Bible Book List

Numbers 22-24 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Balaam Refuses to Curse Israel

22 [a] The Israelites traveled on[b] and camped in the rift valley plains[c] of Moab on the side of the Jordan River[d] across from Jericho. Balak son of Zippor saw all that the Israelites had done to the Amorites. And the Moabites were greatly afraid of the people, because they were so numerous. The Moabites were sick with fear because of the Israelites.

So the Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “Now this mass of people[e] will lick up everything around us, as the bull devours the grass of the field.” Now Balak son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at this time. And he sent messengers to Balaam[f] son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates River[g] in the land of Amaw,[h] to summon him, saying, “Look, a nation has come out of Egypt. They cover the face[i] of the earth, and they are settling next to me. So[j] now, please come and curse this nation[k] for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will prevail so that we may conquer them[l] and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed,[m] and whoever you curse is cursed.”

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fee for divination in their hands. They came to Balaam and reported[n] to him the words of Balak. He replied to them, “Stay[o] here tonight, and I will bring back to you whatever word the Lord may speak to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent a message to me, saying, 11 ‘Look, a nation has come out[p] of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Come now and put a curse on them for me; perhaps I will be able to defeat them[q] and drive them out.’”[r] 12 But God said to Balaam, “You must not go with them; you must not curse the people,[s] for they are blessed.”[t]

13 So Balaam got up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your land,[u] for the Lord has refused to permit me to go[v] with you.” 14 So the princes of Moab departed[w] and went back to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

Balaam Accompanies the Moabite Princes

15 Balak again sent princes,[x] more numerous and more distinguished than the first.[y] 16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor: ‘Please do not let anything hinder you from coming[z] to me. 17 For I will honor you greatly,[aa] and whatever you tell me I will do. So come, put a curse on this nation for me.’”

18 Balaam replied[ab] to the servants of Balak, “Even if Balak would give me his palace full of silver and gold, I could not transgress the commandment[ac] of the Lord my God[ad] to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, please stay[ae] the night here also, that I may know what more the Lord might say to me.”[af] 20 God came to Balaam that night, and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, get up and go with them, but the word that I will say to you, that you must do.” 21 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

God Opposes Balaam

22 Then God’s anger was kindled[ag] because he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose[ah] him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with[ai] his sword drawn in his hand, so the donkey turned aside from the road and went into the field. But Balaam beat the donkey, to make her turn back to the road.

24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a path[aj] among the vineyards, where there was a wall on either side.[ak] 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself into the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he beat her again.[al]

26 Then the angel of the Lord went farther, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. Then Balaam was angry, and he beat his donkey with a staff.

28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “You have made me look stupid; I wish[am] there were a sword in my hand, for I would kill you right now.” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey that you have ridden ever since I was yours until this day? Have I ever attempted[an] to treat you this way?”[ao] And he said, “No.” 31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; so he bowed his head and threw himself down with his face to the ground.[ap] 32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you because what you are doing[aq] is perverse before me.[ar] 33 The donkey saw me and turned from me these three times. If[as] she had not turned from me, I would have killed you but saved her alive.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood against me in the road.[at] So now, if it is evil in your sight,[au] I will go back home.”[av] 35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you may only speak[aw] the word that I will speak to you.”[ax] So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

Balaam Meets Balak

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at a city of Moab that was on the border of the Arnon at the boundary of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send again and again[ay] to you to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?”[az] 38 Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you. Now, am I able[ba] to speak[bb] just anything? I must speak[bc] only the word that God puts in my mouth.” 39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 And Balak sacrificed bulls and sheep, and sent some[bd] to Balaam, and to the princes who were with him. 41 Then on the next morning Balak took Balaam, and brought him up to Bamoth Baal.[be] From there he saw the extent of the nation.

Balaam Blesses Israel

23 [bf] Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” So Balak did just as Balaam had said. Balak and Balaam then offered on each[bg] altar a bull and a ram. Balaam said to Balak, “Station yourself[bh] by your burnt offering, and I will go off; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever he reveals to me[bi] I will tell you.”[bj] Then he went to a deserted height.[bk]

Then God met Balaam, who[bl] said to him, “I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram.” Then the Lord put a message[bm] in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and speak what I tell you.”[bn]

So he returned to him, and he was still[bo] standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab. Then Balaam[bp] uttered[bq] his oracle, saying,

“Balak, the king of Moab, brought me[br] from Aram,
out of the mountains of the east, saying,
‘Come, pronounce a curse on Jacob for me;
come, denounce Israel.’[bs]
How[bt] can I curse[bu] one whom God has not cursed,
or how can I denounce one whom the Lord has not denounced?
For from the top of the rocks I see them;[bv]
from the hills I watch them.[bw]
Indeed, a nation that lives alone,
and it will not be reckoned[bx] among the nations.
10 Who[by] can count[bz] the dust[ca] of Jacob,
or number[cb] the fourth part of Israel?
Let me[cc] die the death of the upright,[cd]
and let the end of my life[ce] be like theirs.”[cf]

Balaam Relocates

11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but on the contrary[cg] you have only blessed them!”[ch] 12 Balaam replied,[ci] “Must I not be careful[cj] to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?”[ck] 13 Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place from which you can observe them. You will see only a part of them, but you will not see all of them. Curse them for me from there.”

