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Numbers 21:1-22:20; Luke 1:26-56; Psalms 57:1-11; Proverbs 11:9-11 (Contemporary English Version)

Numbers 21:1-22:20

Israel Defeats the Canaanites at Hormah

21 The Canaanite king of Arad lived in the Southern Desert of Canaan, and when he heard that the Israelites were on their way to the village of Atharim, he attacked and took some of them hostage.

The Israelites prayed, “Our Lord, if you will help us defeat these Canaanites, we will completely destroy their towns and everything in them, to show that they belong to you.”[a]

The Lord answered their prayer and helped them wipe out the Canaanite army and completely destroy their towns. That’s why one of the towns is named Hormah, which means “Destroyed Place.”

Moses Makes a Bronze Snake

The Israelites had to go around the territory of Edom, so when they left Mount Hor, they headed south toward the Red Sea.[b] But along the way, the people became so impatient that they complained against God and said to Moses, “Did you bring us out of Egypt, just to let us die in the desert? There’s no water out here, and we can’t stand this awful food!”

Then the Lord sent poisonous snakes that bit and killed many of them.

Some of the people went to Moses and admitted, “It was wrong of us to insult you and the Lord. Now please ask him to make these snakes go away.”

Moses prayed, and the Lord answered, “Make a snake out of bronze and place it on top of a pole. Anyone who gets bitten can look at the snake and won’t die.”

Moses obeyed the Lord. And all of those who looked at the bronze snake lived, even though they had been bitten by the poisonous snakes.

Israel’s Journey to Moab

10 As the Israelites continued their journey to Canaan, they camped at Oboth, 11 then at Iye-Abarim in the desert east of Moab, 12 and then in the Zered Gorge. 13 After that, they crossed the Arnon River gorge and camped in the Moabite desert bordering Amorite territory. The Arnon was the border between the Moabites and the Amorites. 14 A song in The Book of the Lord’s Battles[c] mentions the town of Waheb with its creeks in the territory of Suphah. It also mentions the Arnon River, 15 with its valleys that lie alongside the Moabite border and extend to the town of Ar.

16 From the Arnon, the Israelites went to the well near the town of Beer, where the Lord had said to Moses, “Call the people together, and I will give them water to drink.”

17 That’s also the same well the Israelites sang about in this song:

Let’s celebrate!
    The well has given us water.
18 With their royal scepters,
our leaders pointed out
    where to dig the well.

The Israelites left the desert and camped near the town of Mattanah, 19 then at Nahaliel, and then at Bamoth. 20 Finally, they reached Moabite territory, where they camped near Mount Pisgah[d] in a valley overlooking the desert north of the Dead Sea.

Israel Defeats King Sihon the Amorite

21 The Israelites sent this message to King Sihon of the Amorites:

22 Please let us pass through your territory. We promise to stay away from your fields and vineyards, and we won’t drink any water from your wells. As long as we’re in your land, we won’t get off the main road.[e]

23 But Sihon refused to let Israel travel through his land. Instead, he called together his entire army and marched into the desert to attack Israel near the town of Jahaz. 24 Israel defeated them and took over the Amorite territory from the Arnon River gorge in the south to the Jabbok River gorge in the north. Beyond the Jabbok was the territory of the Ammonites, who were much stronger than Israel.

25 The Israelites settled in the Amorite towns, including the capital city of Heshbon with its surrounding villages. 26 King Sihon had ruled from Heshbon, after defeating the Moabites and taking over their land north of the Arnon River gorge. 27 That’s why the Amorites had written this poem about Heshbon:

Come and rebuild Heshbon,
    King Sihon’s capital city!
28 His armies marched out
    like fiery flames,
burning down the town of Ar
and destroying[f] the hills
    along the Arnon River.
29 You Moabites are done for!
Your god Chemosh
    deserted your people;
they were captured, taken away
    by King Sihon the Amorite.
30 We completely defeated Moab.
The towns of Heshbon and Dibon,
    of Nophah and Medeba
    are ruined and gone.[g]

31 After the Israelites had settled in the Amorite territory, 32 Moses sent some men to explore the town of Jazer. Later, the Israelites captured the villages surrounding it and forced out the Amorites who lived there.

Israel Defeats King Og of Bashan

33 The Israelites headed toward the region of Bashan, where King Og ruled, and he led his entire army to Edrei to meet Israel in battle.

34 The Lord said to Moses, “Don’t be afraid of Og. I will help you defeat him and his army, just as you did King Sihon who ruled in Heshbon. Og’s territory will be yours.”

35 So the Israelites wiped out Og, his family, and his entire army—there were no survivors. Then Israel took over the land of Bashan.

22 Israel moved from there to the hills of Moab, where they camped across the Jordan River from the town of Jericho.

King Balak of Moab Hires Balaam To Curse Israel

2-3 When King Balak[h] of Moab and his people heard how many Israelites there were and what they had done to the Amorites, he and the Moabites were terrified and panicked. They said to the Midianite leaders, “That bunch of Israelites will wipe out everything in sight, like a bull eating grass in a field.”

So King Balak sent a message to Balaam son of Beor who lived among his relatives in the town of Pethor near the Euphrates River. It said:

I need your help. A huge group of people has come here from Egypt and settled near my territory. They are too powerful for us to defeat, so would you come and place a curse on them? Maybe then we can run them off. I know that anyone you bless will be successful, but anyone you curse will fail.

