Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.
Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead 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, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’
Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you here and now.’
The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?’
‘No,’ he said.
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell face down.
The angel of the Lord asked him, ‘Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.’
Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned. I did not realise you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.’
The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.’ So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.
When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. Balak said to Balaam, ‘Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?’
‘Well, I have come to you now,’ Balaam replied. ‘But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.’
Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.
- Numbers 22:32 The meaning of the Hebrew for this clause is uncertain.
Balaam’s first message
Balaam said, ‘Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.’ Balak did as Balaam said, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
Then Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stay here beside your offering while I go aside. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet with me. Whatever he reveals to me I will tell you.’ Then he went off to a barren height.
God met with him, and Balaam said, ‘I have prepared seven altars, and on each altar I have offered a bull and a ram.’
The Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth and said, ‘Go back to Balak and give him this word.’
So he went back to him and found him standing beside his offering, with all the Moabite officials. Then Balaam spoke his message:
‘Balak brought me from Aram,
the king of Moab from the eastern mountains.
“Come,” he said, “curse Jacob for me;
come, denounce Israel.”
How can I curse
those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
those whom the Lord has not denounced?
From the rocky peaks I see them,
from the heights I view them.
I see people who live apart
and do not consider themselves one of the nations.
Who can count the dust of Jacob
or number even a fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,
and may my final end be like theirs!’
Balak said to Balaam, ‘What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!’
He answered, ‘Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?’
Balaam’s second message
Then Balak said to him, ‘Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will not see them all but only the outskirts of their camp. And from there, curse them for me.’ So he took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah, and there he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stay here beside your offering while I meet with him over there.’
The Lord met with Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, ‘Go back to Balak and give him this word.’
So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the Moabite officials. Balak asked him, ‘What did the Lord say?’
Then he spoke his message:
‘Arise, Balak, and listen;
hear me, son of Zippor.
God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfil?
I have received a command to bless;
he has blessed, and I cannot change it.
‘No misfortune is seen in Jacob,
no misery observed[a] in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them;
the shout of the King is among them.
God brought them out of Egypt;
they have the strength of a wild ox.
There is no divination against[b] Jacob,
no evil omens against[c] Israel.
It will now be said of Jacob
and of Israel, “See what God has done!”
The people rise like a lioness;
they rouse themselves like a lion
that does not rest till it devours its prey
and drinks the blood of its victims.’
Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!’
Balaam answered, ‘Did I not tell you I must do whatever the Lord says?’
- Numbers 23:21 Or He has not looked on Jacob’s offences / or on the wrongs found
- Numbers 23:23 Or in
- Numbers 23:23 Or in