14 So Balak brought Balaam[cl] to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah,[cm] where[cn] he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15 And Balaam[co] said to Balak, “Station yourself here[cp] by your burnt offering, while I meet the Lord there.” 16 Then the Lord met Balaam and put a message[cq] in his mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and speak what I tell you.” 17 When Balaam[cr] came to him, he was still standing by his burnt offering, along with the princes of Moab. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?”

Balaam Prophesies Again

18 Balaam[cs] uttered[ct] his oracle, and said,

“Rise up,[cu] Balak, and hear;
Listen to me, son of Zippor:
19 God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a human being,[cv] that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not make it happen?[cw]
20 Indeed, I have received a command[cx] to bless;
he has blessed,[cy] and I cannot reverse it.[cz]
21 He[da] has not looked on iniquity in Jacob,[db]
nor has he seen trouble[dc] in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them;
his acclamation[dd] as king is among them.
22 God brought them[de] out of Egypt.
They have, as it were, the strength of a wild bull.[df]
23 For there is no spell[dg] against[dh] Jacob,
nor is there any divination against Israel.
At this time[di] it must be said[dj] of Jacob
and of Israel, ‘Look at[dk] what God has done!’
24 Indeed, the people will rise up like a lioness,
and like a lion raises himself up;
they will not lie down until they eat their[dl] prey,
and drink the blood of the slain.”[dm]

Balaam Relocates Yet Again

25 Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all[dn] nor bless them at all!”[do] 26 But Balaam replied[dp] to Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘All that the Lord speaks,[dq] I must do’?”

27 Balak said to Balaam, “Come, please; I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God[dr] to let you curse them for me from there.”[ds] 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that looks toward the wastelands.[dt] 29 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars here for me, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams.” 30 So Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

Balaam Prophesies Yet Again

24 [du] When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel,[dv] he did not go as at the other times[dw] to seek for omens,[dx] but he set his face[dy] toward the wilderness. When Balaam lifted up his eyes, he saw Israel camped tribe by tribe;[dz] and the Spirit of God came upon him. Then he uttered this oracle:[ea]

“The oracle[eb] of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eyes are open,[ec]
the oracle of the one who hears the words of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
although falling flat on the ground[ed] with eyes open:[ee]
‘How[ef] beautiful are your tents, O Jacob,
and your dwelling places, O Israel!
They are like[eg] valleys[eh] stretched forth,
like gardens by the river’s side,
like aloes[ei] that the Lord has planted,
and like cedar trees beside the waters.
He will pour the water out of his buckets,[ej]
and their descendants will be like abundant[ek] water;[el]
their king will be greater than Agag,[em]
and their kingdom will be exalted.
God brought them out of Egypt.
They have, as it were, the strength of a young bull;
they will devour hostile people,[en]
and will break their bones,
and will pierce them through with arrows.
They crouch and lie down like a lion,
and as a lioness,[eo] who can stir him?
Blessed is the one who blesses you,
and cursed is the one who curses you!’”

10 Then Balak became very angry at Balaam, and he struck his hands together.[ep] Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have done nothing but bless[eq] them these three times! 11 So now, go back where you came from![er] I said that I would greatly honor you, but now the Lord has stood in the way of your honor.”

12 Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not also tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13 ‘If Balak would give me his palace full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond[es] the commandment[et] of the Lord to do either good or evil of my own will,[eu] but whatever the Lord tells me I must speak’? 14 And now, I am about to go[ev] back to my own people. Come now, and I will advise you as to what this people will do to your people in future days.”[ew]

Balaam Prophesies a Fourth Time

15 Then he uttered this oracle:[ex]

“The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eyes are open,
16 the oracle of the one who hears the words of God,
and who knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
although falling flat on the ground with eyes open:
17 ‘I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not close at hand.[ey]
A star[ez] will march forth[fa] out of Jacob,
and a scepter[fb] will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the skulls[fc] of Moab,
and the heads[fd] of all the sons of Sheth.[fe]
18 Edom will be a possession,
Seir,[ff] his enemy, will also be a possession;
but Israel will act valiantly.
19 A ruler will be established from Jacob;
he will destroy the remains of the city.’”[fg]

Balaam’s Final Prophecies

20 Then Balaam[fh] looked on Amalek and delivered this oracle:[fi]

“Amalek was the first[fj] of the nations,
but his end will be that he will perish.”

21 Then he looked on the Kenites and uttered this oracle:

“Your dwelling place seems strong,
and your nest[fk] is set on a rocky cliff.
22 Nevertheless the Kenite will be consumed.[fl]
How long will Asshur take you away captive?”

