Numbers 22

Chapter 22[a]

1 [b]Then the people of Israel traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

Balak Summons Balaam. 2 Now Balak, the son of Zippor, had seen everything that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people, and Moab was filled with dread of the people of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This mob will lick up everything around us just like an ox licks up grass in the pasture.”

Balak, the son of Zippor, was the king of the Moabites at this time. 5 He sent messengers to Pethor which is near the river[c] in his native land, to Balaam, the son of Beor, to summon him. He said, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the earth. They are now living opposite me. 6 Please come now and curse this people for me for they are too powerful for me. Maybe then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. I know well that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed.”

7 The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian left, carrying the fee for the divination in their hands. They came to Balaam, and they told him what Balak had said. 8 He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will bring you the answer the Lord gives me.” So the leaders of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 Balaam said to God, “Balak, the son of Zippor, the king of Moab, sent for me, saying, 11 ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt who now covers the face of the earth. Now come and curse them for me. Perhaps I will be able to defeat them and drive them away.’ ” 12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. Do not curse the people, for they are blessed.”[d]

13 The next morning Balaam arose and said to Balak’s representatives, “Go back to your country, for the Lord refuses to allow me to go with you.”

14 The leaders of Moab returned and said to Balak, “Balaam refused to come with us.” 15 So Balak sent some more leaders, even more distinguished than the others. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak, the son of Zippor: ‘Please, let nothing keep you from coming to me 17 for I will honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you ask of me. Please come and curse this people.’ ” 18 Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak: “If Balak were to grant me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, small or great, contrary to the word of the Lord, my God. 19 But now, please stay here this night as well, so that I may know what the Lord says to me.” 20 God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If these men have come to summon you, rise up and go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

21 Balaam’s Donkey. Balaam arose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. 22 But God grew very angry because he had gone, and so an angel of the Lord blocked his path on the roadway. He was riding on a donkey and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of the Lord[e] standing in the roadway with his drawn sword in his hand, and the donkey left the roadway and wandered into the field. Balaam beat the donkey to force it back onto the roadway.

24 Then an angel of the Lord stood in the narrow pathway in the vineyards, walls standing on either side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed so close to the wall that it crushed Balaam’s foot against it, so he beat it again. 26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place that had 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 who became angry and beat it with a staff.

28 The Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?” 29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me. If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now!” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have always ridden, even til today? Have I ever done this to you before?” He said, “No.” 31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. He bowed down and fell flat on his face. 32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you for the path before you is wrong. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. Otherwise, I would surely have killed you, but it I would have spared.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize that you were standing there opposing my way. If I have displeased you, then I will go back.” 35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but say only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with the leaders to Balak.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to Moab to meet him, a city which is on the Arnon border, at the farthest edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not summon you urgently? Why have you not come to me? Am I not able to reward you?” 38 Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you now. Do I have any power to say anything? I will only speak the word that God puts in my mouth.”

39 Balaam went with Balak, and they arrived in Kiriath-huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some of its meat to Balaam and the leaders who were with him. 41 The next day Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal so that he might see the outposts of the people.


  1. Numbers 22:1 Arms were unable to halt the progress of the people of God. Balak, king of Moab, seeks to mobilize magical powers against them. In order to bring down a curse upon Israel, he calls upon the famous Balaam, a man of upright conscience who acts in good faith; but the soothsayer can only submit to God, who is more powerful than any sorcery.
  2. Numbers 22:1 The account vividly describes negotiations and an agreement on the practice known as incubation, which consisted in consulting the divinity through dreams. For the biblical editor there is only one God; it must therefore be none other than he who responds to the consulting soothsayer.
  3. Numbers 22:5 The river is the Euphrates.
  4. Numbers 22:12 They are blessed: the people of Israel were under God’s protection as promised to Abraham (see Gen 12:2-3) their Father.
  5. Numbers 22:23 The donkey saw the angel of the Lord: Balaam’s magical powers did not go as far as his dumb beast’s sensitivity in recognizing the messenger of the Lord.

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