21:2 So Israel made a vow 4 to the Lord and said, “If you will indeed deliver 5 this people into our 6 hand, then we will utterly destroy 7 their cities.” 21:3 The Lord listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, 8 and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of the place was called 9 Hormah.
21:4 Then they traveled from Mount Hor by the road to the Red Sea, 10 to go around the land of Edom, but the people 11 became impatient along the way. 21:5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, for there is no bread or water, and we 12 detest this worthless 13 food.”
21:6 So the Lord sent poisonous 14 snakes 15 among the people, and they bit the people; many people of Israel died. 21:7 Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord that he would take away 16 the snakes from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
21:8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and set it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks 17 at it, he will live.” 21:9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so that if a snake had bitten someone, when he looked at the bronze snake he lived. 18
21:10 19 The Israelites traveled on and camped in Oboth. 21:11 Then they traveled on from Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, 20 in the wilderness that is before Moab, on the eastern side. 21 21:12 From there they moved on and camped in the valley of Zered. 21:13 From there they moved on and camped on the other side of the Arnon, in the wilderness that extends from the regions 22 of the Amorites, for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 21:14 This is why it is said in the Book of the Wars of the Lord,
“Waheb in Suphah 23 and the wadis,
that extends to the dwelling of Ar, 25
and falls off at the border of Moab.”
“Spring up, O well, sing to it!
which the leaders of the people opened
with their scepters and their staffs.”
And from the wilderness they traveled to Mattanah; 21:19 and from Mattanah to Nahaliel; and from Nahaliel to Bamoth; 21:20 and from Bamoth to the valley that is in the country of Moab, near the top of Pisgah, which overlooks the wilderness. 30
21:22 “Let us 33 pass through your land; 34 we will not turn aside into the fields or into the vineyards, nor will we drink water from any well, but we will go along the King’s Highway until we pass your borders.” 21:23 But Sihon did not permit Israel to pass through his border; he 35 gathered all his forces 36 together and went out against Israel into the wilderness. When 37 he came to Jahaz, he fought against Israel. 21:24 But the Israelites 38 defeated him in battle 39 and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the Ammonites, for the border of the Ammonites was strongly defended. 21:25 So Israel took all these cities; and Israel settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages. 40 21:26 For Heshbon was the city of King Sihon of the Amorites. Now he had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all of his land from his control, 41 as far as the Arnon. 21:27 That is why those who speak in proverbs 42 say,
“Come to Heshbon, let it be built.
Let the city of Sihon be established! 43
21:28 For fire went out from Heshbon,
a flame from the city of Sihon.
It has consumed Ar of Moab
and the lords 44 of the high places of Arnon.
21:29 Woe to you, Moab.
You are ruined, O people of Chemosh! 45
He has made his sons fugitives,
and his daughters the prisoners of King Sihon of the Amorites.
Heshbon has perished as far as Dibon.
We have shattered them as far as Nophah,
which 47 reaches to Medeba.”
21:33 Then they turned and went up by the road to Bashan. And King Og of Bashan and all his forces 51 marched out against them to do battle at Edrei. 21:34 And the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand. You will do to him what you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon. 21:35 So they defeated Og, 52 his sons, and all his people, until there were no survivors, 53 and they possessed his land.
22:1 54 The Israelites traveled on 55 and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan River 56 across from Jericho. 57 22:2 Balak son of Zippor saw all that the Israelites had done to the Amorites. 22:3 And the Moabites were greatly afraid of the people, because they were so numerous. The Moabites were sick with fear because of the Israelites.
22:4 So the Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “Now this mass of people 58 will lick up everything around us, as the bull devours the grass of the field. Now Balak son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at this time. 22:5 And he sent messengers to Balaam 59 son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates River 60 in the land of Amaw, 61 to summon him, saying, “Look, a nation has come out of Egypt. They cover the face 62 of the earth, and they are settling next to me. 22:6 So 63 now, please come and curse this nation 64 for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will prevail so that we may conquer them 65 and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, 66 and whoever you curse is cursed.”
22:7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fee for divination in their hand. They came to Balaam and reported 67 to him the words of Balak. 22:8 He replied to them, “Stay 68 here tonight, and I will bring back to you whatever word the Lord may speak to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. 22:9 And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 22:10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent a message to me, saying, 22:11 “Look, a nation has come out 69 of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Come now and put a curse on them for me; perhaps I will be able to defeat them 70 and drive them out.” 71 22:12 But God said to Balaam, “You must not go with them; you must not curse the people, 72 for they are blessed.” 73
22:13 So Balaam got up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your land, 74 for the Lord has refused to permit me to go 75 with you.” 22:14 So the princes of Moab departed 76 and went back to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
22:15 Balak again sent princes, 77 more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 78 22:16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor: ‘Please do not let anything hinder you from coming 79 to me. 22:17 For I will honor you greatly, 80 and whatever you tell me I will do. So come, put a curse on this nation for me.’”
22:18 Balaam replied 81 to the servants of Balak, “Even if Balak would give me his palace full of silver and gold, I could not transgress the commandment 82 of the Lord my God 83 to do less or more. 22:19 Now therefore, please stay 84 the night here also, that I may know what more the Lord might say to me.” 85 22:20 God came to Balaam that night, and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, get up and go with them; but the word that I will say to you, that you must do.” 22:21 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.