23 Then he uttered this oracle:

“O, who will survive when God does this![fm]
24 Ships will come from the coast of Kittim,[fn]
and will afflict Asshur,[fo] and will afflict Eber,
and he will also perish forever.”[fp]

25 Balaam got up and departed and returned to his home,[fq] and Balak also went his way.


  1. Numbers 22:1 sn The fifth section of the book (22:1-33:56) traces the Israelite activities in Transjordan. It is hard to determine how long they were in Transjordan, but a good amount of time must have elapsed for the number of moves they made and the wars they fought. There is a considerable amount of information available on this section of the book. Some of the most helpful works include: H. C. Brichto, The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible (JBLMS); E. Burrows, The Oracles of Jacob and Balaam; G. W. Coats, “Balaam, Sinner or Saint?” BR 18 (1973): 21-29; P. C. Craigie, “The Conquest and Early Hebrew Poetry,” TynBul 20 (1969): 76-94; I. Parker, “The Way of God and the Way of Balaam,” ExpTim 17 (1905): 45; and J. A. Wharton, “The Command to Bless: An Exposition of Numbers 22:41-23:25, ” Int 13 (1959): 37-48. This first part introduces the characters and sets the stage for the oracles. It can be divided into four sections: the invitation declined (vv. 1-14), the second invitation extended (vv. 15-21), God opposes Balaam (vv. 22-35), and Balaam meets Balak (vv. 36-41).
  2. Numbers 22:1 tn The verse begins with the vav (ו) consecutive.
  3. Numbers 22:1 tn The singular form of the word עֲרָבָה (ʿaravah) refers to the rift valley, which extends from Mt. Hermon to the Gulf of Aqaba. In the Bible it most often refers to sections of the rift valley, such as the Jordan valley, the region around the Dead Sea, or the portion south of the Dead Sea. The plural form עַרְבוֹת (ʿarevot) refers to that section of the rift valley which is just north of the Dead Sea. The region is divided by the Jordan river and referred to as the עַרְבוֹת (ʿarevot) of Jericho on the west and the עַרְבוֹת of Moab on the east. Each side has gently sloping plains that go down to the Jordan and the Dead Sea. Jericho’s side descends about 450 feet over five miles, while Moab’s side is steeper. Many versions translate the עַרְבוֹת of Moab simply as “plains of Moab,” but this might be misunderstood as Moab’s tableland above and east of the rift valley.
  4. Numbers 22:1 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  5. Numbers 22:4 tn The word is simply “company,” but in the context he must mean a vast company—a horde of people.
  6. Numbers 22:5 sn There is much literature on pagan diviners and especially prophecy in places in the east like Mari (see, for example, H. B. Huffmon, “Prophecy in the Mari Letters,” BA 31 [1968]: 101-24). Balaam appears to be a pagan diviner who was of some reputation; he was called to curse the Israelites, but God intervened and gave him blessings only. The passage forms a nice complement to texts that deal with blessings and curses. It shows that no one can curse someone whom God has blessed.
  7. Numbers 22:5 tn Heb “by the river”; in most contexts this expression refers to the Euphrates River (cf. NAB, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
  8. Numbers 22:5 tn Heb “in the land of Amaw” (cf. NAB, NRSV, TEV); traditionally “in the land of the sons of his people.” The LXX has “by the river of the land.”
  9. Numbers 22:5 tn Heb “eye.” So also in v. 11.
  10. Numbers 22:6 tn The two lines before this verse begin with the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh), and so they lay the foundation for these imperatives. In view of those circumstances, this is what should happen.
  11. Numbers 22:6 tn Heb “people.” So also in vv. 10, 17, 41.
  12. Numbers 22:6 tn The construction uses the imperfect tense אוּכַל (ʾukhal, “I will be able”) followed by the imperfect tense נַכֶּה (nakkeh, “we will smite/attack/defeat”). The second verb is clearly the purpose or the result of the first, even though there is no conjunction or particle.
  13. Numbers 22:6 tn The verb is the Piel imperfect of בָּרַךְ (barakh), with the nuance of possibility: “whomever you may bless.” The Pual participle מְבֹרָךְ (mevorakh) serves as the predicate.
  14. Numbers 22:7 tn Heb “spoke.”
  15. Numbers 22:8 tn The verb לִין (lin) means “to lodge, spend the night.” The related noun is “a lodge”—a hotel of sorts. Balaam needed to consider the offer. And after darkness was considered the best time for diviners to consult with their deities. Balaam apparently knows of the Lord; he testifies to this effect in 22:18.
  16. Numbers 22:11 tn In this passage the text differs slightly; here it is “the nation that comes out,” using the article on the noun, and the active participle in the attributive adjective usage.
  17. Numbers 22:11 tn Here the infinitive construct is used to express the object or complement of the verb “to be able” (it answers the question of what he will be able to do).
