Numbers 23

Chapter 23

Balaam’s First Oracle.[a] 1 Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven oxen and seven rams for me.” 2 Balak did what Balaam had told him to do. Then Balak and Balaam offered a young bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Balaam said to Balak, “Stand by your offerings, and I will go off a bit. Perhaps the Lord will come to visit me. I will tell you whatever he reveals to me.” He then went off to a high place.

4 God visited Balaam. He said, “I have prepared seven altars and I have offered a young bull and a ram upon each altar.” 5 The Lord put a message in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak and proclaim this.”

6 So he returned to him and found him standing by his sacrifice, he and the leaders of Moab. 7 Then he proclaimed his oracle:

“Balak has brought me from Aram,
the king of Moab from the eastern mountains saying,
‘Come, and curse Jacob,
come and denounce Israel!’
8 How shall I curse those whom God has not cursed,
how shall I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?[b]
9 From the top of the rocks I see him,
from the hills I behold him.
Behold, a people dwelling alone,
not counted among the nations.
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob,
or number one-fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,
let my end be like his.”

11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have bountifully blessed them.” 12 But he answered, “Must I not proclaim what the Lord has put into my mouth?”

13 Balaam’s Second Oracle. Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place. There you will be able to see them, but only their outposts; you will not see all of them. You can curse them for me from there.”

14 So he brought him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars, and he offered a young bull and a ram on each altar. 15 He said to Balak, “Stand here by your offering, and I will meet the Lord over there.” 16 The Lord visited Balaam and put a word in his mouth saying, “Go back again to Balak and proclaim this.”

17 He returned to him. He was standing by his offering, he and the leaders of Moab with him. Balak said to him, “What has the Lord said?” 18 He took up his oracle and said,

“Arise, Balak, and hear;
listen to me, son of Zippor!
19 God is not human, that he should lie,[c]
or the son of man, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act,
does he promise and then not fulfill it?
20 Behold, I have received a blessing;
he has blessed, and I cannot change it.
21 No misfortune is seen in Jacob,
no misery is seen in Israel.
The Lord, their God, is with them;
the shout of a king is among them.
22 God has brought them out of Egypt;
they are as strong as a wild ox.
23 There is truly no sorcery against Jacob,
nor any divination against Israel.
Now it will be said of Jacob and Israel,
‘What God has done!’
24 Behold, a people rises up like a lioness,
like a young lion it lifts itself up.
It will not lie down again until it eats the prey
and drinks the blood of the slain.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Then do not either curse them in any way or bless them in any way!” 26 But Balaam answered Balak saying, “Did I not tell you: ‘All that the Lord says I must do!’ ”

27 Balaam’s Third Oracle. Balak said to Balaam, “Please come, I will take you to another place. Perhaps God will allow you to curse them for me here.” 28 Then Balak brought Balaam to the top of Peor, to a place that faced Jeshimon. 29 Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven young bulls and seven rams for me.” 30 Balak did what Balaam had told him to do, and he offered a young bull and a ram on each of the altars.

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 23:1 The story of Balaam is told here chiefly in order to bring in the oracles of blessing. What is reported here is certainly very ancient traditions, comparable to the blessings of Jacob (Gen 49) and of Moses (Deut 33).
  2. Numbers 23:8 Balaam cannot do what Balak asks of him because God is protecting his people. None of Balaam’s tricks can negate God’s blessing on them.
  3. Numbers 23:19 God is not human, that he should lie: Balaam’s lack of integrity and honesty are far removed from the steadfast mercy and goodness of God.

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