Balaam the foreign prophet

Numbers 22-24 MSG
(counting...)

Balaam

1The People of Israel marched on and camped on the Plains of Moab at Jordan-Jericho.

2-3Balak son of Zippor learned of all that Israel had done to the Amorites. The people of Moab were in a total panic because of Israel. There were so many of them! They were terrorized.4-5Moab spoke to the leaders of Midian: "Look, this mob is going to clean us out—a bunch of crows picking a carcass clean."

Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent emissaries to get Balaam son of Beor, who lived at Pethor on the banks of the Euphrates River, his homeland.

5-6Balak's emissaries said, "Look. A people has come up out of Egypt, and they're all over the place! And they're pressing hard on me. Come and curse them for me—they're too much for me. Maybe then I can beat them; we'll attack and drive them out of the country. You have a reputation: Those you bless stay blessed; those you curse stay cursed."

7-8The leaders of Moab and Midian were soon on their way, with the fee for the cursing tucked safely in their wallets. When they got to Balaam, they gave him Balak's message.

"Stay here for the night," Balaam said. "In the morning I'll deliver the answer that God gives me."

The Moabite nobles stayed with him.

9Then God came to Balaam. He asked, "So who are these men here with you?"

10-11Balaam answered, "Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent them with a message: 'Look, the people that came up out of Egypt are all over the place! Come and curse them for me. Maybe then I'll be able to attack and drive them out of the country.'"

12God said to Balaam, "Don't go with them. And don't curse the others—they are a blessed people."

13The next morning Balaam got up and told Balak's nobles, "Go back home; God refuses to give me permission to go with you."

14So the Moabite nobles left, came back to Balak, and said, "Balaam wouldn't come with us."

15-17Balak sent another group of nobles, higher ranking and more distinguished. They came to Balaam and said, "Balak son of Zippor says, 'Please, don't refuse to come to me. I will honor and reward you lavishly— anything you tell me to do, I'll do; I'll pay anything—only come and curse this people.'"

18-19Balaam answered Balak's servants: "Even if Balak gave me his house stuffed with silver and gold, I wouldn't be able to defy the orders of my God to do anything, whether big or little. But come along and stay with me tonight as the others did; I'll see what God will say to me this time."

20God came to Balaam that night and said, "Since these men have come all this way to see you, go ahead and go with them. But make sure you do absolutely nothing other than what I tell you."

21-23Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went off with the noblemen from Moab. As he was going, though, God's anger flared. The angel of God stood in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, she veered off the road into the ditch. Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road.

24-25But as they were going through a vineyard, with a fence on either side, the donkey again saw God's angel blocking the way and veered into the fence, crushing Balaam's foot against the fence. Balaam hit her again.

26-27God's angel blocked the way yet again—a very narrow passage this time; there was no getting through on the right or left. Seeing the angel, Balaam's donkey sat down under him. Balaam lost his temper; he beat the donkey with his stick.

28Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: "What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?"

29Balaam said, "Because you've been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now."

30The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you've ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?"

He said, "No."

31Then God helped Balaam see what was going on: He saw God's angel blocking the way, brandishing a sword. Balaam fell to the ground, his face in the dirt.

32-33God's angel said to him: "Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you're getting way ahead of yourself. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she hadn't, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off."

34Balaam said to God's angel, "I have sinned. I had no idea you were standing in the road blocking my way. If you don't like what I'm doing, I'll head back."

35But God's angel said to Balaam, "Go ahead and go with them. But only say what I tell you to say—absolutely no other word."

And so Balaam continued to go with Balak's nobles.

36When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him in the Moabite town that was on the banks of the Arnon, right on the boundary of his land.

37Balak said to Balaam, "Didn't I send an urgent message for help? Why didn't you come when I called? Do you think I can't pay you enough?"

38Balaam said to Balak, "Well, I'm here now. But I can't tell you just anything. I can speak only words that God gives me—no others."

39-40Balaam then accompanied Balak to Kiriath Huzoth (Street-Town). Balak slaughtered cattle and sheep for sacrifices and presented them to Balaam and the nobles who were with him.

41At daybreak Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal (The Heights of Baal) so that he could get a good view of some of the people.

1Balaam said, "Build me seven altars here, and then prepare seven bulls and seven rams."

2Balak did it. Then Balaam and Balak sacrificed a bull and a ram on each of the altars.3Balaam instructed Balak: "Stand watch here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I go off by myself. Maybe God will come and meet with me. Whatever he shows or tells me, I'll report to you." Then he went off by himself.

4God did meet with Balaam. Balaam said, "I've set up seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar."

5Then God gave Balaam a message: "Return to Balak and give him this message."

6-10He went back and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and with him all the nobles of Moab. Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:

Balak led me here from Aram,

the king of Moab all the way from the eastern mountains.

"Go, curse Jacob for me;

go, damn Israel."

How can I curse whom God has not cursed?

How can I damn whom God has not damned?

From rock pinnacles I see them,

from hilltops I survey them:

Look! a people camping off by themselves,

thinking themselves outsiders among nations.

But who could ever count the dust of Jacob

or take a census of cloud-of-dust Israel?

I want to die like these right-living people!

I want an end just like theirs!

11Balak said to Balaam, "What's this? I brought you here to curse my enemies, and all you've done is bless them."

