December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- 1 Then the Israelites moved on and encamped in the plains of Moab on the other side of the Jericho stretch of the Jordan.
- Now Balak, son of Zippor, saw all that Israel did to the Amorites.
- Indeed, Moab feared the Israelites greatly because of their numbers, and detested them.
- So Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Soon this horde will devour all the country around us as an ox devours the grass of the field." And Balak, Zippor's son, who was king of Moab at that time,
- sent messengers to Balaam, son of Beor, at Pethor on the Euphrates, in the land of the Amawites, summoning him with these words, "A people has come here from Egypt who now cover the face of the earth and are settling down opposite us!
- 2 Please come and curse this people for us; they are stronger than we are. We may then be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed and whoever you curse is cursed."
- Then the elders of Moab and of Midian left with the divination fee in hand and went to Balaam. When they had given him Balak's message,
- he said to them in reply, "Stay here overnight, and I will give you whatever answer the LORD gives me." So the princes of Moab lodged with Balaam.
- Then God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men visiting you?"
- Balaam answered God, "Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me the message:
- 'This people that came here from Egypt now cover the face of the earth. Please come and lay a curse on them for us; we may then be able to give them battle and drive them out.'"
- But God said to Balaam, "Do not go with them and do not curse this people, for they are blessed."
- The next morning Balaam arose and told the princes of Balak, "Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you."
- So the princes of Moab went back to Balak with the report, "Balaam refused to come with us."
- Balak again sent princes, who were more numerous and more distinguished than the others.
- On coming to Balaam they told him, "This is what Balak, son of Zippor, has to say: Please do not refuse to come to me.
- I will reward you very handsomely and will do anything you ask of me. Please come and lay a curse on this people for me."
- But Balaam replied to Balak's officials, "Even if Balak gave me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD, my God.
- But, you too shall stay here overnight, till I learn what else the LORD may tell me."
- That night God came to Balaam and said to him, "If these men have come to summon you, you may go with them; yet only on the condition that you do exactly as I tell you."
- So the next morning when Balaam arose, he saddled his ass, and went off with the princes of Moab.
- 3 But now the anger of God flared up at him for going, and the angel of the LORD stationed himself on the road to hinder him as he was riding along on his ass, accompanied by two of his servants.
- When the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing on the road with sword drawn, she turned off the road and went into the field, and Balaam had to beat her to bring her back on the road.
- Then the angel of the LORD took his stand in a narrow lane between vineyards with a stone wall on each side.
- When the ass saw the angel of the LORD there, she shrank against the wall; and since she squeezed Balaam's leg against it, he beat her again.
- The angel of the LORD then went ahead, and stopped next in a passage so narrow that there was no room to move either to the right or to the left.
- When the ass saw the angel of the LORD there, she cowered under Balaam. So, in anger, he again beat the ass with his stick.
- But now the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she asked Balaam, "What have I done to you that you should beat me these three times?"
- "You have acted so willfully against me," said Balaam to the ass, "that if I but had a sword at hand, I would kill you here and now."
- But the ass said to Balaam, "Am I not your own beast, and have you not always ridden upon me until now? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way before?" "No," replied Balaam.
- Then the LORD removed the veil from Balaam's eyes, so that he too saw the angel of the LORD standing on the road with sword drawn; and he fell on his knees and bowed to the ground.
- But the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you beaten your ass these three times? It is I who have come armed to hinder you because this rash journey of yours is directly opposed to me.
- When the ass saw me, she turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away from me, I would have killed you; her I would have spared."
- Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. Yet I did not know that you stood against me to oppose my journey. Since it has displeased you, I will go back home."
- But the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men; but you may say only what I tell you." So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.
- When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the boundary city Ir-Moab on the Arnon at the end of the Moabite territory.
- And he said to Balaam, "I sent an urgent summons to you! Why did you not come to me? Did you think I could not reward you?"
- Balaam answered him, "Well, I have come to you after all. But what power have I to say anything? I can speak only what God puts in my mouth."
- Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth.
- Here Balak slaughtered oxen and sheep, and sent portions to Balaam and to the princes who were with him.
- The next morning Balak took Balaam up on Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw some of the clans.
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1  The plains of Moab: the lowlands to the northeast of the Dead Sea, between the Jordan and the foothills below Mount Nebo. Here the Israelites remained until they crossed the Jordan, as told in Joshua 1-4. Jericho lay to the west of the Jordan.
2  Curse this people for us: Balak believed that if Balaam forecast an evil omen for Israel, this evil would come to pass, as if by magic. Balaam was a soothsayer or foreteller; cf Joshua 13:22.
3  The anger of God flared up: not merely because Balaam was going to Balak, for he had God's permission for the journey (Numbers 22:20), but perhaps because he was tempted by avarice to curse Israel against God's command. "They have followed the way of Balaam, son of Bosor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing" (2 Peter 2:15); "and have rushed on thoughtlessly into the error of Balaam for the sake of gain" (Judges 1:11). Cf Numbers 22:32 and compare Exodus 4:18-26.
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