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Numbers 22 International Standard Version (ISV)

Balak Summons Balaam

22 The Israelis continued their travels, eventually[a] encamping on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River[b] opposite Jericho. Zippor’s son Balak saw everything that Israel had done to the Amorites. As a result, Moab greatly feared the people, because they were so numerous. Because a sense of impending doom was afflicting the Moabites as they faced the Israelis, the Moabites told the elders of Midian, “This horde of people is about to lick up everything around us, like an ox licks up the green ground.”

At that time, Zippor’s son Balak was the king of Moab. He sent messengers to Beor’s son Balaam in Pethor, near the Euphrates[c] River, the land where the descendants of his people originated,[d] to summon his aid. He said, “Look! A group of[e] people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth, and are sitting here right in front of me. So come right now and curse this people for me, because there are too many of them for me to handle.[f] Perhaps I’ll be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, since I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed.”

So the elders of Moab and Midian left to visit Balaam, bringing an honorarium with them,[g] and communicated Balak’s concerns to him. In answer, Balaam[h] told them, “Stay here for the night and I’ll bring back a message[i] to you, depending on what the Lord says to me.” So the officers of Moab stayed with Balaam overnight.

God Forbids Balaam to Cooperate

God visited Balaam and asked him, “Who are these men with you?”

10 Then Balaam told God, “Zippor’s son Balak, king of Moab, sent them to me and said, 11 ‘Look! A group of[j] people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth! So come right now and curse them for me. Perhaps I’ll be able to fight against them and drive them out.’”

12 But God told Balaam, “Don’t go with them. Don’t curse the people, because they’re blessed.”

13 So Balaam got up the next morning and told Balak’s officials, “Go back to your homeland, because the Lord has refused me permission to go with you.”

14 So Balak’s officials got up, returned to Balak and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 In response, Balak sent more officers—higher ranking ones, at that!— 16 who approached Balaam with this message: “This is what Zippor’s son Balak says: ‘Don’t let anything get in the way of your coming to me. 17 I’m determined to reward you generously, and I’ll do everything you tell me to do. So come right away and curse this people for me.’”

18 Balaam responded to Balak’s entourage by saying, “Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I won’t double-cross the command of the Lord my God in even the slightest way.[k] 19 Meanwhile, stay here overnight so I may learn what the Lord might say to me.”

20 God came to visit Balaam that same night and told him, “If the men come to call on you, get up and go with them, but be sure to do only what I tell you to do.” 21 The next morning, Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started to leave, accompanied by the Moabite officials.

Balaam’s Donkey Rebukes its Owner

22 At this, the anger of the Lord flared up against Balaam, because he was leaving. So the angel of the Lord stood in the way to oppose him. As Balaam[l] was riding his donkey, accompanied by two of his servants, 23 all of a sudden the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand! The donkey turned off the road and went into an open field. Balaam started beating the donkey in order to turn her back to the road, 24 but the angel of the Lord stood on a narrow path that crossed the vineyards. It had walls on both sides of the path. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she squeezed herself so close to the wall that Balaam’s foot was pressed to the wall. So he beat her again!

26 Then the angel of the Lord went along a little further and stood in a much narrower space, where it was impossible[m] to turn either right or left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. As a result, Balaam got so angry that he started to whip[n] the donkey with his staff.

28 That’s when the Lord enabled the donkey to speak.[o] She asked Balaam, “What did I do to you that you would beat me in the space of only[p] three footsteps?”

29 “Because you’re playing a dirty trick on me,” Balaam answered the donkey. “If only I had a sword in my hand! I’d kill you right now!”

30 But in response, the donkey asked Balaam, “I’m your donkey that you’ve ridden on in the past without incident,[q] am I not, and I’m the same donkey you’re riding on right now, am I not? Am I in the habit of treating you like this?”

“No,” he admitted.

31 Then the Lord enabled Balaam to see, so he observed the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand. So he bowed down and prostrated himself on his face.

32 Then the angel of the Lord asked him, “Why did you beat your donkey in the space of only[r] three footsteps? I’ve come to oppose you, because I say that what you’re doing is perverted. 33 The donkey saw me and turned in front of me in the space of those three footsteps. 34 If she hadn’t turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and left her alive!”

At this, Balaam replied to the angel of the Lord, “I’ve sinned! I didn’t know that you were standing to meet me on the road. So now, since it displeases you, let me go back.”[s]

35 But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with the men, but deliver only the message that I’m going to give you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had arrived, he went out to meet him in the city of Moab on the border of Arnon at the extreme end of his territory. 37 Balak asked Balaam, “Didn’t I repeatedly send for you to summon you? Why didn’t you come to me? I can pay you well,[t] can’t I?”

38 Balaam answered Balak, “Well, I’m here now. I’ve come to you, but I can’t just say anything, can I? I’ll speak only what God puts in my mouth to say.” 39 So accompanied by Balaam and Balak’s officials, Balak traveled to Kiriath-huzoth, 40 where he sacrificed oxen and sheep. 41 The next day, Balak brought Balaam up to Bamoth-baal, where he could see part of the community of Israel.

Footnotes:

  1. Numbers 22:1 The Heb. lacks eventually
  2. Numbers 22:1 The Heb. lacks River
  3. Numbers 22:5 The Heb. lacks Euphrates
  4. Numbers 22:5 Or the river of the people of Amaw; LXX reads the river of the land
  5. Numbers 22:5 The Heb. lacks group of
  6. Numbers 22:6 The Heb. lacks to handle
  7. Numbers 22:7 Lit. bringing divinations in their hand
  8. Numbers 22:8 Lit. he
  9. Numbers 22:8 Lit. word
  10. Numbers 22:11 The Heb. lacks group of
  11. Numbers 22:18 Lit. God to do anything whether insignificant or great
  12. Numbers 22:22 Lit. he
  13. Numbers 22:26 Lit. there’s no way
  14. Numbers 22:27 Lit. struck
  15. Numbers 22:28 Lit. Lord opened the donkey’s mouth
  16. Numbers 22:28 The Heb. lacks only
  17. Numbers 22:30 The Heb. lacks without incident
  18. Numbers 22:32 The Heb. lacks only
  19. Numbers 22:34 Lit. let me return to me
  20. Numbers 22:37 Lit. can honor you
International Standard Version (ISV)

Copyright © 1995-2014 by ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC.

Numbers 22 New International Version (NIV)

Balak Summons Balaam

22 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.

The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:

“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”

The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

“Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”

10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”

12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.

13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:

“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”

18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Balaam’s Donkey

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 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. 23 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.

24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 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.

26 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. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 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?

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.

30 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.

31 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 facedown.

32 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] 33 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.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

35 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.

36 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. 37 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?”

38 “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.”

39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.

Footnotes:

  1. Numbers 22:32 The meaning of the Hebrew for this clause is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)

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