So Balaam got up in the morning and [a]saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab.
The Angel and Balaam
But God’s anger was kindled because [b]he was going, and the [c]Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way and His drawn sword in His hand, the donkey turned off the path and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back toward the path. But the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a [stone] wall on this side and a [stone] wall on that side. When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she pressed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against it, and he struck her again. The Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam, so Balaam was angry and he struck the donkey [a third time] with his staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?” Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now!” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life until this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and lay himself face down. The Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your behavior was obstinate and contrary to Me. The donkey saw Me and turned away from Me these three times. If she had not turned away from Me, I would have certainly killed you now, and let her live.” Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that You were standing in the way against me. But now, if my going displeases You, I will turn back.” The Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.
When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the border at the Arnon [River], at the farthest end of the border. Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not urgently send word to you to call you? Why did you not come to me [immediately]? Am I really unable to honor (pay) you?” So Balaam said to Balak, “Indeed I have come to you now, but am I able to say anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak.” And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some to Balaam and to the leaders who were with him.
Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal; from there he saw a portion of the Israelites.
- Numbers 22:21 The ancient rabbis saw in this action an indication that Balaam was eager to go with the messengers, because it was not considered appropriate for a man of importance to saddle his own mount.
- Numbers 22:22 Balaam went with God’s permission, but his motives were in opposition to God’s will.
- Numbers 22:22 “Angel” has been capitalized here to reflect the likelihood that it is God appearing in a visible form (see note Gen 16:7).
The Prophecies of Balaam
Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me seven bulls and seven rams here.” Balak did just as Balaam had said, and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stand beside your burnt offering and I will go. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet me; and whatever He shows me I will tell you.” So he went to a desolate hill.
Now God met Balaam, who said to Him, “I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” Then the Lord put a speech in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and you shall speak thus.” Balaam returned to Balak, and behold, he was standing by his burnt sacrifice, he and all the leaders of Moab. Balaam took up his [first] discourse (oracle) and said:
“Balak, the king of Moab, has brought me from Aram (Syria),
from the mountains of the east, [saying,]
‘Come, curse [the descendants of] Jacob for me;
And come, [violently] denounce Israel.’
“How shall I curse those whom God has not cursed?
Or how can I [violently] denounce those the Lord has not denounced?
“For from the top of the rocks I see Israel,
And from the hills I look at him.
Behold, the people [of Israel] shall dwell alone
And will not be reckoned among the nations.
“Who can count the dust (the descendants) of Jacob
And the number of even the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous [those who are upright and in right standing with God],
And let my end be like his!”
Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but here you have [thoroughly] blessed them instead!” Balaam answered, “Must I not be obedient and careful to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?”
Balak said to him, “Come with me, I implore you, to another place from where you can see them, although you will see only the nearest and not all of them; and curse them for me from there.” So he took Balaam to the field of Zophim to the top of [Mount] Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offering while I go to meet the Lord over there.” Then the Lord met Balaam and put a speech in his mouth, and said, “Go back to Balak and you shall speak thus.” When Balaam returned to Balak, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the leaders of Moab were with him. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?” Balaam took up his [second] discourse (oracle) and said:
“Rise up, O Balak, and hear;
Listen [closely] to me, son of Zippor.
“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken and will He not make it good and fulfill it?
“Behold, I have received His command to bless [Israel].
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
“God has not observed wickedness in Jacob [for he is forgiven],
Nor has He seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with Israel,
And the shout of their King is among the people.
“God brought them out of Egypt;
They have the strength of a wild ox.
“For there is no enchantment or omen against Jacob,
Nor is there any divination against Israel.
At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob
And to Israel, what has God done!
“Behold, a people rises up like a lioness
And lifts itself up like a lion;
He will not lie down until he devours the prey
And drinks the blood of the slain.”
Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!” But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not say to you, ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do?’”