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Balak and Balaam

written by Moses* in Numbers 22:1-24:25

The King of Moab Sends for Balaam

1 The Israelites moved on and set up camp in the plains of Moab east of the Jordan and opposite Jericho.

2 When the king of Moab, Balak son of Zippor, heard what the Israelites had done to the Amorites and how many Israelites there were, 3 he and all his people became terrified. 4 The Moabites said to the leaders of the Midianites, “This horde will soon destroy everything around us, like a bull eating the grass in a pasture.” So King Balak 5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor near the Euphrates River in the land of Amaw. They brought him this message from Balak: “I want you to know that a whole nation has come from Egypt; its people are spreading out everywhere and threatening to take over our land. 6 They outnumber us, so please come and put a curse on them for me. Then perhaps we will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. I know that when you pronounce a blessing, people are blessed, and when you pronounce a curse, they are placed under a curse.”

7 So the Moabite and Midianite leaders took with them the payment for the curse, went to Balaam, and gave him Balak's message. 8 Balaam said to them, “Spend the night here, and tomorrow I will report to you whatever the Lord tells me.” So the Moabite leaders stayed with Balaam.

9 God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these people that are staying with you?”

10 He answered, “King Balak of Moab has sent them to tell me 11 that a people who came from Egypt has spread out over the whole land. He wants me to curse them for him, so that he can fight them and drive them out.”

12 God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them, and do not put a curse on the people of Israel, because they have my blessing.”

13 The next morning Balaam went to Balak's messengers and said, “Go back home; the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So they returned to Balak and told him that Balaam had refused to come with them.

15 Then Balak sent a larger number of leaders, who were more important than the first. 16 They went to Balaam and gave him this message from Balak: “Please don't let anything prevent you from coming to me! 17 I will reward you richly and do anything you say. Please come and curse these people for me.”

18 But Balaam answered, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not disobey the command of the Lord my God in even the smallest matter. 19 But please spend the night, as the others did, so that I may learn whether or not the Lord has something else to tell me.”

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “If these men have come to ask you to go with them, get ready and go, but do only what I tell you.” 21 So the next morning Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite leaders.

Balaam and His Donkey

22 God was angry that Balaam was going, and as Balaam was riding along on his donkey, accompanied by his two servants, the angel of the Lord stood in the road to bar his way. 23 When the donkey saw the angel standing there holding a sword, it left the road and turned into the fields. Balaam beat the donkey and brought it back onto the road. 24 Then the angel stood where the road narrowed between two vineyards and had a stone wall on each side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel, it moved over against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against it. Again Balaam beat the donkey. 26 Once more the angel moved ahead; he stood in a narrow place where there was no room at all to pass on either side. 27 This time, when the donkey saw the angel, it lay down. Balaam lost his temper and began to beat the donkey with his stick. 28 Then the Lord gave the donkey the power of speech, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you? Why have you beaten me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered, “Because you have made a fool of me! If I had a sword, I would kill you.”

30 The donkey replied, “Am I not the same donkey on which you have ridden all your life? Have I ever treated you like this before?”

“No,” he answered.

31 Then the Lord let Balaam see the angel standing there with his sword; and Balaam threw himself face downward on the ground. 32 The angel demanded, “Why have you beaten your donkey three times like this? I have come to bar your way, because you should not be making this journey. 33 But your donkey saw me and turned aside three times. If it hadn't, I would have killed you and spared the donkey.”

34 Balaam replied, “I have sinned. I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me; but now if you think it is wrong for me to go on, I will return home.”

35 But the angel said, “Go on with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with them.

Balak Welcomes Balaam

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went to meet him at Ar, a city on the Arnon River at the border of Moab. 37 Balak said to him, “Why didn't you come when I sent for you the first time? Did you think I wasn't able to reward you enough?”

38 Balaam answered, “I came, didn't I? But now, what power do I have? I can say only what God tells me to say.” 39 So Balaam went with Balak to the town of Huzoth, 40 where Balak slaughtered cattle and sheep and gave some of the meat to Balaam and the leaders who were with him.

Balaam's First Prophecy

41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, from where Balaam could see a part of the people of Israel.

1 He said to Balak, “Build seven altars here for me, and bring me seven bulls and seven rams.”

2 Balak did as he was told, and he and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here by your burnt offering, while I go to see whether or not the Lord will meet me. I will tell you whatever he reveals to me.” So he went alone to the top of a hill, 4 and God met him. Balaam said to him, “I have built the seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each.”

5 The Lord told Balaam what to say and sent him back to Balak to give him his message. 6 So he went back and found Balak still standing by his burnt offering with all the leaders of Moab.

7 Balaam uttered this prophecy:

“Balak king of Moab has brought me

From Syria, from the eastern mountains.

‘Come speak for me,’ he said.

‘Put a curse on the people of Israel.’

8 How can I curse what God has not cursed,

Or speak of doom when the Lord has not?