22:22 Then God’s anger was kindled 86 because he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose 87 him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 22:23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with 88 his sword drawn in his hand, so the donkey turned aside from the road and went into the field. But Balaam beat the donkey, to make her turn back to the road.
22:24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a path 89 among the vineyards, where there was a wall on either side. 90 22:25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself into the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he beat her again. 91
22:26 Then the angel of the Lord went farther, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 22:27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. Then Balaam was angry, and he beat his donkey with a staff.
22:28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?” 22:29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “You have made me look stupid; I wish 92 there were a sword in my hand, for I would kill you right now.” 22:30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am not I your donkey that you have ridden ever since I was yours until this day? Have I ever attempted 93 to treat you this way?” 94 And he said, “No.” 22:31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; so he bowed his head and threw himself down with his face to the ground. 95 22:32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you because what you are doing 96 is perverse before me. 97 22:33 The donkey saw me and turned from me these three times. If 98 she had not turned from me, I would have killed you but saved her alive.” 22:34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood against me in the road. 99 So now, if it is evil in your sight, 100 I will go back home.” 101 22:35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you may only speak 102 the word that I will speak to you.” 103 So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
22:36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at a city of Moab which was on the border of the Arnon at the boundary of his territory. 22:37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send again and again 104 to you to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 105 22:38 Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you. Now, am I able 106 to speak 107 just anything? I must speak 108 only the word that God puts in my mouth.” 22:39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 22:40 And Balak sacrificed bulls and sheep, and sent some 109 to Balaam, and to the princes who were with him. 22:41 Then on the next morning Balak took Balaam, and brought him up to Bamoth Baal. 110 From there he saw the extent of the nation.
23:1 111 Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” 23:2 So Balak did just as Balaam had said. Balak and Balaam then offered on each 112 altar a bull and a ram. 23:3 Balaam said to Balak, “Station yourself 113 by your burnt offering, and I will go off; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever he reveals to me 114 I will tell you.” 115 Then he went to a deserted height. 116
23:4 Then God met Balaam, who 117 said to him, “I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram.” 23:5 Then the Lord put a message 118 in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and speak what I tell you.” 119
“Balak, the king of Moab, brought me 123 from Aram,
out of the mountains of the east, saying,
‘Come, pronounce a curse on Jacob for me;
come, denounce Israel.’ 124
or how can I denounce one whom the Lord has not denounced?
from the hills I watch them. 128
Indeed, a nation that lives alone,
and it will not be reckoned 129 among the nations.
Or number 133 the fourth part of Israel?
23:11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but on the contrary 138 you have only blessed them!” 139 23:12 Balaam replied, 140 “Must I not be careful 141 to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?” 142 23:13 Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place from which you can observe them. You will see only a part of them, but you will not see all of them. Curse them for me from there.”
23:14 So Balak brought Balaam 143 to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, 144 where 145 he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 23:15 And Balaam 146 said to Balak, “Station yourself here 147 by your burnt offering, while I meet the Lord there. 23:16 Then the Lord met Balaam and put a message 148 in his mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and speak what I tell you.” 23:17 When Balaam 149 came to him, he was still standing by his burnt offering, along with the princes of Moab. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?”
“Rise up, 152 Balak, and hear;
Listen to me, son of Zippor:
23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a human being, 153 that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not make it happen? 154
nor has he seen trouble 160 in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them;
his acclamation 161 as king is among them.
They have, as it were, the strength of a wild bull. 163
nor is there any divination against Israel.
and of Israel, ‘Look at 167 what God has done!’
23:24 Indeed, the people will rise up like a lioness,
and like a lion raises himself up;
they will not lie down until they eat their 168 prey,
and drink the blood of the slain.” 169
23:27 Balak said to Balaam, “Come, please; I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God 174 to let you curse them for me from there.” 175 23:28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that looks toward the wilderness. 176 23:29 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars here for me, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams.” 23:30 So Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
24:1 177 When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, 178 he did not go as at the other times 179 to seek for omens, 180 but he set his face 181 toward the wilderness. 24:2 When Balaam lifted up his eyes, he saw Israel camped tribe by tribe; 182 and the Spirit of God came upon him. 24:3 Then he uttered this oracle: 183
“The oracle 184 of Balaam son of Beor;
the oracle of the man whose eyes are open; 185
24:4 the oracle of the one who hears the words of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
and your dwelling places, O Israel!
like gardens by the river’s side,
like aloes 191 that the Lord has planted,
and like cedar trees beside the waters.
their king will be greater than Agag, 195
and their kingdom will be exalted.
24:8 God brought them out of Egypt.
They have, as it were, the strength of a young bull;
they will devour hostile people 196
and will break their bones
and will pierce them through with arrows.
24:9 They crouch and lie down like a lion,
and as a lioness, 197 who can stir him?
Blessed is the one who blesses you,
and cursed is the one who curses you!’”
24:10 Then Balak became very angry at Balaam, and he struck his hands together. 198 Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have done nothing but bless 199 them these three times! 24:11 So now, go back where you came from! 200 I said that I would greatly honor you; but now the Lord has stood in the way of your honor.”
