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Numbers 23:25--24:3

Context
Balaam Relocates Yet Again

23:25 Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all 1  nor bless them at all!” 2  23:26 But Balaam replied 3  to Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘All that the Lord speaks, 4  I must do’?”

23:27 Balak said to Balaam, “Come, please; I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God 5  to let you curse them for me from there.” 6  23:28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that looks toward the wilderness. 7  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.

Balaam Prophesies Yet Again

24:1 8 When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, 9  he did not go as at the other times 10  to seek for omens, 11  but he set his face 12  toward the wilderness. 24:2 When Balaam lifted up his eyes, he saw Israel camped tribe by tribe; 13  and the Spirit of God came upon him. 24:3 Then he uttered this oracle: 14 

“The oracle 15  of Balaam son of Beor;

the oracle of the man whose eyes are open; 16 

1 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.

2 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.

3 tn Heb “answered and said.”

4 tn This first clause, “all that the Lord speaks” – is a noun clause functioning as the object of the verb that comes at the end of the verse. It is something of an independent accusative case, since it is picked up with the sign of the accusative: “all that the Lord speaks, it I must do.”

5 tn Heb “be pleasing in the eyes of God.”

6 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.

7 tn Or perhaps as a place name, “Jeshimon” (cf. 21:20).

8 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).

9 tn Heb “it was good in the eyes of the Lord.”

10 tn Heb “as time after time.”

11 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.

12 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.

13 tn Heb “living according to their tribes.”

14 tn Heb “and he took up his oracle and said.”

15 tn The word נְאֻם (nÿum) 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.

16 tn The Greek version reads “the one who sees truly.” The word has been interpreted in both ways, “shut” or “open.”



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