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Numbers 22:36-41

Context
Balaam Meets 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 1  to you to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 2  22:38 Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you. Now, am I able 3  to speak 4  just anything? I must speak 5  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 6  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. 7  From there he saw the extent of the nation.

1 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.

2 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.

3 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?”

4 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.

5 tn The imperfect tense is here taken as an obligatory imperfect.

6 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.

7 sn The name Bamoth Baal means “the high places of Baal.”



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