12Balaam answered, "Don't I have to be careful to say what God gives me to say?"

13Balak said to him, "Go with me to another place from which you can only see the outskirts of their camp—you won't be able to see the whole camp. From there, curse them for my sake."

14So he took him to Watchmen's Meadow at the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars there and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

15Balaam said to Balak, "Take up your station here beside your Whole-Burnt-Offering while I meet with him over there."

16God met with Balaam and gave him a message. He said, "Return to Balak and give him the message."

17-24Balaam returned and found him stationed beside his Whole-Burnt-Offering and the nobles of Moab with him. Balak said to him, "What did God say?" Then Balaam spoke his message-oracle:

On your feet, Balak. Listen,

listen carefully son of Zippor:

God is not man, one given to lies,

and not a son of man changing his mind.

Does he speak and not do what he says?

Does he promise and not come through?

I was brought here to bless;

and now he's blessed—how can I change that?

He has no bone to pick with Jacob,

he sees nothing wrong with Israel.

God is with them,

and they're with him, shouting praises to their King.

God brought them out of Egypt,

rampaging like a wild ox.

No magic spells can bind Jacob,

no incantations can hold back Israel.

People will look at Jacob and Israel and say,

"What a great thing has God done!"

Look, a people rising to its feet, stretching like a lion,

a king-of-the-beasts, aroused,

Unsleeping, unresting until its hunt is over

and it's eaten and drunk its fill.

25Balak said to Balaam, "Well, if you can't curse them, at least don't bless them."

26Balaam replied to Balak, "Didn't I tell you earlier: 'All God speaks, and only what he speaks, I speak'?"

27-28Balak said to Balaam, "Please, let me take you to another place; maybe we can find the right place in God's eyes where you'll be able to curse them for me." So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, with a vista over the Jeshimon (Wasteland).

29Balaam said to Balak, "Build seven altars for me here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for sacrifice."

30Balak did it and presented an offering of a bull and a ram on each of the altars.

1-3By now Balaam realized that God wanted to bless Israel. So he didn't work in any sorcery as he had done earlier. He turned and looked out over the wilderness. As Balaam looked, he saw Israel camped tribe by tribe. The Spirit of God came on him, and he spoke his oracle-message:

3-9Decree of Balaam son of Beor,

yes, decree of a man with 20/20 vision;

Decree of a man who hears God speak,

who sees what The Strong God shows him,

Who falls on his face in worship,

who sees what's really going on.

What beautiful tents, Jacob,

oh, your homes, Israel!

Like valleys stretching out in the distance,

like gardens planted by rivers,

Like sweet herbs planted by the gardener God,

like red cedars by pools and springs,

Their buckets will brim with water,

their seed will spread life everywhere.

Their king will tower over Agag and his ilk,

their kingdom surpassingly majestic.

God brought them out of Egypt,

rampaging like a wild ox,

Gulping enemies like morsels of meat,

crushing their bones, snapping their arrows.

Israel crouches like a lion and naps,

king-of-the-beasts—who dares disturb him?

Whoever blesses you is blessed,

whoever curses you is cursed.

10-11Balak lost his temper with Balaam. He shook his fist. He said to Balaam: "I got you in here to curse my enemies and what have you done? Blessed them! Blessed them three times! Get out of here! Go home! I told you I would pay you well, but you're getting nothing. You can blame God."

12-15Balaam said to Balak, "Didn't I tell you up front when you sent your emissaries, 'Even if Balak gave me his palace stuffed with silver and gold, I couldn't do anything on my own, whether good or bad, that went against God's command'? I'm leaving for home and my people, but I warn you of what this people will do to your people in the days to come." Then he spoke his oracle-message:

15-19Decree of Balaam son of Beor,

decree of the man with 20/20 vision,

Decree of the man who hears godly speech,

who knows what's going on with the High God,

Who sees what The Strong God reveals,

who bows in worship and sees what's real.

I see him, but not right now,

I perceive him, but not right here;

A star rises from Jacob

a scepter from Israel,

Crushing the heads of Moab,

the skulls of all the noisy windbags;

I see Edom sold off at auction,

enemy Seir marked down at the flea market,

while Israel walks off with the trophies.

A ruler is coming from Jacob

who'll destroy what's left in the city.

20Then Balaam spotted Amalek and delivered an oracle-message. He said,

Amalek, you're in first place among nations right now,

but you're going to come in last, ruined.

21-22He saw the Kenites and delivered his oracle-message to them:

Your home is in a nice secure place,

like a nest high on the face of a cliff.

Still, you Kenites will look stupid

when Asshur takes you prisoner.

23-24Balaam spoke his final oracle-message:

Doom! Who stands a chance

when God starts in?

Sea-Peoples, raiders from across the sea,

will harass Asshur and Eber,

But they'll also come to nothing,

just like all the rest.

25Balaam got up and went home. Balak also went on his way.

NEH 13:1-2

1-3Also on that same day there was a reading from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. It was found written there that no Ammonite or Moabite was permitted to enter the congregation of God, because they hadn't welcomed the People of Israel with food and drink; they even hired Balaam to work against them by cursing them, but our God turned the curse into a blessing. When they heard the reading of The Revelation, they excluded all foreigners from Israel.

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