24:12 Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not also tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 24:13 ‘If Balak would give me his palace full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond 201 the commandment 202 of the Lord to do either good or evil of my own will, 203 but whatever the Lord tells me I must speak’? 24:14 And now, I am about to go 204 back to my own people. Come now, and I will advise you as to what this people will do to your people in the future.” 205
“The oracle of Balaam son of Beor;
the oracle of the man whose eyes are open;
24:16 the oracle of the one who hears the words of God,
and who knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
although falling flat on the ground with eyes open:
24:17 ‘I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not close at hand. 207
and a scepter 210 will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the skulls 211 of Moab,
24:18 Edom will be a possession,
Seir, 214 his enemies, will also be a possession;
but Israel will act valiantly.
24:19 A ruler will be established from Jacob;
he will destroy the remains of the city.’” 215
“Amalek was the first 218 of the nations,
but his end will be that he will perish.”
24:21 Then he looked on the Kenites and uttered this oracle:
“Your dwelling place seems strong,
and your nest 219 is set on a rocky cliff.
How long will Asshur take you away captive?”
24:23 Then he uttered this oracle:
“O, who will survive when God does this! 221
and will afflict Asshur, 223 and will afflict Eber,
and he will also perish forever.” 224
1 sn This chapter has several events in it: the victory over Arad (vv. 1-3), the plague of serpents (vv. 4-9), the approach to Moab (vv. 10-20), and the victory over Sihon and Og (vv. 21-35). For information, see D. M. Gunn, “The ‘Battle Report’: Oral or Scribal Convention.” JBL 93 (1974): 513-18; and of the extensive literature on the archaeological site, see EAEHL 1:74-89.
2 sn The name Arad probably refers to a place a number of miles away from Tel Arad in southern Israel. The name could also refer to the whole region (like Edom).
3 tn Or “the south”; “Negev” has become a technical name for the southern desert region and is still in use in modern times.
4 tn The Hebrew text uses a cognate accusative with the verb: They vowed a vow. The Israelites were therefore determined with God’s help to defeat Arad.
5 tn The Hebrew text has the infinitive absolute and the imperfect tense of נָתַן (natan) to stress the point – if you will surely/indeed give.”
6 tn Heb “my.”
7 tn On the surface this does not sound like much of a vow. But the key is in the use of the verb for “utterly destroy” – חָרַם (kharam). Whatever was put to this “ban” or “devotion” belonged to God, either for his use, or for destruction. The oath was in fact saying that they would take nothing from this for themselves. It would simply be the removal of what was alien to the faith, or to God’s program.
8 tc Smr, Greek, and Syriac add “into his hand.”
9 tn In the Hebrew text the verb has no expressed subject, and so here too is made passive. The name “Hormah” is etymologically connected to the verb “utterly destroy,” forming the popular etymology (or paronomasia, a phonetic wordplay capturing the significance of the event).
10 tn The “Red Sea” is the general designation for the bodies of water on either side of the Sinai peninsula, even though they are technically gulfs from the Red Sea.
11 tn Heb “the soul of the people,” expressing the innermost being of the people as they became frustrated.
12 tn Heb “our souls.”
13 tn The Israelites’ opinion about the manna was clear enough – “worthless.” The word used is קְלֹקֵל (qÿloqel, “good for nothing, worthless, miserable”).
14 tn Heb “fiery.”
15 tn The designation of the serpents/ snakes is נְחָשִׁים (nÿkhashim), which is similar to the word for “bronze” (נְחֹשֶׁת, nÿkhoshet). This has led some scholars to describe the serpents as bronze in color. The description of them as fiery indicates they were poisonous. Perhaps the snake in question is a species of adder.
16 tn The verb is the Hiphil jussive with a vav (ו) consecutive from the verb סוּר (sur); after the imperative this form may be subordinated to become a purpose clause.
17 tn The word order is slightly different in Hebrew: “and it shall be anyone who is bitten when he looks at it he shall live.”
18 sn The image of the snake was to be a symbol of the curse that the Israelites were experiencing; by lifting the snake up on a pole Moses was indicating that the curse would be drawn away from the people – if they looked to it, which was a sign of faith. This symbol was later stored in the temple, until it became an object of worship and had to be removed (2 Kgs 18:4). Jesus, of course, alluded to it and used it as an illustration of his own mission. He would become the curse, and be lifted up, so that people who looked by faith to him would live (John 3:14). For further material, see D. J. Wiseman, “Flying Serpents,” TynBul 23 (1972): 108-10; and K. R. Joines, “The Bronze Serpent in the Israelite Cult,” JBL 87 (1968): 245-56.
19 sn See further D. L. Christensen, “Numbers 21:14-15 and the Book of the Wars of Yahweh,” CBQ 36 (1974): 359-60; G. W. Coats, “The Wilderness Itinerary,” CBQ 34 (1972): 135-52; G. I. Davies, “The Wilderness Itinerary,” TB 25 (1974): 46-81; idem, The Way of the Wilderness; G. E. Mendenhall, “The Hebrew Conquest of Palestine,” BA 25 (1962): 66-87.
20 sn These places are uncertain. Oboth may be some 15 miles (25 km) from the south end of the Dead Sea at a place called ‘Ain el-Weiba. Iye Abarim may be the modern Mahay at the southeastern corner of Moab. See J. Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament.
