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. Chapter 22.

Israel in the plains of Moab


1 THE ISRAELITES WENT FORWARD and encamped in the lowlands of Moab on the farther side of the Jordan from Jericho.

2 Balak son of Zippor saw what Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was in terror of the people because there were so many of them. The Moabites were sick with fear at the sight of them; 4 and they said to the elders of Midian, 'This horde will soon lick up everything round us as a bull crops the spring grass.' Balak son of Zippor was at that time king of Moab. 5 He sent a deputation to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor by the Euphrates in the land of the Amavites, with this message, 'Look, an entire nation has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the country and are settling at my very door. 6 Come at once and lay a curse on them, because they are too many for me; then I may be able to defeat them and drive them from the country. I know that those whom you bless are blessed, and those whom you curse are cursed.'

7 The elders of Moab and Midian took the fees for augury with them, and they came to Balaam and told him what Balak had said. 8 'Spend this night here,' he said, 'and I will give you whatever answer the LORD gives to me.' So the Moabite chiefs stayed with Balaam. 9 God came to Balaam and asked him, 'Who are these men with you?' 10 Balaam replied, 'Balak son of Zippor king of Moab has sent them to me and he says, 11 "Look, a people newly come out of Egypt is covering the face of the country. Come at once and denounce them for me; then I may be able to fight them and drive them away." ' 12 God said to Balaam, 'You are not to go with them or curse the people, because they are to be blessed [Or are blessed]?' 13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to Balak's chiefs, 'Go back to your own country; the LORD has refused to let me go with you.' 14 Then the Moabite chiefs took their leave and went back to Balak, and told him that Balaam had refused to come with them; 15 whereupon Balak sent a second and larger embassy of higher rank than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and told him, 'This is the message from Balak son of Zippor: "Let nothing stand in the way of your coming. 17 I will confer great honour upon you; I will do whatever you ask me. But you must come and denounce this people for me." ' 18 Balaam gave this answer to Balak's messengers: 'Even if Balak were to give me all the silver and gold in his house, I could not disobey the command of the LORD my God in anything, small or great. 19 But stay here for this night, as the others did, that I may learn what more the LORD has to say to me.' 20 During the night God came to Balaam and said to him, 'If these men have come to summon you, then rise and go with them, but do only what I tell you.' 21 So in the morning Balaam rose, saddled his ass and went with the Moabite chiefs.

22 But God was angry because Balaam was going, and as he came riding on his ass, accompanied by his two servants, the angel of the LORD took his stand in the road to bar his way. 23 When the ass saw the angel standing in the road with his sword drawn, she turned off the road into the fields, and Balaam beat the ass to bring her back on to the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood where the road ran through a hollow, with fenced vineyards on either side. 25 The ass saw the angel and, crushing herself against the wall, crushed Balaam's foot against it, and he beat her again. 26 The angel of the LORD moved on further and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to tum either to right or left. 27 When the ass saw the angel, she lay down under Balaam. At that Balaam lost his temper and beat the ass with his stick. 28 The LORD then made the ass speak, and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done? This is the third time you have beaten me.' 29 Balaam answered the ass, 'You have been making a fool of me. If I had had a sword here, I should have killed you on the spot.' 30 But the ass answered, 'Am I not still the ass which you have ridden all your life? Have I ever taken such a liberty with you before?' He said, 'No.' 31 Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes: he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn, and he bowed down and fell flat on his face before him. 32 The angel said to him, 'What do you mean by beating your ass three times like this? I came out to bar your way but you made straight for me, 33 and three times your ass saw me and turned aside. If she had not turned aside, I should by now have killed you and spared her.' 34 Balaam replied to the angel of the LORD, 'I have done wrong. I did not know that you stood in the road confronting me. But now, if my journey displeases you, I am ready to go back.' 35 The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, 'Go on with these men; but say only what I tell you.' So Balaam went on with Balak's chiefs.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he came out to meet him as far as Ar of Moab by the Arnon on his frontier. 37 Balak said to Balaam, 'Did I not send time and again to summon you? Why did you not come? Did you think that I could not do you honour?' 38 Balaam replied, 'I have come, as you see. But now that I am here, what power have I of myself to say anything? Whatever the word God puts into my mouth, that is what I will say.' 39 So Balaam went with Balak till they came to Kiriath-huzoth, 40 and Balak slaughtered cattle and sheep and sent them to Balaam and to the chiefs who were with him.

Balaam's first prophecy.

41 In the morning Balak took Balaam and led him up to the Heights of Baal, from where he could see the full extent of the Israelite host.

<< | Numbers: 22 | >>

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