Reading 45/341, Numbers 22-24

[A]Today we have the fascinating story of Balaam. His relationship with God is not entirely clear. He has the power to bless and curse. He hears prophecies from the Lord. God tells him not to go, then to go, then threatens him for going. The consensus of the rest of the Bible, which several times refers back to this story, is that Balaam, motivated by the money, kept asking the Lord to do what he had already been told the Lord would not do.
[B]Ultimately he gives some beautiful prophecies. The fourth prophecy is of the Messiah.

...Numbers...

The children of Israel traveled, and encamped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab was very afraid of the people, because they were many, and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this horde will lick up all that is round about us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is by the River in the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, “Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt. Behold, they cover the surface of the earth, and they dwell opposite me. Please come now to curse this people for me; for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall prevail, that we may strike them and drive them out of the land; for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand, and they came to Balaam, and spoke to him the words of Balak. He said to them, “Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak to me, and the princes of Moab dwelt with Balaam.” God came to Balaam, and said, “What men are these with you?” Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, ‘Behold, the people that have come out of Egypt. They cover the surface of the earth. Come curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and shall drive them out.’” God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people; for they are blessed.” Balaam rose up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, “Get back to your land, for the Lord refuses to give me leave to go with you.” The princes of Moab rose up, and they went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.” Balak sent yet again more princes, and more prestigious than the others.” They came to Balaam, and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me, for I will promote you to very great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Please come therefore, and curse this people for me.’” Balaam answered the servants of Balak, “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, please wait also here this night, that I may know what else the Lord will speak to me.” God came to Balaam at night, and said to him, “If the men are come to call you, rise up, go with them, but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.”

Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord placed himself on the road as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing on the road, with his sword drawn in his hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the road, and went into the field, and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her back to the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood on a narrow path between the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord, and she thrust herself to the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall, and he struck her again. The angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord, and she lay down under Balaam, and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have mocked me, I wish that there were a sword in my hand, for now I would have killed you.” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Did I ever tend to do this to you?” and he said, “No.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand, and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I am come forth as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me, and the donkey saw me, and turned aside before me these three times, unless she had turned aside from me, surely now I would have slain you, and saved her alive.” Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the way against me, now therefore, if it displease you, I will go back again.” The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I shall speak to you, that you shall speak.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

When Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him in the city of Moab, which is on the border of the Arnon, which is on the edge of the border. Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not earnestly send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to promote you to honor?” Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you. Do I now have any power at all to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak.” Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes who were with him. It happened in the morning, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, and he saw from there a few of the people. Balaam said to Balak, “Build here seven altars for me, and prepare here seven bulls and seven rams for me.” Balak did as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bull and a ram. Balaam said to Balak, “Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go, perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever he shows me I will tell you.” He went to a bare height. God met Balaam, and he said to him, “I have prepared the seven altars, and I have offered up a bull and a ram on every altar.”

The Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” He returned to him, and behold, he was standing by his burnt offering, he, and all the princes of Moab. He took up his discourse, and said,
“From Aram has Balak brought me,
the king of Moab from the mountains of the East.
‘Come, curse Jacob for me. Come, defy Israel.’
How shall I curse them whom God has not cursed?
How shall I defy, whom the Lord has not defied?
For from the top of the rocks I see him.
From the hills I see him.
Behold, it is a people that dwells apart,
who shall not be reckoned among the nations.
Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous. Let my last end be like his!”

Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but blessed them.” He answered and said, “Must I not take heed to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place, where you can see them. You shall see only the smallest part of them, and shall not see them all. Curse them from there for me.” He took him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered up a bull and a ram on every altar. He said to Balak, “Stand here by your burnt offering, while I meet the Lord over yonder.” The Lord met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus shall you speak.” He came to him, and behold, he was standing by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?” He took up his discourse, and said,
“Rise up, Balak, and hear!
Listen to me, you son of Zippor.
God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor the son of man, that he should repent.
Has he spoken what he will not do?
Or has he spoken what he will not make good?
Behold, I have received a command to bless.
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
He has not seen iniquity in Jacob.
Nor has he seen perverseness in Israel.
The Lord his God is with him. The shout of a king is among them.
God brings them out of Egypt.
He has as it were the strength of the wild ox.
Surely there is no enchantment with Jacob,
nor is there any divination with Israel.
Now it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘What has God done!’
Behold, the people rises up as a lioness.
As a lion, he lifts himself up.
He shall not lie down until he eats of the prey,
and drinks the blood of the slain.”

Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.” But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, saying, ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do?’

Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that looks down on the desert. Balaam said to Balak, “Build here seven altars for me, and prepare here seven bulls and seven rams for me.” Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered up a bull and a ram on every altar. When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go, as at the other times, to search for oracles, but he set his face toward the desert. Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes, and the Spirit of God came on him. He took up his discourse, and said,
“Balaam the son of Beor says:
The man whose eye is opened says:
He who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down and having his eyes opened, says:
How lovely are your tents, Jacob, your encampments, Israel!
As valleys they are spread forth,
as gardens by the riverside,
as aloes which the Lord has planted,
as cedar trees beside the waters.
Water shall flow from his buckets.
His seed shall be in many waters.
His king shall be higher than Agag.
His kingdom shall be exalted.
God brings him out of Egypt.
He has as it were the strength of the wild ox.
He shall eat up the nations his adversaries, shall break their bones in pieces, and pierce them with his arrows.
He couched, he lay down as a lion, as a lioness, who shall rouse him up?
Everyone who blesses you is blessed.
Everyone who curses you is cursed.”


Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together, and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and, behold, you have done nothing but bless them these three times. Therefore now flee you to your place. I planned to promote you to great honor, but, behold, the Lord has kept you back from honor.” Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not even tell your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, ‘If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own mind; what the Lord speaks, that will I speak?’ Now, behold, I go to my people, come, and I will imform you what this people shall do to your people in the latter days.” He took up his discourse, and said,
“Balaam the son of Beor says:
The man whose eye is opened says:
He who hears the words of God, knows the knowledge of the Most High, and who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down and having his eyes opened, says:
I see him, but not now.
I see him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob.
A scepter will rise out of Israel.
It shall crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Edom shall be dispossessed. Seir, his enemies, also shall be dispossessed.
Israel does valiantly.
Out of Jacob shall one have dominion,
and he shall destroy the remnant from the city.”

He looked at Amalek, and took up his discourse, and said: “Amalek was the first of the nations, But his latter end shall come to destruction.” He looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse, and said, “Your dwelling place is strong. Your nest is set in the rock. Nevertheless Kain shall be wasted, until Asshur carries you away captive.” He took up his discourse, and said, “Alas, who shall live when God does this? But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim. They shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber. He also shall come to destruction.” Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place, and Balak also went his way.

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