14 Apr. Numbers 22:1-24:25

14 Apr. Balaam blesses the Israelites

“Then the people of Israel went to the plains of Moab, and they camped near the Jordan River across from Jericho.”

“Balak son of Zippor [King of Moab] saw everything the Israelites had done to the Amorites. And Moab was scared of so many Israelites; truly, Moab was terrified by them. The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, ‘These people will take everything around us like an ox eating grass.’”

“Balak… sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, near the Euphrates River in his native land. Balak said, ‘A nation has come out of Egypt that covers the land. They have camped next to me, and they are too powerful for me. So come and put a curse on them. Maybe then I can defeat them and make them leave the area. I know that if you bless someone, the blessings happen, and if you put a curse on someone, it happens.’”

“The elders of Moab and Midian went with payment in their hands. When they found Balaam, they told him what Balak had said. Balaam said to them, ‘Stay here for the night, and I will tell you what the LORD tells me.’…”

“But God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. Don’t put a curse on those people, because I have blessed them.’ The next morning Balaam awoke and said to Balak’s leaders, ‘Go back to your own country; the LORD has refused to let me go with you.’”

“So the Moabite leaders went back to Balak and said, ‘Balaam refused to come with us.’ So Balak sent other leaders… But Balaam answered Balak’s servants, ‘King Balak could give me his palace full of silver and gold, but I cannot disobey the LORD my God in anything, great or small.’”

“That night, God came to Balaam and said, ‘These men have come to ask you to go with them. Go, but only do what I tell you…”

“The next morning Balak took Balaam to Bamoth Baal; from there he could see the edge of the Israelites' camp. Balaam said to Balak, ‘Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.’ Balak did what Balaam asked, and they offered a bull and a ram on each of the altars…”

“So Balaam went back to Balak… [and] gave him this message: ‘Balak said, “Come, put a curse on the people of Jacob for me. Come, call down evil on the people of Israel.” But God has not cursed them, so I cannot curse them.’”

“So Balak took Balaam to the field of Zophim, on top of Mount Pisgah… Then Balaam gave this message… ‘God is not a human being, and he will not lie… He told me to bless them... The LORD their God is with them…’”

“Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Come, I will take you to another place… So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, the mountain that looks over the desert…”

“When Balaam saw the Israelites camped in their tribes, the Spirit of God took control of him, and he gave this message: …’God brought them out of Egypt; they are as strong as a wild ox. They will defeat their enemies and break their enemies’ bones…’”

“Then Balak was angry with Balaam, and he pounded his fist. He said to Balaam, ‘I called you here to curse my enemies, but you have continued to bless them three times…”

“Then Balaam gave this message… ‘I see someone who will come some day, someone who will come, but not soon. A star will come from Jacob; a ruler will rise from Israel. He will crush the heads of the Moabites and smash the skulls of the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered… Amalek will be destroyed at last.’”

“Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak also went on his way.”

          (Numbers 22:1 – 24:25)



Balaam is widely known for having a ‘talking donkey’ (see Numbers 22:21-34), but we’ve deliberately omitted this part of the narrative because it’s so easy to concentrate on the donkey and miss Balaam’s message – which is the whole point of the story!

After the Israelites set up camp on the Plains of Moab east of the River Jordan opposite Jericho (see 3 on the map on 13 April), King Balak of Moab heard of the defeat of the Amorites and sent for Balaam - a soothsayer and prophet - who was living at Pethor near the River Euphrates in Aram (see Numbers 23:7), so he could pour curses on the Israelites.

God appeared to Balaam and forbade him to curse the Israelites. Balaam, nevertheless, attempted to travel to Moab, but the angel of the LORD stood in the way of Balaam’s donkey. The donkey lay down, so Balaam hit it with his stick. But the donkey said "What have I done to make you hit me three times?" (Numbers 22:28). The angel then revealed himself to Balaam, and told him to say to Balak only what he commanded.

So Balaam met King Balak at Ar, a border town on the River Arnon. Balak and Balaam went together to Kiriath Huzoth where they sacrificed cattle and sheep. They looked out over the Israelites on the Plains of Moab from a ‘pisgah’ (a hilltop viewpoint) at Bamoth Baal (an altar to Baal).

King Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites, but instead Balaam blessed them, as God had told him to do.

Balaam was then taken by King Balak to the Field of Zophim on top of another pisgah. Again, Balaam refused to curse the Israelites.

Balaam was then taken to the top of Mt Peor (see 4 on the map). For the third time he blessed the Israelites as commanded by God, and foretold their victory over the King of Moab.

The photo (by Effi Schweizer) shows the view towards the Plains of Moab from the ‘pisgah’ on Mt Nebo.

You can read more of the story beginning at https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/26-the-journey-continues-from-sinai-to-moab/the-israelites-camp-on-the-plains-of-moab/

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