9 From the high rocks I can see them;

I can watch them from the hills.

They are a nation that lives alone;

They know they are blessed more than other nations.

10 The descendants of Israel are like the dust—

There are too many of them to be counted.

Let me end my days like one of God's people;

Let me die in peace like the righteous.”

11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, but all you have done is bless them.”

12 He answered, “I can say only what the Lord tells me to say.”

Balaam's Second Prophecy

13 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Come with me to another place from which you can see only some of the Israelites. Curse them for me from there.” 14 He took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Mount Pisgah. There also he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each of them.

15 Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here by your burnt offering, and I will meet God over there.”

16 The Lord met Balaam, told him what to say, and sent him back to Balak to give him his message. 17 So he went back and found Balak still standing by his burnt offering, with the leaders of Moab. Balak asked what the Lord had said, 18 and Balaam uttered this prophecy:

“Come, Balak son of Zippor,

And listen to what I have to say.

19 God is not like people, who lie;

He is not a human who changes his mind.

Whatever he promises, he does;

He speaks, and it is done.

20 I have been instructed to bless,

And when God blesses, I cannot call it back.

21 I foresee that Israel's future

Will bring her no misfortune or trouble.

The Lord their God is with them;

They proclaim that he is their king.

22 God has brought them out of Egypt;

He fights for them like a wild ox.

23 There is no magic charm, no witchcraft,

That can be used against the nation of Israel.

Now people will say about Israel,

‘Look what God has done!’

24 The nation of Israel is like a mighty lion:

It doesn't rest until it has torn and devoured,

Until it has drunk the blood of those it has killed.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “You refuse to curse the people of Israel, but at least don't bless them!”

26 Balaam answered, “Didn't I tell you that I had to do everything that the Lord told me?”

Balaam's Third Prophecy

27 Balak said, “Come with me, and I will take you to another place. Perhaps God will be willing to let you curse them for me from there.” 28 So he took Balaam to the top of Mount Peor overlooking the desert. 29 Balaam said to him, “Build seven altars for me here and bring me seven bulls and seven rams.” 30 Balak did as he was told, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

1 By now Balaam knew that the Lord wanted him to bless the people of Israel, so he did not go to look for omens, as he had done before. He turned toward the desert 2 and saw the people of Israel camped tribe by tribe. The spirit of God took control of him, 3 and he uttered this prophecy:

“The message of Balaam son of Beor,

The words of the man who can see clearly,

4 Who can hear what God is saying.

With staring eyes I see in a trance

A vision from Almighty God.

5 The tents of Israel are beautiful,

6 Like long rows of palms

Or gardens beside a river,

Like aloes planted by the Lord

Or cedars beside the water.

7 They will have abundant rainfall

And plant their seed in well-watered fields.

Their king shall be greater than Agag,

And his rule shall be extended far and wide.

8 God brought them out of Egypt;

He fights for them like a wild ox.

They devour their enemies,

Crush their bones, smash their arrows.

9 The nation is like a mighty lion;

When it is sleeping, no one dares wake it.

Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed,

And whoever curses Israel will be cursed.”

10 Balak clenched his fists in anger and said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, but three times now you have blessed them instead. 11 Now get on home! I promised to reward you, but the Lord has kept you from getting the reward.”

12 Balaam answered, “I told the messengers you sent to me that 13 even if you gave me all the silver and gold in your palace, I could not disobey the command of the Lord by doing anything of myself. I will say only what the Lord tells me to say.”

Balaam's Final Prophecies

14 Balaam said to Balak, “Now I am going back to my own people, but before I go, I am warning you what the people of Israel will do to your people in the future.” 15 Then he uttered this prophecy:

“The message of Balaam son of Beor,

The words of the man who can see clearly,

16 Who can hear what God is saying

And receive the knowledge that comes from the Most High.

With staring eyes I see in a trance

A vision from Almighty God.

17 I look into the future,

And I see the nation of Israel.

A king, like a bright star, will arise in that nation.

Like a comet he will come from Israel.

He will strike the leaders of Moab

And beat down all the people of Seth.

18 He will conquer his enemies in Edom

And make their land his property,

While Israel continues victorious.

19 The nation of Israel will trample them down

And wipe out the last survivors.”

20 Then in his vision Balaam saw the Amalekites and uttered this prophecy:

“Amalek was the most powerful nation of all,

But at the end it will perish forever.”

21 In his vision he saw the Kenites, and uttered this prophecy:

“The place where you live is secure,

Safe as a nest set high on a cliff,

22 But you Kenites will be destroyed

When Assyria takes you captive.”

23 Balaam uttered this prophecy:

“Who are these people gathering in the north?

24 Invaders will sail from Cyprus;

They will conquer Assyria and Eber,

But they, in turn, will perish forever.”

25 Then Balaam got ready and went back home, and Balak went on his way.

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