The leaders of Moab and Midian left and took along money to pay Balaam for his work. When they got to his house, they gave him Balak’s message.

“Spend the night here,” Balaam replied, “and tomorrow I will tell you the Lord’s answer.” So the officials stayed at his house.

During the night, God asked Balaam, “Who are these people at your house?”

10 “They are messengers from King Balak of Moab,” Balaam answered. “He sent them 11 to ask me to go to Moab and place a curse on the people who have come there from Egypt. They have settled everywhere around him, and he wants to run them off.”

12 But God replied, “Don’t go with Balak’s messengers. I have blessed those people who have come from Egypt, so don’t curse them.”

13 The next morning, Balaam said to Balak’s officials, “Go on back home. The Lord says I cannot go with you.”

14 The officials left and told Balak that Balaam refused to come.

15 Then Balak sent a larger group of officials, who were even more important than the first ones. 16 They went to Balaam and told him that Balak had said, “Balaam, if you come to Moab, 17 I’ll pay you very well and do whatever you ask. Just come and place a curse on these people.”

18 Balaam answered, “Even if Balak offered me a palace full of silver or gold, I wouldn’t do anything to disobey the Lord my God. 19 You are welcome to spend the night here, just as the others did. I will find out if the Lord has something else to say about this.”

20 That night, God said, “Balaam, I’ll let you go to Moab with Balak’s messengers, but do only what I say.”

Footnotes:

  1. 21.2 completely destroy. . . belong to you: The complete destruction of a town and everything in it, including its people and animals, showed that the town belonged to the Lord and could no longer be used by humans.
  2. 21.4 Red Sea: See the note at 14.25.
  3. 21.14 The Book of the Lord’s Battles: This may have been a collection of ancient war songs.
  4. 21.20 Mount Pisgah: This probably refers to the highest peak in the Abarim Mountains in Moab.
  5. 21.22 the main road: See the note at 20.17.
  6. 21.28 destroying: One ancient translation; Hebrew “the rulers of.”
  7. 21.30 gone: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 30.
  8. 22.2,3 Balak: Hebrew “Balak son of Zippor.”
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Luke 1:26-56

An Angel Tells about the Birth of Jesus

26 One month later God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee 27 with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. 28 The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant. 30 Then the angel told Mary, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, 31 and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. 33 He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.”

34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am not married!”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. 36 Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son. 37 Nothing is impossible for God!”

38 Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.” And the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 A short time later Mary hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea. 40 She went into Zechariah’s home, where she greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her baby moved within her.

The Holy Spirit came upon Elizabeth. 42 Then in a loud voice she said to Mary:

God has blessed you more than any other woman! He has also blessed the child you will have. 43 Why should the mother of my Lord come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, my baby became happy and moved within me. 45 The Lord has blessed you because you believed that he will keep his promise.

Mary’s Song of Praise

46 Mary said:

With all my heart
    I praise the Lord,
47 and I am glad
    because of God my Savior.
48 He cares for me,
    his humble servant.
From now on,
all people will say
    God has blessed me.
49 God All-Powerful has done
great things for me,
    and his name is holy.
50 He always shows mercy
to everyone
    who worships him.
51 The Lord has used
    his powerful arm
to scatter those
    who are proud.
52 He drags strong rulers
    from their thrones
and puts humble people
    in places of power.
53 God gives the hungry
    good things to eat,
and sends the rich away
    with nothing.
54 He helps his servant Israel
and is always merciful
    to his people.
55 The Lord made this promise
    to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his family
    forever!

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she went back home.

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Psalm 57

(For the music leader. To the tune “Don’t Destroy.”[a] A special psalm by David when he was in the cave while running from Saul.)

Praise and Trust in Times of Trouble

57 God Most High, have pity on me!
Have mercy.
    I run to you
    for safety.
In the shadow of your wings,
    I seek protection
    till danger dies down.
I pray to you, my protector.
You will send help from heaven
    and save me,
    but you will bring trouble
    on my attackers.
You are faithful,
    and you can be trusted.

I live among lions,
    who gobble down people!
They have spears and arrows
    instead of teeth,
    and they have sharp swords
    instead of tongues.

May you, my God, be honored
    above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen
    everywhere on earth.

Enemies set traps for my feet
    and struck me down.
    They dug a pit in my path,
    but fell in it themselves.
I am faithful to you,
    and you can trust me.
    I will sing and play music
    for you, my God.
I feel wide awake!
I will wake up my harp
    and wake up the sun.
I will praise you, Lord,
    for everyone to hear,
    and I will sing hymns to you
    in every nation.
10 Your love reaches higher
    than the heavens;
    your loyalty extends
    beyond the clouds.

11 May you, my God, be honored
    above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen
    everywhere on earth.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 57; 58 Don’t Destroy: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
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Proverbs 11:9-11

Dishonest people use gossip
    to destroy their neighbors;
    good people are protected
    by their own good sense.
10 When honest people prosper
and the wicked disappear,
    the whole city celebrates.
11 When God blesses his people,
    their city prospers,
    but deceitful liars
    can destroy a city.

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