  18. Numbers 22:11 tn The verb is the Piel perfect with vav (ו) consecutive. It either carries the force of an imperfect tense, or it may be subordinated to the preceding verbs.
  19. Numbers 22:12 tn The two verbs are negated imperfects; they have the nuance of prohibition: You must not go and you must not curse.
  20. Numbers 22:12 tn The word בָּרוּךְ (barukh) is the Qal passive participle, serving here as the predicate adjective after the supplied verb “to be.” The verb means “enrich,” in any way, materially, spiritually, physically. But the indication here is that the blessing includes the promised blessing of the patriarchs, a blessing that gave Israel the land. See further, C. Westermann, Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church (OBT).
  21. Numbers 22:13 tc The LXX adds “to your lord.”
  22. Numbers 22:13 tn The main verb is the Piel perfect, “he has refused.” This is followed by two infinitives. The first (לְתִתִּי, letitti) serves as a complement or direct object of the verb, answering the question of what he refused to do—“to give me.” The second infinitive (לַהֲלֹךְ, lahalokh) provides the object for the preceding infinitive: “to grant me to go.”
  23. Numbers 22:14 tn Heb “rose up.”
  24. Numbers 22:15 tn The construction is a verbal hendiadys. It uses the Hiphil preterite of the verb “to add” followed by the Qal infinitive “to send.” The infinitive becomes the main verb, and the preterite an adverb: “he added to send” means “he sent again.”
  25. Numbers 22:15 tn Heb “than these.”
  26. Numbers 22:16 tn The infinitive construct is the object of the preposition.
  27. Numbers 22:17 tn The construction uses the Piel infinitive כַּבֵּד (kabbed) to intensify the verb, which is the Piel imperfect/cohortative אֲכַבֶּדְךָ (ʾakhabbedekha). The great honor could have been wealth, prestige, or position.
  28. Numbers 22:18 tn Heb “answered and said.”
  29. Numbers 22:18 tn Heb “mouth.”
  30. Numbers 22:18 sn In the light of subsequent events one should not take too seriously that Balaam referred to Yahweh as his God. He is referring properly to the deity for which he is acting as the agent.
  31. Numbers 22:19 tn In this case “lodge” is not used, but “remain, reside” (שְׁבוּ, shevu).
  32. Numbers 22:19 tn This clause is also a verbal hendiadys: “what the Lord might add to speak,” meaning, “what more the Lord might say.”
  33. Numbers 22:22 sn God’s anger now seems to contradict the permission he gave Balaam just before this. Some commentators argue that God’s anger is a response to Balaam’s character in setting out—which the Bible does not explain. God saw in him greed and pleasure for the riches, which is why he was so willing to go.
  34. Numbers 22:22 tn The word is שָׂטָן (satan, “to be an adversary, to oppose”).
  35. Numbers 22:23 tn The word has the conjunction “and” on the noun, indicating this is a disjunctive vav (ו), here serving as a circumstantial clause.
  36. Numbers 22:24 tn The word means a “narrow place,” having the root meaning “to be deep.” The Greek thought it was in a field in a narrow furrow.
  37. Numbers 22:24 tn Heb “a wall on this side, and a wall on that side.”
  38. Numbers 22:25 tn Heb “he added to beat her,” another verbal hendiadys.
  39. Numbers 22:29 tn The optative clause is introduced with the particle לוּ (lu).
  40. Numbers 22:30 tn Here the Hiphil perfect is preceded by the Hiphil infinitive absolute for emphasis in the sentence.
  41. Numbers 22:30 tn Heb “to do thus to you.”
  42. Numbers 22:31 tn The Hishtaphel verb חָוָה (khavah)—שָׁחָה (shakhah) with metathesis—has a basic idea of “bow oneself low to the ground,” and perhaps in some cases the idea of “coil up.” This is the normal posture of prayer and of deep humility in the ancient religious world.
  43. Numbers 22:32 tn Heb “your way.”
  44. Numbers 22:32 tn The verb יָרַט (yarat) occurs only here and in Job 16:11. Balaam is embarking on a foolish mission with base motives. The old rendering “perverse” is still acceptable.
  45. Numbers 22:33 tc Many commentators consider אוּלַי (ʾulay, “perhaps”) to be a misspelling in the MT in place of לוּלֵי (luley, “if not”).
  46. Numbers 22:34 sn Balaam is not here making a general confession of sin. What he is admitting to is a procedural mistake. The basic meaning of the word is “to miss the mark.” He now knows he took the wrong way, i.e., in coming to curse Israel.
  47. Numbers 22:34 sn The reference is to Balaam’s way. He is saying that if what he is doing is so perverse, so evil, he will turn around and go home. Of course it did not appear that he had much of a chance of going forward.
  48. Numbers 22:34 tn The verb is the cohortative from “return”: I will return [me].
  49. Numbers 22:35 tn The imperfect tense here can be given the nuance of permission.
  50. Numbers 22:35 tn The Hebrew word order is a little more emphatic than this: “but only the word which I speak to you, it you shall speak.”
  51. Numbers 22:37 tn The emphatic construction is made of the infinitive absolute and the perfect tense from the verb שָׁלַח (shalakh, “to send”). The idea must be more intense than something like, “Did I not certainly send.” Balak is showing frustration with Balaam for refusing him.
