23:1 1 Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” 23:2 So Balak did just as Balaam had said. Balak and Balaam then offered on each 2 altar a bull and a ram. 23:3 Balaam said to Balak, “Station yourself 3 by your burnt offering, and I will go off; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever he reveals to me 4 I will tell you.” 5 Then he went to a deserted height. 6
23:4 Then God met Balaam, who 7 said to him, “I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram.” 23:5 Then the Lord put a message 8 in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and speak what I tell you.” 9
“Balak, the king of Moab, brought me 13 from Aram,
out of the mountains of the east, saying,
‘Come, pronounce a curse on Jacob for me;
come, denounce Israel.’ 14
or how can I denounce one whom the Lord has not denounced?
from the hills I watch them. 18
Indeed, a nation that lives alone,
and it will not be reckoned 19 among the nations.
Or number 23 the fourth part of Israel?
23:11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but on the contrary 28 you have only blessed them!” 29 23:12 Balaam replied, 30 “Must I not be careful 31 to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?” 32 23:13 Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place from which you can observe them. You will see only a part of them, but you will not see all of them. Curse them for me from there.”
23:14 So Balak brought Balaam 33 to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, 34 where 35 he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 23:15 And Balaam 36 said to Balak, “Station yourself here 37 by your burnt offering, while I meet the Lord there. 23:16 Then the Lord met Balaam and put a message 38 in his mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and speak what I tell you.” 23:17 When Balaam 39 came to him, he was still standing by his burnt offering, along with the princes of Moab. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?”
“Rise up, 42 Balak, and hear;
Listen to me, son of Zippor:
23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a human being, 43 that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not make it happen? 44
nor has he seen trouble 50 in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them;
his acclamation 51 as king is among them.
They have, as it were, the strength of a wild bull. 53
nor is there any divination against Israel.
and of Israel, ‘Look at 57 what God has done!’
23:24 Indeed, the people will rise up like a lioness,
and like a lion raises himself up;
they will not lie down until they eat their 58 prey,
and drink the blood of the slain.” 59
23:27 Balak said to Balaam, “Come, please; I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God 64 to let you curse them for me from there.” 65 23:28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that looks toward the wilderness. 66 23:29 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars here for me, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams.” 23:30 So Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
[23:1] 1 sn The first part of Balaam’s activity ends in disaster for Balak – he blesses Israel. The chapter falls into four units: the first prophecy (vv. 1-10), the relocation (vv. 11-17), the second prophecy (vv. 18-24), and a further location (vv. 25-30).
[23:3] 3 tn The verb הִתְיַצֵּב (hityatsev) means “to take a stand, station oneself.” It is more intentional than simply standing by something. He was to position himself by the sacrifice as Balaam withdrew to seek the oracle.
[23:3] 4 tn Heb “and the word of what he shows me.” The noun is in construct, and so the clause that follows functions as a noun clause in the genitive. The point is that the word will consist of divine revelation.
[23:3] 6 sn He went up to a bald spot, to a barren height. The statement underscores the general belief that such tops were the closest things to the gods. On such heights people built their shrines and temples.
[23:7] 13 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.
[23:7] 14 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.
[23:9] 18 sn Balaam reports his observation of the nation of Israel spread out below him in the valley. Based on that vision, and the
[23:10] 22 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.
[23:10] 23 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.
[23:10] 25 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.
[23:11] 29 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.
[23:12] 31 tn The verb שָׁמַר (shamar) means “to guard, watch, observe” and so here with a sense of “be careful” or even “take heed” (so KJV, ASV). The nuance of the imperfect tense would be obligatory: “I must be careful” – to do what? to speak what the
[23:12] 32 tn The clause is a noun clause serving as the direct object of “to speak.” It begins with the sign of the accusative, and then the relative pronoun that indicates the whole clause is the accusative.
[23:20] 45 tn The Hebrew text simply has “I have received [to] bless.” The infinitive is the object of the verb, telling what he received. Balaam was not actually commanded to bless, but was given the word of blessing so that he was given a divine decree that would bless Israel.
[23:21] 49 sn The line could mean that God has regarded Israel as the ideal congregation without any blemish or flaw. But it could also mean that God has not looked on their iniquity, meaning, held it against them.
[23:21] 50 tn The word means “wrong, misery, trouble.” It can mean the idea of “disaster” as well, for that too is trouble. Here it is parallel to “iniquity” and so has the connotation of something that would give God reason to curse them.
[23:21] 51 tn The people are blessed because God is their king. In fact, the shout of acclamation is among them – they are proclaiming the
[23:23] 54 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.
[23:24] 59 sn The oracle compares Israel first to a lion, or better, lioness, because she does the tracking and hunting of food while the lion moves up and down roaring and distracting the prey. But the lion is also the traditional emblem of Judah, Dan and Gad, as well as the symbol of royalty. So this also supports the motif of royalty as well as power for Israel.
[23:25] 60 tn The verb is preceded by the infinitive absolute: “you shall by no means curse” or “do not curse them at all.” He brought him to curse, and when he tried to curse there was a blessing. Balak can only say it would be better not to bother.
[23:25] 61 tn The same construction now works with “nor bless them at all.” The two together form a merism – “don’t say anything.” He does not want them blessed, so Balaam is not to do that, but the curse isn’t working either.
[23:26] 63 tn This first clause, “all that the
[23:27] 65 sn Balak is stubborn, as indeed Balaam is persistent. But Balak still thinks that if another location were used it just might work. Balaam had actually told Balak in the prophecy that other attempts would fail. But Balak refuses to give up so easily. So he insists they perform the ritual and try again. This time, however, Balaam will change his approach, and this will result in a dramatic outpouring of power on him.