. Then he told Balaam to go back to Balak and say these things. 17 So Balaam went to Balak. Balak was still standing near the altar. The leaders of Moab were there with him. Balak saw Balaam coming and said, “What did the Lord say?”

Balaam’s Second Message

18 Then Balaam said this:

“Stand up, Balak, and listen to me.
    Hear me, Balak son of Zippor.
19 God is not a man;
    he will not lie.
God is not a human being;
    his decisions will not change.
If he says he will do something,
    then he will do it.
If he makes a promise,
    then he will do what he promised.
20 He told me to bless them.
    He blessed them, so I cannot change that.
21 God saw no wrong in Jacob’s people.
    He saw no sin in the Israelites.
The Lord is their God,
    and he is with them.
    The Great King is with them!
22 God brought them out of Egypt.
    They are as strong as a wild ox.
23 There is no power that can defeat the people of Jacob.
    There is no magic that can stop the Israelites.
People will say this about Jacob and the Israelites:
    ‘Look at the great things God did!’[b]
24 The people are as strong as lions,
    and they fight like lions.
And a lion will not rest until it eats what it has caught,
    until it drinks the blood of what it has killed.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “You didn’t ask for good things to happen to these people, but you didn’t ask for bad things to happen to them either!”

26 Balaam answered, “I told you before that I can only say what the Lord tells me to say.”

27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “So come with me to another place. Maybe God will be pleased and will allow you to curse them from that place.” 28 So Balak led Balaam to the top of Mount Peor, which looks out over the desert.

29 Balaam said, “Build seven altars here. Then prepare seven bulls and seven rams for the altars.” 30 Balak did what Balaam asked. Balak offered the bulls and rams on the altars.

Balaam’s Third Message

24 Balaam saw that the Lord wanted to bless Israel, so he did not try to change that by using any kind of magic. But Balaam turned and looked toward the desert. He looked out across the desert and saw all the Israelites. They were camped with the tribes in their different areas. Then the Spirit of God came on him, and he gave this message:

“This message is from Balaam son of Beor.
    I am speaking about things I see clearly.
These are the words I heard from God.
    I saw what God All-Powerful[c] showed me.
    I humbly tell what I clearly see.

“People of Jacob, your tents are beautiful!
    Israelites, your homes are beautiful!
You are like rows of palm trees planted by the streams.
    You are like gardens growing by the rivers.
You are like sweet-smelling bushes planted by the Lord.
    You are like cedar trees growing by the water.
You will always have enough water,
    enough water for your seeds to grow.
Your king will be greater than King Agag.
    Your kingdom will be very great.

“God brought them out of Egypt.
    They are as strong as a wild ox.
They will defeat all their enemies.
    They will break their bones and shatter their arrows.
Israel is like a lion,
    curled up and lying down.
Yes, they are like a young lion,
    and no one wants to wake him!
Anyone who blesses you will be blessed.
    And anyone who curses you will have great troubles.”

10 When Balak heard this, he angrily struck his fist against his hand and said to Balaam, “I called you to come and curse my enemies. But you have blessed them. You have blessed them three times. 11 Now leave and go home! I told you that I would give you a very good payment, but the Lord has caused you to lose your reward.”

12 Balaam said to Balak, “You sent men to ask me to come. Don’t you remember what I told them? I said, 13 ‘Even if Balak gives me his most beautiful house filled with silver and gold, I can still say only what the Lord commands me to say. I cannot do anything myself, good or bad. I must say what the Lord commands.’ 14 Now I am going back to my own people. But I will give you this warning. I will tell you what these Israelites will do to you and your people in the future.”

Balaam’s Last Message

15 Then Balaam gave this message:

“This message is from Balaam son of Beor.
    I am speaking about things I see clearly.
16 I heard this message from God.
    I learned what God Most High taught me.
I saw what God All-Powerful showed me.
    I humbly tell what I clearly see.

17 “I see him coming, but not now.
    I see him coming, but not soon.
A star will come from the family of Jacob.
    A new ruler will come from the Israelites.
He will smash the heads of the Moabites
    and crush the heads of all the sons of Sheth.[d]
18 Israel will grow strong!
    He will get the land of Edom.
    He will get the land of Seir,[e] his enemy.

19 “A new ruler will come from the family of Jacob.
    That ruler will destroy the people left alive in that city.”