  52. Numbers 22:37 sn Balak again refers to his ability to “honor” the seer. This certainly meant payment for his service, usually gold ornaments, rings and jewelry, as well as some animals.
  53. Numbers 22:38 tn The verb is אוּכַל (ʾukhal) in a question—“am I able?” But emphasizing this is the infinitive absolute before it. So Balaam is saying something like, “Can I really say anything?”
  54. Numbers 22:38 tn The Piel infinitive construct (without the preposition) serves as the object of the verb “to be able.” The whole question is rhetorical—he is saying that he will not be able to say anything God does not allow him to say.
  55. Numbers 22:38 tn The imperfect tense is here taken as an obligatory imperfect.
  56. Numbers 22:40 sn The understanding is that Balak was making a sacrifice for a covenant relationship, and so he gave some of the meat to the men and to the seer.
  57. Numbers 22:41 sn The name Bamoth Baal means “the high places of Baal.”
  58. Numbers 23:1 sn The first part of Balaam’s activity ends in disaster for Balak—he blesses Israel. The chapter falls into four units: the first prophecy (vv. 1-10), the relocation (vv. 11-17), the second prophecy (vv. 18-24), and a further location (vv. 25-30).
  59. Numbers 23:2 tn The Hebrew text has “on the altar,” but since there were seven of each animal and seven altars, the implication is that this means on each altar.
  60. Numbers 23:3 tn The verb הִתְיַצֵּב (hityatsev) means “to take a stand, station oneself.” It is more intentional than simply standing by something. He was to position himself by the sacrifice as Balaam withdrew to seek the oracle.
  61. Numbers 23:3 tn Heb “and the word of what he shows me.” The noun is in construct, and so the clause that follows functions as a noun clause in the genitive. The point is that the word will consist of divine revelation.
  62. Numbers 23:3 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive. This clause is dependent on the clause that precedes it.
  63. Numbers 23:3 sn He went up to a bald spot, to a barren height. The statement underscores the general belief that such tops were the closest things to the gods. On such heights people built their shrines and temples.
  64. Numbers 23:4 tn The relative pronoun is added here in place of the conjunction to clarify that Balaam is speaking to God and not vice versa.
  65. Numbers 23:5 tn Heb “word.”
  66. Numbers 23:5 tn Heb “and thus you shall speak.”
  67. Numbers 23:6 tn The Hebrew text draws the vividness of the scene with the deictic particle הִנֵּה (hinneh)—Balaam returned, and there he was, standing there.
  68. Numbers 23:7 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  69. Numbers 23:7 tn Heb “took up.”
  70. Numbers 23:7 tn The passage calls for a past tense translation; since the verb form is a prefixed conjugation, this tense should be classified as a preterite without the vav (ו). Such forms do occur, especially in the ancient poetic passages.
  71. Numbers 23:7 sn The opening lines seem to be a formula for the seer to identify himself and the occasion for the oracle. The tension is laid out early; Balaam knows that God has intended to bless Israel, but he has been paid to curse them.
  72. Numbers 23:8 tn The figure is erotesis, a rhetorical question. He is actually saying he cannot curse them because God has not cursed them.
  73. Numbers 23:8 tn The imperfect tense should here be classified as a potential imperfect.
  74. Numbers 23:9 tn Heb “him,” but here it refers to the Israelites (Israel).
  75. Numbers 23:9 sn Balaam reports his observation of the nation of Israel spread out below him in the valley. Based on that vision, and the Lord’s word, he announces the uniqueness of Israel—they are not just like one of the other nations. He was correct, of course; they were the only people linked with the living God by covenant.
  76. Numbers 23:9 tn The verb could also be taken as a reflexive—Israel does not consider itself as among the nations, meaning, they consider themselves to be unique.
  77. Numbers 23:10 tn The question is again rhetorical; it means no one can count them—they are innumerable.
  78. Numbers 23:10 tn The perfect tense can also be classified as a potential nuance. It does not occur very often, but does occur several times.
  79. Numbers 23:10 sn The reference in the oracle is back to Gen 13:16, which would not be clear to Balaam. But God had described their growth like the dust of the earth. Here it is part of the description of the vast numbers.
  80. Numbers 23:10 tn Heb “and as a number, the fourth part of Israel.” The noun in the MT is not in the construct state, and so it should be taken as an adverbial accusative, forming a parallel with the verb “count.” The second object of the verse then follows, “the fourth part of Israel.” Smr and the LXX have “and who has numbered” (וּמִסְפָּר, umispar), making this colon more parallel to the preceding one. The editor of BHS prefers this reading.