21 tn Heb “the rising of the sun.”
22 tn Or “border.”
23 tc The ancient versions show a wide variation here: Smr has “Waheb on the Sea of Reeds,” the Greek version has “he has set Zoob on fire and the torrents of Arnon.” Several modern versions treat the first line literally, taking the two main words as place names: Waheb and Suphah. This seems most likely, but then there would then be no subject or verb. One would need something like “the Israelites marched through.” The KJV, following the Vulgate, made the first word a verb and read the second as “Red Sea” – “what he did in the Red Sea.” But subject of the passage is the terrain. D. L. Christensen proposed emending the first part from אֶת וָהֵב (’et vahev) to אַתָּה יְהוָה (’attah yehvah, “the
24 tc There are many variations in this text, but the MT reading of something like “the descent of the torrents/valleys” is preferable, since it is describing the topography.
25 sn The place is unknown; it is apparently an important city in the region.
28 tn After the adverb “then” the prefixed conjugation has the preterite force. For the archaic constructions, see D. N. Freedman, “Archaic Forms in Early Hebrew Poetry,” ZAW 72 (1960): 101-7. The poem shows all the marks of being ancient.
29 sn The brief song is supposed to be an old workers’ song, and so the mention of leaders and princes is unusual. Some think they are given credit because they directed where the workers were to dig. The scepter and staff might have served some symbolic or divining custom.
30 tn Or perhaps as a place name, “Jeshimon.”
31 sn For this section, see further J. R. Bartlett, “Sihon and Og of the Amorites,” VT 20 (1970): 257-77, and “The Moabites and the Edomites,” Peoples of Old Testament Times, 229-58; S. H. Horn, “The Excavations at Tell Hesban, 1973,” ADAJ 18 (1973): 87-88.
32 tc Smr and the LXX have “words of peace.”
33 tn The Hebrew text uses the singular in these verses to match the reference to “Israel.”
34 tc Smr has “by the King’s way I will go. I will not turn aside to the right or the left.”
35 tn Heb “Sihon.”
36 tn Heb “people.”
37 tn The clause begins with a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive, but may be subordinated to the next preterite as a temporal clause.
38 tn The Hebrew text has “Israel,” but the verb is plural.
39 tn Heb “with the edge of the sword.”
40 tn Heb “its daughters.”
41 sn There is a justice, always, in the divine plan for the conquest of the land. Modern students of the Bible often think that the conquest passages are crude and unjust. But an understanding of the ancient Near East is critical here. This Sihon was not a part of the original population of the land. He himself invaded the territory and destroyed the population of Moab that was indigenous there and established his own kingdom. The ancient history is filled with such events; it is the way of life they chose – conquer or be conquered. For Israel to defeat them was in part a turning of their own devices back on their heads – “those that live by the sword will die by the sword.” Sihon knew this, and he did not wait, but took the war to Israel. Israel wanted to pass through, not fight. But now they would either fight or be pushed into the gorge. So God used Israel to defeat Sihon, who had no claim to the land, as part of divine judgment.
42 sn Proverbs of antiquity could include pithy sayings or longer songs, riddles, or poems composed to catch the significance or the irony of an event. This is a brief poem to remember the event, like an Egyptian victory song. It may have originated as an Amorite war taunt song; it was sung to commemorate this victory. It was cited later by Jeremiah (48:45-46). The composer invites his victorious people to rebuild the conquered city as a new capital for Sihon. He then turns to address the other cities which his God(s) has/have given to him. See P. D. Hanson, “The Song of Heshbon and David’s Nir,” HTR 61 (1968): 301.
43 tn Meaning, “rebuilt and restored.”
44 tc Some scholars emend to בָּלְעָה (bal’ah), reading “and devoured,” instead of בַּעֲלֵי (ba’aley, “its lords”); cf. NAB, NRSV, TEV. This emendation is closer to the Greek and makes a better parallelism, but the MT makes good sense as it stands.
45 sn The note of holy war emerges here as the victory is a victory over the local gods as well as over the people.
46 tc The first verb is difficult. MT has “we shot at them.” The Greek has “their posterity perished” (see GKC 218 §76.f).
47 tc The relative pronoun “which” (אֲשֶׁר, ’asher) posed a problem for the ancient scribes here, as indicated by the so-called extraordinary point (punta extraordinaria) over the letter ר (resh) of אֲשֶׁר. Smr and the LXX have “fire” (אֵשׁ, ’esh) here (cf. NAB, NJB, RSV, NRSV). Some modern scholars emend the word to שֹׁאָה (sho’ah, “devastation”).
48 tn Heb “Israel.”
49 tn Heb “Moses sent to spy out.”
50 tn Heb “daughters.”
51 tn Heb “people.”
52 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Og) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
53 tn Heb “no remnant.”
