22:1 1 The Israelites traveled on 2 and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan River 3 across from Jericho. 4 22:2 Balak son of Zippor saw all that the Israelites had done to the Amorites. 22:3 And the Moabites were greatly afraid of the people, because they were so numerous. The Moabites were sick with fear because of the Israelites.
22:4 So the Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “Now this mass of people 5 will lick up everything around us, as the bull devours the grass of the field. Now Balak son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at this time. 22:5 And he sent messengers to Balaam 6 son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates River 7 in the land of Amaw, 8 to summon him, saying, “Look, a nation has come out of Egypt. They cover the face 9 of the earth, and they are settling next to me. 22:6 So 10 now, please come and curse this nation 11 for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will prevail so that we may conquer them 12 and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, 13 and whoever you curse is cursed.”
22:7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fee for divination in their hand. They came to Balaam and reported 14 to him the words of Balak. 22:8 He replied to them, “Stay 15 here tonight, and I will bring back to you whatever word the Lord may speak to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. 22:9 And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 22:10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent a message to me, saying, 22:11 “Look, a nation has come out 16 of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Come now and put a curse on them for me; perhaps I will be able to defeat them 17 and drive them out.” 18 22:12 But God said to Balaam, “You must not go with them; you must not curse the people, 19 for they are blessed.” 20
22:13 So Balaam got up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your land, 21 for the Lord has refused to permit me to go 22 with you.” 22:14 So the princes of Moab departed 23 and went back to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
22:15 Balak again sent princes, 24 more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 25 22:16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor: ‘Please do not let anything hinder you from coming 26 to me. 22:17 For I will honor you greatly, 27 and whatever you tell me I will do. So come, put a curse on this nation for me.’”
22:18 Balaam replied 28 to the servants of Balak, “Even if Balak would give me his palace full of silver and gold, I could not transgress the commandment 29 of the Lord my God 30 to do less or more. 22:19 Now therefore, please stay 31 the night here also, that I may know what more the Lord might say to me.” 32 22:20 God came to Balaam that night, and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, get up and go with them; but the word that I will say to you, that you must do.” 22:21 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.
22:22 Then God’s anger was kindled 33 because he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose 34 him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 22:23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with 35 his sword drawn in his hand, so the donkey turned aside from the road and went into the field. But Balaam beat the donkey, to make her turn back to the road.
22:24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a path 36 among the vineyards, where there was a wall on either side. 37 22:25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself into the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he beat her again. 38
22:26 Then the angel of the Lord went farther, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 22:27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. Then Balaam was angry, and he beat his donkey with a staff.
22:28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?” 22:29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “You have made me look stupid; I wish 39 there were a sword in my hand, for I would kill you right now.” 22:30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am not I your donkey that you have ridden ever since I was yours until this day? Have I ever attempted 40 to treat you this way?” 41 And he said, “No.” 22:31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; so he bowed his head and threw himself down with his face to the ground. 42 22:32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you because what you are doing 43 is perverse before me. 44 22:33 The donkey saw me and turned from me these three times. If 45 she had not turned from me, I would have killed you but saved her alive.” 22:34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood against me in the road. 46 So now, if it is evil in your sight, 47 I will go back home.” 48 22:35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you may only speak 49 the word that I will speak to you.” 50 So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
22:36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at a city of Moab which was on the border of the Arnon at the boundary of his territory. 22:37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send again and again 51 to you to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 52 22:38 Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you. Now, am I able 53 to speak 54 just anything? I must speak 55 only the word that God puts in my mouth.” 22:39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 22:40 And Balak sacrificed bulls and sheep, and sent some 56 to Balaam, and to the princes who were with him. 22:41 Then on the next morning Balak took Balaam, and brought him up to Bamoth Baal. 57 From there he saw the extent of the nation.
