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Numbers 24:20-25

Context
Balaam’s Final Prophecies

24:20 Then Balaam 1  looked on Amalek and delivered this oracle: 2 

“Amalek was the first 3  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 4  is set on a rocky cliff.

24:22 Nevertheless the Kenite will be consumed. 5 

How long will Asshur take you away captive?”

24:23 Then he uttered this oracle:

“O, who will survive when God does this! 6 

24:24 Ships will come from the coast of Kittim, 7 

and will afflict Asshur, 8  and will afflict Eber,

and he will also perish forever.” 9 

24:25 Balaam got up and departed and returned to his home, 10  and Balak also went his way.

1 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Balaam) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Heb “and he lifted up his oracle and said.” So also in vv. 21, 23.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 tc Because there is no parallel line, some have thought that it dropped out (see de Vaulx, Les Nombres, 296).

7 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 [1944]: 222-23). Some commentators accept that reading as the original state of the text, since the present MT makes little sense.

8 tn Or perhaps “Assyria” (so NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).

9 tn Or “it will end in utter destruction.”

10 tn Heb “place.”



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