Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went off with the noblemen from Moab. As he was going, though, God’s anger flared. The angel of God stood in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, she veered off the road into the ditch. Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road.
But as they were going through a vineyard, with a fence on either side, the donkey again saw God’s angel blocking the way and veered into the fence, crushing Balaam’s foot against the fence. Balaam hit her again.
God’s angel blocked the way yet again—a very narrow passage this time; there was no getting through on the right or left. Seeing the angel, Balaam’s donkey sat down under him. Balaam lost his temper; he beat the donkey with his stick.
Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: “What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?”
Balaam said, “Because you’ve been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now.”
The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you’ve ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?”
He said, “No.”
Then God helped Balaam see what was going on: He saw God’s angel blocking the way, brandishing a sword. Balaam fell to the ground, his face in the dirt.
God’s angel said to him: “Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you’re getting way ahead of yourself. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she hadn’t, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off.”
Balaam said to God’s angel, “I have sinned. I had no idea you were standing in the road blocking my way. If you don’t like what I’m doing, I’ll head back.”
But God’s angel said to Balaam, “Go ahead and go with them. But only say what I tell you to say—absolutely no other word.”
And so Balaam continued to go with Balak’s nobles.
When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him in the Moabite town that was on the banks of the Arnon, right on the boundary of his land.
Balak said to Balaam, “Didn’t I send an urgent message for help? Why didn’t you come when I called? Do you think I can’t pay you enough?”
Balaam said to Balak, “Well, I’m here now. But I can’t tell you just anything. I can speak only words that God gives me—no others.”
Balaam then accompanied Balak to Kiriath Huzoth (Street-Town). Balak slaughtered cattle and sheep for sacrifices and presented them to Balaam and the nobles who were with him.
At daybreak Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal (The Heights of Baal) so that he could get a good view of some of the people.
Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and then prepare seven bulls and seven rams.”
Balak did it. Then Balaam and Balak sacrificed a bull and a ram on each of the altars.
Balaam instructed Balak: “Stand watch here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I go off by myself. Maybe God will come and meet with me. Whatever he shows or tells me, I’ll report to you.” Then he went off by himself.
God did meet with Balaam. Balaam said, “I’ve set up seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.”
Then God gave Balaam a message: “Return to Balak and give him this message.”
He went back and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and with him all the nobles of Moab. Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:
Balak led me here from Aram,
the king of Moab all the way from the eastern mountains.
“Go, curse Jacob for me;
go, damn Israel.”
How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
How can I damn whom God has not damned?
From rock pinnacles I see them,
from hilltops I survey them:
Look! a people camping off by themselves,
thinking themselves outsiders among nations.
But who could ever count the dust of Jacob
or take a census of cloud-of-dust Israel?
I want to die like these right-living people!
I want an end just like theirs!
Balak said to Balaam, “What’s this? I brought you here to curse my enemies, and all you’ve done is bless them.”
Balaam answered, “Don’t I have to be careful to say what God gives me to say?”
Balak said to him, “Go with me to another place from which you can only see the outskirts of their camp—you won’t be able to see the whole camp. From there, curse them for my sake.”
So he took him to Watchmen’s Meadow at the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars there and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
Balaam said to Balak, “Take up your station here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I meet with him over there.”
God met with Balaam and gave him a message. He said, “Return to Balak and give him the message.”
Balaam returned and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and the nobles of Moab with him. Balak said to him, “What did God say?” Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:
On your feet, Balak. Listen,
listen carefully son of Zippor:
God is not man, one given to lies,
and not a son of man changing his mind.
Does he speak and not do what he says?
Does he promise and not come through?
I was brought here to bless;
and now he’s blessed—how can I change that?
He has no bone to pick with Jacob,
he sees nothing wrong with Israel.
God is with them,
and they’re with him, shouting praises to their King.
God brought them out of Egypt,
rampaging like a wild ox.
No magic spells can bind Jacob,
no incantations can hold back Israel.
People will look at Jacob and Israel and say,
“What a great thing has God done!”
Look, a people rising to its feet, stretching like a lion,
a king-of-the-beasts, aroused,
Unsleeping, unresting until its hunt is over
and it’s eaten and drunk its fill.
Balak said to Balaam, “Well, if you can’t curse them, at least don’t bless them.”
Balaam replied to Balak, “Didn’t I tell you earlier: ‘All God speaks, and only what he speaks, I speak’?”