54 sn The fifth section of the book (22:1-33:56) traces the Israelite activities in Transjordan. It is hard to determine how long they were in Transjordan, but a good amount of time must have elapsed for the number of moves they made and the wars they fought. There is a considerable amount of information available on this section of the book. Some of the most helpful works include: H. C. Brichto, The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible (JBLMS); E. Burrows, The Oracles of Jacob and Balaam; G. W. Coats, “Balaam, Sinner or Saint?” BR 18 (1973): 21-29; P. C. Craigie, “The Conquest and Early Hebrew Poetry,” TynBul 20 (1969): 76-94; I. Parker, “The Way of God and the Way of Balaam,” ExpTim 17 (1905): 45; and J. A. Wharton, “The Command to Bless: An Exposition of Numbers 22:41–23:25,” Int 13 (1959): 37-48. This first part introduces the characters and sets the stage for the oracles. It can be divided into four sections: the invitation declined (vv. 1-14), the second invitation extended (vv. 15-21), God opposes Balaam (vv. 22-35), and Balaam meets Balak (vv. 36-41).
55 tn The verse begins with the vav (ו) consecutive.
56 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
58 tn The word is simply “company,” but in the context he must mean a vast company – a horde of people.
59 sn There is much literature on pagan diviners and especially prophecy in places in the east like Mari (see, for example, H. B. Huffmon, “Prophecy in the Mari Letters,” BA 31 : 101-24). Balaam appears to be a pagan diviner who was of some reputation; he was called to curse the Israelites, but God intervened and gave him blessings only. The passage forms a nice complement to texts that deal with blessings and curses. It shows that no one can curse someone whom God has blessed.
60 tn Heb “by the river”; in most contexts this expression refers to the Euphrates River (cf. NAB, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
61 tn Heb “in the land of Amaw” (cf. NAB, NRSV, TEV); traditionally “in the land of the sons of his people.” The LXX has “by the river of the land.”
63 tn The two lines before this verse begin with the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh), and so they lay the foundation for these imperatives. In view of those circumstances, this is what should happen.
65 tn The construction uses the imperfect tense אוּכַל (’ukhal, “I will be able”) followed by the imperfect tense נַכֶּה (nakkeh, “we will smite/attack/defeat”). The second verb is clearly the purpose or the result of the first, even though there is no conjunction or particle.
66 tn The verb is the Piel imperfect of בָּרַךְ (barakh), with the nuance of possibility: “whomever you may bless.” The Pual participle מְבֹרָךְ (mÿvorakh) serves as the predicate.
67 tn Heb “spoke.”
68 tn The verb לִין (lin) means “to lodge, spend the night.” The related noun is “a lodge” – a hotel of sorts. Balaam needed to consider the offer. And after darkness was considered the best time for diviners to consult with their deities. Balaam apparently knows of the
69 tn In this passage the text differs slightly; here it is “the nation that comes out,” using the article on the noun, and the active participle in the attributive adjective usage.
70 tn Here the infinitive construct is used to express the object or complement of the verb “to be able” (it answers the question of what he will be able to do).
71 tn The verb is the Piel perfect with vav (ו) consecutive. It either carries the force of an imperfect tense, or it may be subordinated to the preceding verbs.
72 tn The two verbs are negated imperfects; they have the nuance of prohibition: You must not go and you must not curse.
73 tn The word בָּרוּךְ (barukh) is the Qal passive participle, serving here as the predicate adjective after the supplied verb “to be.” The verb means “enrich,” in any way, materially, spiritually, physically. But the indication here is that the blessing includes the promised blessing of the patriarchs, a blessing that gave Israel the land. See further, C. Westermann, Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church (OBT).
74 tc The LXX adds “to your lord.”
75 tn The main verb is the Piel perfect, “he has refused.” This is followed by two infinitives. The first (לְתִתִּי, lÿtitti) serves as a complement or direct object of the verb, answering the question of what he refused to do – “to give me.” The second infinitive (לַהֲלֹךְ, lahalokh) provides the object for the preceding infinitive: “to grant me to go.”
76 tn Heb “rose up.”
77 tn The construction is a verbal hendiadys. It uses the Hiphil preterite of the verb “to add” followed by the Qal infinitive “to send.” The infinitive becomes the main verb, and the preterite an adverb: “he added to send” means “he sent again.”
78 tn Heb “than these.”
79 tn The infinitive construct is the object of the preposition.
80 tn The construction uses the Piel infinitive כַּבֵּד (kabbed) to intensify the verb, which is the Piel imperfect/cohortative אֲכַבֶּדְךָ (’akhabbedkha). The great honor could have been wealth, prestige, or position.
81 tn Heb “answered and said.”
82 tn Heb “mouth.”
83 sn In the light of subsequent events one should not take too seriously that Balaam referred to Yahweh as his God. He is referring properly to the deity for which he is acting as the agent.
84 tn In this case “lodge” is not used, but “remain, reside” (שְׁבוּ, shÿvu).
85 tn This clause is also a verbal hendiadys: “what the
86 sn God’s anger now seems to contradict the permission he gave Balaam just before this. Some commentators argue that God’s anger is a response to Balaam’s character in setting out – which the Bible does not explain. God saw in him greed and pleasure for the riches, which is why he was so willing to go.
87 tn The word is שָׂטָן (satan, “to be an adversary, to oppose”).
88 tn The word has the conjunction “and” on the noun, indicating this is a disjunctive vav (ו), here serving as a circumstantial clause.
89 tn The word means a “narrow place,” having the root meaning “to be deep.” The Greek thought it was in a field in a narrow furrow.
90 tn Heb “a wall on this side, and a wall on that side.”