  81. Numbers 23:10 tn The use of נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) for the subject of the verb stresses the personal nature—me.
  82. Numbers 23:10 sn Here the seer’s words link with the promise of Gen 12:3, that whoever blesses Israel will be blessed. Since the blessing belongs to them, the upright (and not Balak), Balaam would like his lot to be with them.
  83. Numbers 23:10 tn Heb “my latter end.”
  84. Numbers 23:10 tn Heb “his.”
  85. Numbers 23:11 tn The Hebrew text uses הִנֵּה (hinneh) here to stress the contrast.
  86. Numbers 23:11 tn The construction is emphatic, using the perfect tense and the infinitive absolute to give it the emphasis. It would have the force of “you have done nothing but bless,” or “you have indeed blessed.” The construction is reminiscent of the call of Abram and the promise of the blessing in such elaborate terms.
  87. Numbers 23:12 tn Heb “he answered and said.” The referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  88. Numbers 23:12 tn The verb שָׁמַר (shamar) means “to guard, watch, observe” and so here with a sense of “be careful” or even “take heed” (so KJV, ASV). The nuance of the imperfect tense would be obligatory: “I must be careful”—to do what? to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth. The infinitive construct “to speak” is therefore serving as the direct object of שָׁמַר.
  89. Numbers 23:12 tn The clause is a noun clause serving as the direct object of “to speak.” It begins with the sign of the accusative, and then the relative pronoun that indicates the whole clause is the accusative.
  90. Numbers 23:14 tn Heb “he brought him”; the referents (Balak and Balaam) have been specified in the translation for clarity.
  91. Numbers 23:14 tn Some scholars do not translate this word as “Pisgah,” but rather as a “lookout post” or an “elevated place.”
  92. Numbers 23:14 tn Heb “and he built.”
  93. Numbers 23:15 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  94. Numbers 23:15 tn The verse uses כֹּה (koh) twice: “Station yourself here…I will meet [the Lord] there.”
  95. Numbers 23:16 tn Heb “word.”
  96. Numbers 23:17 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  97. Numbers 23:18 tn Heb “he.” The antecedent has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  98. Numbers 23:18 tn Heb “took up.”
  99. Numbers 23:18 tn The verb probably means “pay attention” in this verse.
  100. Numbers 23:19 tn Heb “son of man.”
  101. Numbers 23:19 tn The verb is the Hiphil of קוּם (qum, “to cause to rise; to make stand”). The meaning here is more of the sense of fulfilling the promises made.
  102. Numbers 23:20 tn The Hebrew text simply has “I have received [to] bless.” The infinitive is the object of the verb, telling what he received. Balaam was not actually commanded to bless, but was given the word of blessing so that he was given a divine decree that would bless Israel.
  103. Numbers 23:20 sn The reference is probably to the first speech, where the Lord blessed Israel. Balaam knows that there is nothing he can do to reverse what God has said.
  104. Numbers 23:20 tn The verb is the Hiphil of שׁוּב (shuv), meaning “to cause to return.” He cannot return God’s word to him, for it has been given, and it will be fulfilled.
  105. Numbers 23:21 tn These could be understood as impersonal and so rendered “no one has discovered.”
  106. Numbers 23:21 sn The line could mean that God has regarded Israel as the ideal congregation without any blemish or flaw. But it could also mean that God has not looked on their iniquity, meaning, held it against them.
  107. Numbers 23:21 tn The word means “wrong, misery, trouble.” It can mean the idea of “disaster” as well, for that too is trouble. Here it is parallel to “iniquity” and so has the connotation of something that would give God reason to curse them.
  108. Numbers 23:21 tn The people are blessed because God is their king. In fact, the shout of acclamation is among them—they are proclaiming the Lord God as their king. The word is used normally for the sound of the trumpet, but also of battle shouts, and then here acclamation. This would represent their conviction that Yahweh is king. On the usage of this Hebrew word see further BDB 929-30 s.v. תְּרוּעָה; HALOT 1790-91 s.v.
  109. Numbers 23:22 tn The form is the Hiphil participle from יָצַא (yatsaʾ) with the object suffix. He is the one who brought them out.
  110. Numbers 23:22 sn The expression is “the horns of the wild ox” (KJV “unicorn”). The point of the image is strength or power. Horns are also used in the Bible to represent kingship (see Pss 89; 132).
  111. Numbers 23:23 tn The words נַחַשׁ (nakhash, “magic curse, omen”) and קֶסֶם (qesem, “prediction, divination”) describe two techniques of consulting gods. The first concerns omens generally, perhaps the flight of birds (HALOT 690 s.v.). The second relates to casting lots, sometimes done with arrows (Ezek 21:26). See N. H. Snaith, Leviticus and Numbers (NCB), 295-296.