20 Then Balaam saw the Amalekites and said this:

“Amalek is the strongest of all nations,
    but even Amalek will be destroyed!”

21 Then Balaam saw the Kenites and said this:

“You believe that your country is safe,
    like a bird’s nest[f] high on a mountain.
22 But you Kenites will be destroyed,
    just as the Lord destroyed Cain.
    Assyria will make you prisoners.”

23 Then Balaam said this:

“No one can live when God does this.
24     Ships will come from Cyprus.[g]
They will defeat Assyria and Eber,[h]
    but those ships will also be destroyed.”

25 Then Balaam got up and went back home, and Balak went his own way.

Israel at Peor

25 While the Israelites were camped near Acacia, the men committed sexual sins[i] with Moabite women. 2-3 The Moabite women invited the men to come and join in their sacrifices to their false gods. So the Israelites joined in worshiping these false gods—they ate the sacrifices and worshiped these gods. There the Israelites began worshiping the false god, Baal of Peor. And the Lord became very angry with them.

The Lord said to Moses, “Get all the leaders of these people. Then kill them so that all the people can see.[j] Lay their bodies before the Lord. Then the Lord will not show his anger against all the Israelites.”

So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must find the men in your tribe who have led people to worship the false god, Baal of Peor. Then you must kill these men.”

At the time Moses and all the elders of Israel were gathered together at the entrance to the Meeting Tent. An Israelite man brought a Midianite woman home to his brothers.[k] He did this where Moses and all the leaders could see. Moses and the leaders were very sad. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar and the grandson of Aaron the priest. Phinehas saw this man bring the woman into camp. So he left the meeting and got his spear. He followed the Israelite into the tent. Then he used the spear to kill the Israelite man and the Midianite woman in her tent.[l] He pushed the spear through both of their bodies. At that time there was a great sickness among the Israelites. But when Phinehas killed these two people, the sickness stopped. A total of 24,000 people died from that sickness.

10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 “I was so angry with the Israelites that I wanted to kill them. But Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest, has saved them from my anger. He did this by showing that he feels strongly, just as I do, that my people must worship only me. 12 Tell Phinehas that I am making a peace agreement with him. 13 This is the agreement: He and all of his family who live after him will always be priests, because he had strong feelings for his God. And he did what was needed to make the Israelites pure.”

14 The Israelite man who was killed with the Midianite woman was named Zimri son of Salu. He was the leader of a family in the tribe of Simeon. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi.[m] She was the daughter of Zur. Zur was the head of a family and leader of a Midianite tribe.

16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “The Midianites are your enemies. You must kill them. 18 They have already made you their enemies. They tricked you at Peor. And they tricked you with the woman named Cozbi. She was the daughter of a Midianite leader, but she was killed when the sickness came to the Israelites. That sickness was caused because the people were tricked into worshiping the false god Baal of Peor.”


  1. Numbers 23:14 Watchmen Hills Or “the fields of Zophim.”
  2. Numbers 23:23 Or “There is no fortunetelling in Jacob, no magic in Israel. God tells them immediately what he plans to do.”
  3. Numbers 24:4 God All-Powerful Literally, “El Shaddai.” Also in verse 16.
  4. Numbers 24:17 sons of Sheth Or “Seth.” Seth was Adam’s third son. This might be like the phrases “son of Man” (Adam) and “son of Enosh” and mean simply “all these people.”
  5. Numbers 24:18 Seir Another name for Edom.
  6. Numbers 24:21 nest, Kenite, Cain A play on words. The names “Cain” and “Kenite” are like the Hebrew word meaning “nest.”
  7. Numbers 24:24 Cyprus Literally, “Kittim.” This might be Cyprus, Crete, or other places west of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea.
  8. Numbers 24:24 Eber This might mean the people living west of the Euphrates River, or it might mean the “Hebrews,” the descendants of Eber. See Gen. 10:21.
  9. Numbers 25:1 sexual sins Sexual sin was often connected with temples for false gods. So this can mean that the men were unfaithful to their wives and also that they were unfaithful to God by going to their temples.
  10. Numbers 25:4 so that all the people can see Literally, “before the sun.”
  11. Numbers 25:6 brothers Or “family.”
  12. Numbers 25:8 her tent This was probably a special tent that showed this woman was a prostitute serving the false god, Baal of Peor.
  13. Numbers 25:15 Cozbi This name is like the Hebrew word meaning “my lie.”
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Copyright © 2006 by Bible League International

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