“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.