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Numbers 23:7-8

Context
23:7 Then Balaam 1  uttered 2  his oracle, saying,

“Balak, the king of Moab, brought me 3  from Aram,

out of the mountains of the east, saying,

‘Come, pronounce a curse on Jacob for me;

come, denounce Israel.’ 4 

23:8 How 5  can I curse 6  one whom God has not cursed,

or how can I denounce one whom the Lord has not denounced?

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

2 tn Heb “took up.”

3 tn The passage calls for a past tense translation; since the verb form is a prefixed conjugation, this tense should be classified as a preterite without the vav (ו). Such forms do occur, especially in the ancient poetic passages.

4 sn The opening lines seem to be a formula for the seer to identify himself and the occasion for the oracle. The tension is laid out early; Balaam knows that God has intended to bless Israel, but he has been paid to curse them.

5 tn The figure is erotesis, a rhetorical question. He is actually saying he cannot curse them because God has not cursed them.

6 tn The imperfect tense should here be classified as a potential imperfect.



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