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Numbers 23:18-24

Context
Balaam Prophesies Again

23:18 Balaam 1  uttered 2  his oracle, and said,

“Rise up, 3  Balak, and hear;

Listen to me, son of Zippor:

23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie,

nor a human being, 4  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? 5 

23:20 Indeed, I have received a command 6  to bless;

he has blessed, 7  and I cannot reverse it. 8 

23:21 He 9  has not looked on iniquity in Jacob, 10 

nor has he seen trouble 11  in Israel.

The Lord their God is with them;

his acclamation 12  as king is among them.

23:22 God brought them 13  out of Egypt.

They have, as it were, the strength of a wild bull. 14 

23:23 For there is no spell against 15  Jacob,

nor is there any divination against Israel.

At this time 16  it must be said 17  of Jacob

and of Israel, ‘Look at 18  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 19  prey,

and drink the blood of the slain.” 20 

1 tn Heb “he.” The antecedent has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Heb “took up.”

3 tn The verb probably means “pay attention” in this verse.

4 tn Heb “son of man.”

5 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.

6 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.

7 sn The reference is probably to the first speech, where the Lord blessed Israel. Balaam knows that there is nothing he can do to reverse what God has said.

8 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.

9 tn These could be understood as impersonal and so rendered “no one has discovered.”

10 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.

11 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.

12 tn The people are blessed because God is their king. In fact, the shout of acclamation is among them – they are proclaiming the Lord God as their king. The word is used normally for the sound of the trumpet, but also of battle shouts, and then here acclamation. This would represent their conviction that Yahweh is king. On the usage of this Hebrew word see further BDB 929-30 s.v. תְּרוּעָה; HALOT 1790-91 s.v.

13 tn The form is the Hiphil participle from יָצַא (yatsa’) with the object suffix. He is the one who brought them out.

14 sn The expression is “the horns of the wild ox” (KJV “unicorn”). The point of the image is strength or power. Horns are also used in the Bible to represent kingship (see Pss 89 and 132).

15 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.

16 tn The form is the preposition “like, as” and the word for “time” – according to the time, about this time, now.

17 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.”

18 tn The words “look at” are not in the Hebrew text but have been added in the translation for clarity.

19 tn The pronoun “their” has been supplied for clarity; it is not present in the Hebrew text.

20 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.



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