  112. Numbers 23:23 tn The ASV says “with Jacob,” but most translations use “against” (both are theoretically possible) because of the context, esp. v. 20.
  113. Numbers 23:23 tn The form is the preposition “like, as” and the word for “time”—according to the time, about this time, now.
  114. Numbers 23:23 tn The Niphal imperfect here carries the nuance of obligation—one has to say in amazement that God has done something marvelous or “it must be said.”
  115. Numbers 23:23 tn The words “look at” are not in the Hebrew text but have been added in the translation for clarity.
  116. Numbers 23:24 tn The pronoun “their” has been supplied for clarity; it is not present in the Hebrew text.
  117. Numbers 23:24 sn The oracle compares Israel first to a lion, or better, lioness, because she does the tracking and hunting of food while the lion moves up and down roaring and distracting the prey. But the lion is also the traditional emblem of Judah, Dan and Gad, as well as the symbol of royalty. So this also supports the motif of royalty as well as power for Israel.
  118. Numbers 23:25 tn The verb is preceded by the infinitive absolute: “you shall by no means curse” or “do not curse them at all.” He brought him to curse, and when he tried to curse there was a blessing. Balak can only say it would be better not to bother.
  119. Numbers 23:25 tn The same construction now works with “nor bless them at all.” The two together form a merism—“don’t say anything.” He does not want them blessed, so Balaam is not to do that, but the curse isn’t working either.
  120. Numbers 23:26 tn Heb “answered and said.”
  121. Numbers 23:26 tn This first clause, “all that the Lord speaks”—is a noun clause functioning as the object of the verb that comes at the end of the verse. It is something of an independent accusative case, since it is picked up with the sign of the accusative: “all that the Lord speaks, it I must do.”
  122. Numbers 23:27 tn Heb “be pleasing in the eyes of God.”
  123. Numbers 23:27 sn Balak is stubborn, as indeed Balaam is persistent. But Balak still thinks that if another location were used it just might work. Balaam had actually told Balak in the prophecy that other attempts would fail. But Balak refuses to give up so easily. So he insists they perform the ritual and try again. This time, however, Balaam will change his approach, and this will result in a dramatic outpouring of power on him.
  124. Numbers 23:28 tn Or perhaps as a place name, “Jeshimon” (cf. 21:20).
  125. Numbers 24:1 sn For a thorough study of the arrangement of this passage, see E. B. Smick, “A Study of the Structure of the Third Balaam Oracle,” The Law and the Prophets, 242-52. He sees the oracle as having an introductory strophe (vv. 3, 4), followed by two stanzas (vv. 5, 6) that introduce the body (vv. 7b-9b) before the final benediction (v. 9b).
  126. Numbers 24:1 tn Heb “it was good in the eyes of the Lord.”
  127. Numbers 24:1 tn Heb “as time after time.”
  128. Numbers 24:1 tn The word נְחָשִׁים (nekhashim) means “omens,” or possibly “auguries.” Balaam is not even making a pretense now of looking for such things, because they are not going to work. God has overruled them.
  129. Numbers 24:1 tn The idiom signifies that he had a determination and resolution to look out over where the Israelites were, so that he could appreciate more their presence and use that as the basis for his expressing of the oracle.
  130. Numbers 24:2 tn Heb “living according to their tribes.”
  131. Numbers 24:3 tn Heb “and he took up his oracle and said.”
  132. Numbers 24:3 tn The word נְאֻם (neʾum) is an “oracle.” It is usually followed by a subjective genitive, indicating the doer of the action. The word could be rendered “says,” but this translations is more specific.
  133. Numbers 24:3 tn The Greek version reads “the one who sees truly.” The word has been interpreted in both ways, “shut” or “open.”
  134. Numbers 24:4 tn The phrase “flat on the ground” is supplied in the translation for clarity. The Greek version interprets the line to mean “falling asleep.” It may mean falling into a trance.
  135. Numbers 24:4 tn The last colon simply has “falling, but opened eyes.” The falling may simply refer to lying prone; and the opened eyes may refer to his receiving a vision. See H. E. Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, 37-41.
  136. Numbers 24:5 tn Here מָה (mah) has an exclamatory sense: “How!” (see Gen 28:17).
  137. Numbers 24:6 tn Heb “as valleys they spread forth.”
  138. Numbers 24:6 tn Or “rows of palms.”
  139. Numbers 24:6 sn The language seems to be more poetic than precise. N. H. Snaith notes that cedars do not grow beside water; he also connects “aloes” to the eaglewood that is more exotic, and capable of giving off an aroma (Leviticus and Numbers [NCB], 298).
  140. Numbers 24:7 tc For this colon the LXX has “a man shall come out of his seed.” Cf. the Syriac Peshitta and Targum.
  141. Numbers 24:7 tn Heb “many.”
  142. Numbers 24:7 sn These two lines are difficult, but the general sense is that of irrigation buckets and a well-watered land. The point is that Israel will be prosperous and fruitful.