[22:1] 1 sn The fifth section of the book (22:1-33:56) traces the Israelite activities in Transjordan. It is hard to determine how long they were in Transjordan, but a good amount of time must have elapsed for the number of moves they made and the wars they fought. There is a considerable amount of information available on this section of the book. Some of the most helpful works include: H. C. Brichto, The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible (JBLMS); E. Burrows, The Oracles of Jacob and Balaam; G. W. Coats, “Balaam, Sinner or Saint?” BR 18 (1973): 21-29; P. C. Craigie, “The Conquest and Early Hebrew Poetry,” TynBul 20 (1969): 76-94; I. Parker, “The Way of God and the Way of Balaam,” ExpTim 17 (1905): 45; and J. A. Wharton, “The Command to Bless: An Exposition of Numbers 22:41–23:25,” Int 13 (1959): 37-48. This first part introduces the characters and sets the stage for the oracles. It can be divided into four sections: the invitation declined (vv. 1-14), the second invitation extended (vv. 15-21), God opposes Balaam (vv. 22-35), and Balaam meets Balak (vv. 36-41).
[22:5] 6 sn There is much literature on pagan diviners and especially prophecy in places in the east like Mari (see, for example, H. B. Huffmon, “Prophecy in the Mari Letters,” BA 31 : 101-24). Balaam appears to be a pagan diviner who was of some reputation; he was called to curse the Israelites, but God intervened and gave him blessings only. The passage forms a nice complement to texts that deal with blessings and curses. It shows that no one can curse someone whom God has blessed.
[22:6] 12 tn The construction uses the imperfect tense אוּכַל (’ukhal, “I will be able”) followed by the imperfect tense נַכֶּה (nakkeh, “we will smite/attack/defeat”). The second verb is clearly the purpose or the result of the first, even though there is no conjunction or particle.
[22:8] 15 tn The verb לִין (lin) means “to lodge, spend the night.” The related noun is “a lodge” – a hotel of sorts. Balaam needed to consider the offer. And after darkness was considered the best time for diviners to consult with their deities. Balaam apparently knows of the
[22:12] 20 tn The word בָּרוּךְ (barukh) is the Qal passive participle, serving here as the predicate adjective after the supplied verb “to be.” The verb means “enrich,” in any way, materially, spiritually, physically. But the indication here is that the blessing includes the promised blessing of the patriarchs, a blessing that gave Israel the land. See further, C. Westermann, Blessing in the Bible and the Life of the Church (OBT).
[22:13] 22 tn The main verb is the Piel perfect, “he has refused.” This is followed by two infinitives. The first (לְתִתִּי, lÿtitti) serves as a complement or direct object of the verb, answering the question of what he refused to do – “to give me.” The second infinitive (לַהֲלֹךְ, lahalokh) provides the object for the preceding infinitive: “to grant me to go.”
[22:15] 24 tn The construction is a verbal hendiadys. It uses the Hiphil preterite of the verb “to add” followed by the Qal infinitive “to send.” The infinitive becomes the main verb, and the preterite an adverb: “he added to send” means “he sent again.”
[22:17] 27 tn The construction uses the Piel infinitive כַּבֵּד (kabbed) to intensify the verb, which is the Piel imperfect/cohortative אֲכַבֶּדְךָ (’akhabbedkha). The great honor could have been wealth, prestige, or position.
[22:22] 33 sn God’s anger now seems to contradict the permission he gave Balaam just before this. Some commentators argue that God’s anger is a response to Balaam’s character in setting out – which the Bible does not explain. God saw in him greed and pleasure for the riches, which is why he was so willing to go.
[22:31] 42 tn The Hishtaphel verb חָוָה (khavah) – שָׁחָה (shakhah) with metathesis – has a basic idea of “bow oneself low to the ground,” and perhaps in some cases the idea of “coil up.” This is the normal posture of prayer and of deep humility in the ancient religious world.
[22:34] 46 sn Balaam is not here making a general confession of sin. What he is admitting to is a procedural mistake. The basic meaning of the word is “to miss the mark.” He now knows he took the wrong way, i.e., in coming to curse Israel.
[22:34] 47 sn The reference is to Balaam’s way. He is saying that if what he is doing is so perverse, so evil, he will turn around and go home. Of course, it did not appear that he had much of a chance of going forward.
[22:37] 51 tn The emphatic construction is made of the infinitive absolute and the perfect tense from the verb שָׁלַח (shalakh, “to send”). The idea must be more intense than something like, “Did I not certainly send.” Balak is showing frustration with Balaam for refusing him.
[22:38] 54 tn The Piel infinitive construct (without the preposition) serves as the object of the verb “to be able.” The whole question is rhetorical – he is saying that he will not be able to say anything God does not allow him to say.