91 tn Heb “he added to beat her,” another verbal hendiadys.
92 tn The optative clause is introduced with the particle לוּ (lu).
93 tn Here the Hiphil perfect is preceded by the Hiphil infinitive absolute for emphasis in the sentence.
94 tn Heb “to do thus to you.”
95 tn The Hishtaphel verb חָוָה (khavah) – שָׁחָה (shakhah) with metathesis – has a basic idea of “bow oneself low to the ground,” and perhaps in some cases the idea of “coil up.” This is the normal posture of prayer and of deep humility in the ancient religious world.
96 tn Heb “your way.”
98 tc Many commentators consider אוּלַי (’ulay, “perhaps”) to be a misspelling in the MT in place of לוּלֵי (luley, “if not”).
99 sn Balaam is not here making a general confession of sin. What he is admitting to is a procedural mistake. The basic meaning of the word is “to miss the mark.” He now knows he took the wrong way, i.e., in coming to curse Israel.
100 sn The reference is to Balaam’s way. He is saying that if what he is doing is so perverse, so evil, he will turn around and go home. Of course, it did not appear that he had much of a chance of going forward.
101 tn The verb is the cohortative from “return”: I will return [me].
102 tn The imperfect tense here can be given the nuance of permission.
103 tn The Hebrew word order is a little more emphatic than this: “but only the word which I speak to you, it you shall speak.”
104 tn The emphatic construction is made of the infinitive absolute and the perfect tense from the verb שָׁלַח (shalakh, “to send”). The idea must be more intense than something like, “Did I not certainly send.” Balak is showing frustration with Balaam for refusing him.
105 sn Balak again refers to his ability to “honor” the seer. This certainly meant payment for his service, usually gold ornaments, rings and jewelry, as well as some animals.
106 tn The verb is אוּכַל (’ukhal) in a question – “am I able?” But emphasizing this is the infinitive absolute before it. So Balaam is saying something like, “Can I really say anything?”
107 tn The Piel infinitive construct (without the preposition) serves as the object of the verb “to be able.” The whole question is rhetorical – he is saying that he will not be able to say anything God does not allow him to say.
108 tn The imperfect tense is here taken as an obligatory imperfect.
109 sn The understanding is that Balak was making a sacrifice for a covenant relationship, and so he gave some of the meat to the men and to the seer.
110 sn The name Bamoth Baal means “the high places of Baal.”
111 sn The first part of Balaam’s activity ends in disaster for Balak – he blesses Israel. The chapter falls into four units: the first prophecy (vv. 1-10), the relocation (vv. 11-17), the second prophecy (vv. 18-24), and a further location (vv. 25-30).
112 tn The Hebrew text has “on the altar,” but since there were seven of each animal and seven altars, the implication is that this means on each altar.
113 tn The verb הִתְיַצֵּב (hityatsev) means “to take a stand, station oneself.” It is more intentional than simply standing by something. He was to position himself by the sacrifice as Balaam withdrew to seek the oracle.
114 tn Heb “and the word of what he shows me.” The noun is in construct, and so the clause that follows functions as a noun clause in the genitive. The point is that the word will consist of divine revelation.
115 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive. This clause is dependent on the clause that precedes it.
116 sn He went up to a bald spot, to a barren height. The statement underscores the general belief that such tops were the closest things to the gods. On such heights people built their shrines and temples.
117 tn The relative pronoun is added here in place of the conjunction to clarify that Balaam is speaking to God and not vice versa.
118 tn Heb “word.”
119 tn Heb “and thus you shall speak.”
120 tn The Hebrew text draws the vividness of the scene with the deictic particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) – Balaam returned, and there he was, standing there.
121 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
122 tn Heb “took up.”
123 tn The passage calls for a past tense translation; since the verb form is a prefixed conjugation, this tense should be classified as a preterite without the vav (ו). Such forms do occur, especially in the ancient poetic passages.
124 sn The opening lines seem to be a formula for the seer to identify himself and the occasion for the oracle. The tension is laid out early; Balaam knows that God has intended to bless Israel, but he has been paid to curse them.
125 tn The figure is erotesis, a rhetorical question. He is actually saying he cannot curse them because God has not cursed them.
126 tn The imperfect tense should here be classified as a potential imperfect.
127 tn Heb “him,” but here it refers to the Israelites (Israel).
128 sn Balaam reports his observation of the nation of Israel spread out below him in the valley. Based on that vision, and the
129 tn The verb could also be taken as a reflexive – Israel does not consider itself as among the nations, meaning, they consider themselves to be unique.
130 tn The question is again rhetorical; it means no one can count them – they are innumerable.
131 tn The perfect tense can also be classified as a potential nuance. It does not occur very often, but does occur several times.
132 sn The reference in the oracle is back to Gen 13:16, which would not be clear to Balaam. But God had described their growth like the dust of the earth. Here it is part of the description of the vast numbers.
133 tn Heb “and as a number, the fourth part of Israel.” The noun in the MT is not in the construct state, and so it should be taken as an adverbial accusative, forming a parallel with the verb “count.” The second object of the verse then follows, “the fourth part of Israel.” Smr and the LXX have “and who has numbered” (וּמִסְפָּר, umispar), making this colon more parallel to the preceding one. The editor of BHS prefers this reading.