  143. Numbers 24:7 sn Many commentators see this as a reference to Agag of 1 Sam 15:32-33, the Amalekite king slain by Samuel, for that is the one we know. But that is by no means clear, for this text does not identify this Agag. If it is that king, then this poem, or this line in this poem, would have to be later, unless one were to try to argue for a specific prophecy. Whoever this Agag is, he is a symbol of power.
  144. Numbers 24:8 tn Heb “they will devour nations,” their adversaries.
  145. Numbers 24:9 tn On the usage of this word see HALOT 517 s.v. לָבִיא.
  146. Numbers 24:10 sn This is apparently a sign of contempt or derision (see Job 27:23; and Lam 2:15).
  147. Numbers 24:10 tn The construction is emphatic, using the infinitive absolute with the perfect tense for “bless.”
  148. Numbers 24:11 tn Heb “flee to your place.”
  149. Numbers 24:13 tn Heb “I am not able to go beyond.”
  150. Numbers 24:13 tn Heb “mouth.”
  151. Numbers 24:13 tn Heb “from my heart.”
  152. Numbers 24:14 tn The construction is the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) suffixed followed by the active participle. This is the futur instans use of the participle, to express something that is about to happen: “I am about to go.”
  153. Numbers 24:14 tn For “in future days,” see the note at Gen 49:1. For more on this expression, see E. Lipiński, “באחרית הימים dans les textes préexiliques,” VT 20 (1970): 445-50.
  154. Numbers 24:15 tn Heb “and he took up his oracle and said.”
  155. Numbers 24:17 tn Heb “near.”
  156. Numbers 24:17 sn This is a figure for a king (see also Isa 14:12) not only in the Bible but in the ancient Near Eastern literature as a whole. The immediate reference of the prophecy seems to be to David, but the eschatological theme goes beyond him. There is to be a connection made between this passage and the sighting of a star in its ascendancy by the magi, who then traveled to Bethlehem to see the one born King of the Jews (Matt 2:2). The expression “son of a star” (Aram Bar Kochba) became a title for a later claimant to kingship, but he was doomed by the Romans in a.d. 135.
  157. Numbers 24:17 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it is equal to the imperfect expressing the future. The verb דָּרַךְ (darakh), related to the noun “way, road,” seems to mean something like “tread on, walk, march.”
  158. Numbers 24:17 sn The “scepter” is metonymical for a king who will rise to power. NEB strangely rendered this as “comet” to make a parallel with “star.”
  159. Numbers 24:17 tn The word is literally “corners,” but may refer to the corners of the head, and so “skull.”
  160. Numbers 24:17 tc The MT reads “shatter, devastate.” Smr reads קֹדְקֹד (qodqod, “head; crown; pate”). Smr follows Jer 48:45 which appears to reflect Num 24:17.
  161. Numbers 24:17 sn The prophecy begins to be fulfilled when David defeated Moab and Edom and established an empire including them. But the Messianic promise extends far beyond that to the end of the age and the inclusion of these defeated people in the program of the coming King.
  162. Numbers 24:18 sn Seir is the chief mountain range of Edom (Deut 33:2), and so the reference here is to the general area of Edom.
  163. Numbers 24:19 tn Or, understanding the Hebrew word for “city” as a place name, “of Ir” (cf. NRSV, NLT).
  164. Numbers 24:20 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  165. Numbers 24:20 tn Heb “and he lifted up his oracle and said.” So also in vv. 21, 23.
  166. Numbers 24:20 sn This probably means that it held first place, or it thought that it was “the first of the nations.” It was not the first, either in order or greatness.
  167. Numbers 24:21 sn A pun is made on the name Kenite by using the word “your nest” (קִנֶּךָ, qinnekha); the location may be the rocky cliffs overlooking Petra.
  168. Numbers 24:22 tc Heb “Nevertheless Cain will be wasted; how long will Asshur take you captive?” Cain was believed to be the ancestor of the Kenites. The NAB has “yet destined for burning, even as I watch, are your inhabitants.” Asshur may refer to a north Arabian group of people of Abrahamic stock (Gen 25:3), and not the Assyrian empire.
  169. Numbers 24:23 tc Because there is no parallel line, some have thought that it dropped out (see de Vaulx, Les Nombres, 296).
  170. Numbers 24:24 tc The MT is difficult. The Kittim refers normally to Cyprus, or any maritime people to the west. W. F. Albright proposed emending the line to “islands will gather in the north, ships from the distant sea” (“The Oracles of Balaam,” JBL 63 [1944]: 222-23). Some commentators accept that reading as the original state of the text, since the present MT makes little sense.
  171. Numbers 24:24 tn Or perhaps “Assyria” (so NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
  172. Numbers 24:24 tn Or “it will end in utter destruction.”
  173. Numbers 24:25 tn Heb “place.”
New English Translation (NET)

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