Balak Hires Balaam
1The Israelites traveled on and camped in the plains of Moab near the Jordan across from Jericho. 2Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3Moab was terrified of the people because they were numerous, and Moab dreaded the Israelites. 4So the Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will devour everything around us like an ox eats up the green plants in the field.”
Since Balak son of Zippor was Moab’s king at that time, 5he sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates in the land of his people. Balak said to him, “Look, a people has come out of Egypt; they cover the surface of the land and are living right across from me. 6Please come and put a curse on these people for me because they are more powerful than I am. I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that those you bless are blessed and those you curse are cursed.”
7The elders of Moab and Midian departed with fees for divination in hand. They came to Balaam and reported Balak’s words to him. 8He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will give you the answer the Lord tells me.” So the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam.
9Then God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”
10Balaam replied to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent this message to me: 11‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the surface of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. I may be able to fight against them and drive them away.’”
12Then God said to Balaam, “You are not to go with them. You are not to curse this people, for they are blessed.”
13So Balaam got up the next morning and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your land, because the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”
14The officials of Moab arose, returned to Balak, and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
15Balak sent officials again who were more numerous and higher in rank than the others. 16They came to Balaam and said to him, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: ‘Let nothing keep you from coming to me, 17for I will greatly honor you and do whatever you ask me. So please come and put a curse on these people for me! ’”
18But Balaam responded to the servants of Balak, “If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the command of the Lord my God to do anything small or great. 19Please stay here overnight as the others did, so that I may find out what else the Lord has to tell me.”
20God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “Since these men have come to summon you, get up and go with them, but you must only do what I tell you.” 21When he got up in the morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the officials of Moab.
Balaam’s Donkey and the Angel
22But God was incensed that Balaam was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand on the path to oppose him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing on the path with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the path and went into the field. So Balaam hit her to return her to the path. 24Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow passage between the vineyards, with a stone wall on either side. 25The donkey saw the angel of the Lord and pressed herself against the wall, squeezing Balaam’s foot against it. So he hit her once again. 26The angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn to the right or the left. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. So he became furious and beat the donkey with his stick.
28Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”
29Balaam answered the donkey, “You made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!”
30But the donkey said, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?”
“No,” he replied.
31Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam knelt low and bowed in worship on his face. 32The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you, because I consider what you are doing to be evil. 33The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and let her live.”
34Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the path to confront me. And now, if it is evil in your sight, I will go back.”
35Then the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you are to say only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.
36When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite city on the Arnon border at the edge of his territory. 37Balak asked Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?”
38Balaam said to him, “Look, I have come to you, but can I say anything I want? I must speak only the message God puts in my mouth.” 39So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40Balak sacrificed cattle, sheep, and goats and sent for Balaam and the officials who were with him.
41In the morning, Balak took Balaam and brought him to Bamoth-baal. From there he saw the outskirts of the people’s camp.