134 tn The use of נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) for the subject of the verb stresses the personal nature – me.
135 sn Here the seer’s words link with the promise of Gen 12:3, that whoever blesses Israel will be blessed. Since the blessing belongs to them, the upright (and not Balak), Balaam would like his lot to be with them.
136 tn Heb “my latter end.”
137 tn Heb “his.”
138 tn The Hebrew text uses הִנֵּה (hinneh) here to stress the contrast.
139 tn The construction is emphatic, using the perfect tense and the infinitive absolute to give it the emphasis. It would have the force of “you have done nothing but bless,” or “you have indeed blessed.” The construction is reminiscent of the call of Abram and the promise of the blessing in such elaborate terms.
140 tn Heb “he answered and said.” The referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
141 tn The verb שָׁמַר (shamar) means “to guard, watch, observe” and so here with a sense of “be careful” or even “take heed” (so KJV, ASV). The nuance of the imperfect tense would be obligatory: “I must be careful” – to do what? to speak what the
142 tn The clause is a noun clause serving as the direct object of “to speak.” It begins with the sign of the accusative, and then the relative pronoun that indicates the whole clause is the accusative.
143 tn Heb “he brought him”; the referents (Balak and Balaam) have been specified in the translation for clarity.
144 tn Some scholars do not translate this word as “Pisgah,” but rather as a “lookout post” or an “elevated place.”
145 tn Heb “and he built.”
146 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
147 tn The verse uses כֹּה (koh) twice: “Station yourself here…I will meet [the
148 tn Heb “word.”
149 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
150 tn Heb “he.” The antecedent has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
151 tn Heb “took up.”
152 tn The verb probably means “pay attention” in this verse.
153 tn Heb “son of man.”
154 tn The verb is the Hiphil of קוּם (qum, “to cause to rise; to make stand”). The meaning here is more of the sense of fulfilling the promises made.
155 tn The Hebrew text simply has “I have received [to] bless.” The infinitive is the object of the verb, telling what he received. Balaam was not actually commanded to bless, but was given the word of blessing so that he was given a divine decree that would bless Israel.
156 sn The reference is probably to the first speech, where the
157 tn The verb is the Hiphil of שׁוּב (shuv), meaning “to cause to return.” He cannot return God’s word to him, for it has been given, and it will be fulfilled.
158 tn These could be understood as impersonal and so rendered “no one has discovered.”
159 sn The line could mean that God has regarded Israel as the ideal congregation without any blemish or flaw. But it could also mean that God has not looked on their iniquity, meaning, held it against them.
160 tn The word means “wrong, misery, trouble.” It can mean the idea of “disaster” as well, for that too is trouble. Here it is parallel to “iniquity” and so has the connotation of something that would give God reason to curse them.
161 tn The people are blessed because God is their king. In fact, the shout of acclamation is among them – they are proclaiming the
162 tn The form is the Hiphil participle from יָצַא (yatsa’) with the object suffix. He is the one who brought them out.
164 tn Or “in Jacob.” But given the context the meaning “against” is preferable. The words describe two techniques of consulting God; the first has to do with observing omens in general (“enchantments”), and the second with casting lots or arrows of the like (“divinations” [Ezek 21:26]). See N. H. Snaith, Leviticus and Numbers (NCB), 295-96.
165 tn The form is the preposition “like, as” and the word for “time” – according to the time, about this time, now.
166 tn The Niphal imperfect here carries the nuance of obligation – one has to say in amazement that God has done something marvelous or “it must be said.”
167 tn The words “look at” are not in the Hebrew text but have been added in the translation for clarity.
168 tn The pronoun “their” has been supplied for clarity; it is not present in the Hebrew text.
169 sn The oracle compares Israel first to a lion, or better, lioness, because she does the tracking and hunting of food while the lion moves up and down roaring and distracting the prey. But the lion is also the traditional emblem of Judah, Dan and Gad, as well as the symbol of royalty. So this also supports the motif of royalty as well as power for Israel.
170 tn The verb is preceded by the infinitive absolute: “you shall by no means curse” or “do not curse them at all.” He brought him to curse, and when he tried to curse there was a blessing. Balak can only say it would be better not to bother.
171 tn The same construction now works with “nor bless them at all.” The two together form a merism – “don’t say anything.” He does not want them blessed, so Balaam is not to do that, but the curse isn’t working either.
172 tn Heb “answered and said.”
173 tn This first clause, “all that the
174 tn Heb “be pleasing in the eyes of God.”
175 sn Balak is stubborn, as indeed Balaam is persistent. But Balak still thinks that if another location were used it just might work. Balaam had actually told Balak in the prophecy that other attempts would fail. But Balak refuses to give up so easily. So he insists they perform the ritual and try again. This time, however, Balaam will change his approach, and this will result in a dramatic outpouring of power on him.
177 sn For a thorough study of the arrangement of this passage, see E. B. Smick, “A Study of the Structure of the Third Balaam Oracle,” The Law and the Prophets, 242-52. He sees the oracle as having an introductory strophe (vv. 3, 4), followed by two stanzas (vv. 5, 6) that introduce the body (vv. 7b-9b) before the final benediction (v. 9b).
