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Numbers 23:9-11

Context

23:9 For from the top of the rocks I see them; 1 

from the hills I watch them. 2 

Indeed, a nation that lives alone,

and it will not be reckoned 3  among the nations.

23:10 Who 4  can count 5  the dust 6  of Jacob,

Or number 7  the fourth part of Israel?

Let me 8  die the death of the upright, 9 

and let the end of my life 10  be like theirs.” 11 

Balaam Relocates

23:11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but on the contrary 12  you have only blessed them!” 13 

Numbers 23:23

Context

23:23 For there is no spell against 14  Jacob,

nor is there any divination against Israel.

At this time 15  it must be said 16  of Jacob

and of Israel, ‘Look at 17  what God has done!’

1 tn Heb “him,” but here it refers to the Israelites (Israel).

2 sn Balaam reports his observation of the nation of Israel spread out below him in the valley. Based on that vision, and the Lord’s word, he announces the uniqueness of Israel – they are not just like one of the other nations. He was correct, of course; they were the only people linked with the living God by covenant.

3 tn The verb could also be taken as a reflexive – Israel does not consider itself as among the nations, meaning, they consider themselves to be unique.

4 tn The question is again rhetorical; it means no one can count them – they are innumerable.

5 tn The perfect tense can also be classified as a potential nuance. It does not occur very often, but does occur several times.

6 sn The reference in the oracle is back to Gen 13:16, which would not be clear to Balaam. But God had described their growth like the dust of the earth. Here it is part of the description of the vast numbers.

7 tn Heb “and as a number, the fourth part of Israel.” The noun in the MT is not in the construct state, and so it should be taken as an adverbial accusative, forming a parallel with the verb “count.” The second object of the verse then follows, “the fourth part of Israel.” Smr and the LXX have “and who has numbered” (וּמִסְפָּר, umispar), making this colon more parallel to the preceding one. The editor of BHS prefers this reading.

8 tn The use of נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) for the subject of the verb stresses the personal nature – me.

9 sn Here the seer’s words link with the promise of Gen 12:3, that whoever blesses Israel will be blessed. Since the blessing belongs to them, the upright (and not Balak), Balaam would like his lot to be with them.

10 tn Heb “my latter end.”

11 tn Heb “his.”

12 tn The Hebrew text uses הִנֵּה (hinneh) here to stress the contrast.

13 tn The construction is emphatic, using the perfect tense and the infinitive absolute to give it the emphasis. It would have the force of “you have done nothing but bless,” or “you have indeed blessed.” The construction is reminiscent of the call of Abram and the promise of the blessing in such elaborate terms.

14 tn Or “in Jacob.” But given the context the meaning “against” is preferable. The words describe two techniques of consulting God; the first has to do with observing omens in general (“enchantments”), and the second with casting lots or arrows of the like (“divinations” [Ezek 21:26]). See N. H. Snaith, Leviticus and Numbers (NCB), 295-96.

15 tn The form is the preposition “like, as” and the word for “time” – according to the time, about this time, now.

16 tn The Niphal imperfect here carries the nuance of obligation – one has to say in amazement that God has done something marvelous or “it must be said.”

17 tn The words “look at” are not in the Hebrew text but have been added in the translation for clarity.



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