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Numbers 22:21-35

Context
22:21 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

God Opposes Balaam

22:22 Then God’s anger was kindled 1  because he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose 2  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 3  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 4  among the vineyards, where there was a wall on either side. 5  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. 6 

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 7  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 8  to treat you this way?” 9  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. 10  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 11  is perverse before me. 12  22:33 The donkey saw me and turned from me these three times. If 13  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. 14  So now, if it is evil in your sight, 15  I will go back home.” 16  22:35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you may only speak 17  the word that I will speak to you.” 18  So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

1 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.

2 tn The word is שָׂטָן (satan, “to be an adversary, to oppose”).

3 tn The word has the conjunction “and” on the noun, indicating this is a disjunctive vav (ו), here serving as a circumstantial clause.

4 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.

5 tn Heb “a wall on this side, and a wall on that side.”

6 tn Heb “he added to beat her,” another verbal hendiadys.

7 tn The optative clause is introduced with the particle לוּ (lu).

8 tn Here the Hiphil perfect is preceded by the Hiphil infinitive absolute for emphasis in the sentence.

9 tn Heb “to do thus to you.”

10 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.

11 tn Heb “your way.”

12 tn The verb יָרַט (yarat) occurs only here and in Job 16:11. Balaam is embarking on a foolish mission with base motives. The old rendering “perverse” is still acceptable.

13 tc Many commentators consider אוּלַי (’ulay, “perhaps”) to be a misspelling in the MT in place of לוּלֵי (luley, “if not”).

14 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.

15 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.

16 tn The verb is the cohortative from “return”: I will return [me].

17 tn The imperfect tense here can be given the nuance of permission.

18 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.”



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