178 tn Heb “it was good in the eyes of the
179 tn Heb “as time after time.”
180 tn The word נְחָשִׁים (nÿkhashim) means “omens,” or possibly “auguries.” Balaam is not even making a pretense now of looking for such things, because they are not going to work. God has overruled them.
181 tn The idiom signifies that he had a determination and resolution to look out over where the Israelites were, so that he could appreciate more their presence and use that as the basis for his expressing of the oracle.
182 tn Heb “living according to their tribes.”
183 tn Heb “and he took up his oracle and said.”
184 tn The word נְאֻם (nÿ’um) is an “oracle.” It is usually followed by a subjective genitive, indicating the doer of the action. The word could be rendered “says,” but this translations is more specific.
185 tn The Greek version reads “the one who sees truly.” The word has been interpreted in both ways, “shut” or “open.”
186 tn The phrase “flat on the ground” is supplied in the translation for clarity. The Greek version interprets the line to mean “falling asleep.” It may mean falling into a trance.
187 tn The last colon simply has “falling, but opened eyes.” The falling may simply refer to lying prone; and the opened eyes may refer to his receiving a vision. See H. E. Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, 37-41.
189 tn Heb “as valleys they spread forth.”
190 tn Or “rows of palms.”
191 sn The language seems to be more poetic than precise. N. H. Snaith notes that cedars do not grow beside water; he also connects “aloes” to the eaglewood that is more exotic, and capable of giving off an aroma (Leviticus and Numbers [NCB], 298).
192 tc For this colon the LXX has “a man shall come out of his seed.” Cf. the Syriac Peshitta and Targum.
193 tn Heb “many.”
194 sn These two lines are difficult, but the general sense is that of irrigation buckets and a well-watered land. The point is that Israel will be prosperous and fruitful.
195 sn Many commentators see this as a reference to Agag of 1 Sam 15:32-33, the Amalekite king slain by Samuel, for that is the one we know. But that is by no means clear, for this text does not identify this Agag. If it is that king, then this poem, or this line in this poem, would have to be later, unless one were to try to argue for a specific prophecy. Whoever this Agag is, he is a symbol of power.
196 tn Heb “they will devour nations,” their adversaries.
197 tn On the usage of this word see HALOT 517 s.v. לָבִיא.
199 tn The construction is emphatic, using the infinitive absolute with the perfect tense for “bless.”
200 tn Heb “flee to your place.”
201 tn Heb “I am not able to go beyond.”
202 tn Heb “mouth.”
203 tn Heb “from my heart.”
204 tn The construction is the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) suffixed followed by the active participle. This is the futur instans use of the participle, to express something that is about to happen: “I am about to go.”
205 tn Heb “in the latter days.” For more on this expression, see E. Lipinski, “באחרית הימים dans les textes préexiliques,” VT 20 (1970): 445-50.
206 tn Heb “and he took up his oracle and said.”
207 tn Heb “near.”
208 sn This is a figure for a king (see also Isa 14:12) not only in the Bible but in the ancient Near Eastern literature as a whole. The immediate reference of the prophecy seems to be to David, but the eschatological theme goes beyond him. There is to be a connection made between this passage and the sighting of a star in its ascendancy by the magi, who then traveled to Bethlehem to see the one born King of the Jews (Matt 2:2). The expression “son of a star” (Aram Bar Kochba) became a title for a later claimant to kingship, but he was doomed by the Romans in
209 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it is equal to the imperfect expressing the future. The verb דָּרַךְ (darakh), related to the noun “way, road,” seems to mean something like tread on, walk, march.”
210 sn The “scepter” is metonymical for a king who will rise to power. NEB strangely rendered this as “comet” to make a parallel with “star.”
211 tn The word is literally “corners,” but may refer to the corners of the head, and so “skull.”
213 sn The prophecy begins to be fulfilled when David defeated Moab and Edom and established an empire including them. But the Messianic promise extends far beyond that to the end of the age and the inclusion of these defeated people in the program of the coming King.
215 tn Or, understanding the Hebrew word for “city” as a place name, “of Ir” (cf. NRSV, NLT).
216 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
218 sn This probably means that it held first place, or it thought that it was “the first of the nations.” It was not the first, either in order or greatness.
219 sn A pun is made on the name Kenite by using the word “your nest” (קִנֶּךָ, qinnekha); the location may be the rocky cliffs overlooking Petra.
220 tc Heb “Nevertheless Cain will be wasted; how long will Asshur take you captive?” Cain was believed to be the ancestor of the Kenites. The NAB has “yet destined for burning, even as I watch, are your inhabitants.” Asshur may refer to a north Arabian group of people of Abrahamic stock (Gen 25:3), and not the Assyrian empire.
221 tc Because there is no parallel line, some have thought that it dropped out (see de Vaulx, Les Nombres, 296).
222 tc The MT is difficult. The Kittim refers normally to Cyprus, or any maritime people to the west. W. F. Albright proposed emending the line to “islands will gather in the north, ships from the distant sea” (“The Oracles of Balaam,” JBL 63 : 222-23). Some commentators accept that reading as the original state of the text, since the present MT makes little sense.
223 tn Or perhaps “Assyria” (so NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
224 tn Or “it will end in utter destruction.”
225 tn Heb “place.”