Balak summons Balaam
1Then the Israelites travelled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan opposite Jericho.
2Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.
4The 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, 5sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the River Euphrates, 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. 6Now 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.’
7The 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.
8‘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.
9God came to Balaam and asked, ‘Who are these men with you?’
10Balaam 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.” ’
12But God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’
13The 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.’
14So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, ‘Balaam refused to come with us.’
15Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16They came to Balaam and said:
‘This is what Balak son of Zippor says: do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.’
18But 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. 19Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.’
20That 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.’
21Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22But 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. 23When 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.
24Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25When 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.
26Then 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. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28Then 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?’
29Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you here and now.’
30The 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.
31Then 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 face down.
32The 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. 33The 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.’
34Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned. I did not realise you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.’
35The 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.
36When 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. 37Balak 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.’
39Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.