Weekly Bible Reading

Parashat Balak | Num. 22:2-25:9

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2When Balak son of Zippor, realized all that Bnei-Yisrael had done to the Amorites,
3Moab became terrified because there were so many people. Moab was filled with dread because of Bnei-Yisrael.
4Moab said to the elders of Midian, “The multitude will lick up everything around us like the ox licks up the grass of the field.” Now Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time.
5He sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, at Pethor near the River in his native land, saying to him, “Look now, a people has come out of Egypt. See now, they cover the surface of the earth and are settling beside me.
6Come now, curse this people for me, because they are too strong for me! Perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them away from the country. I know that whoever you bless will be blessed and whoever you curse will be accursed!”
7The elders of Moab and Midian left with divination fees in their hand. When they came to Balaam, they told him Balak’s words.
8He said to them, “Spend the night here. I will give you an answer just as Adonai speaks to me.” So the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam.
9God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”
10Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent word to me:
11See, the people coming out of Egypt cover the surface of the land. Come now, curse them for me. Perhaps I will be able to fight against them and drive them away!”
12God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them! Do not curse them, for they are blessed!”
13So Balaam got up in the morning and said to the officials of Balak, “Go back to your country, for Adonai has refused to let me go with you.”
14So the Moabite officials got up, went back to Balak, and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”
15Balak again sent other dignitaries, more numerous and honored than these previous ones.
16They also came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor: Please let nothing keep you from coming to me!
17I will richly reward you, and everything you tell me I will do! Just come now and curse this people for me!”
18But Balaam answered Balak’s servants, “Even if Balak gave me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot cross beyond the mouth of Adonai my God, to do anything small or great!
19But now, you may spend the night here, too. Then I may find out anything else Adonai may say to me.”
20God came to Balaam by night and said to him, “Since the men came to you to summon you, arise and go with them. However, only the word I tell you are you to do!”
21So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the Moabite princes.
22But the anger of God burned because he was going. The angel of Adonai stood in the road to oppose him—he was riding on his donkey and two of his servants were with him—
23when the donkey saw the angel of Adonai standing in the road with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off the road and went into the field. So Balaam beat the donkey to get her back onto the road.
24Then the angel of Adonai stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side.
25When the donkey saw the angel of Adonai, she pressed against the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall. So Balaam continued beating her.
26The angel again moved. He stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, right or left.
27When the donkey saw the angel of Adonai, she lay down under Balaam. Balaam was very angry and beat the donkey with his staff.
28Then Adonai opened the donkey’s mouth and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”
29Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you’ve made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you now!”
30The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey which you have ridden as always to this day? Have I ever been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said.
31Then Adonai opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of Adonai standing in the road with his drawn sword in his hand. So he fell on his face.
32The angel of Adonai said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Behold, I came as an adversary because your way before Me is a reckless one!
33The donkey saw Me and turned away from Me these three times. If she had not turned away from Me, by now I would have killed you indeed, but let her live!”
34Balaam said to the angel of Adonai, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now, if this is displeasing in your eyes, I will go back home.”
35The angel of Adonai said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s princes.
36When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to greet him at the Moabite city on the border of the Arnon, the frontier of the territory.
37Balak said to Balaam, “Didn’t I send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really unable to reward you?”
38“Look, I have come to you now!” Balaam said to Balak. “Can I just say anything? I must speak only the message which God puts into my mouth.”
39Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath-huzoth.
40Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep and sent some to Balaam and the princes who were with him.
41In the morning, Balak took Balaam with him to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw part of the people.

Chapter 23

A Curse Turns to Blessings
1Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.”
2So Balak did just as Balaam had said. Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
3Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your offering. I will go and perhaps Adonai will meet me. Whatever message He shows me, I will tell you. Then he went to a barren height.
4God met with Balaam and he said to Him, “I have prepared seven altars, and on each altar I offered a bull and a ram.”
5Adonai put a message into Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak and speak this.”
6Balaam went back to him. Behold, he was standing beside his offering with all the princes of Moab.
7Then he uttered his oracle and said, “From Aram, Balak brought me, Moab’s king from the mountains of the east: ‘Come! Curse Jacob for me! ‘Come! Denounce Israel!’
8How can I curse one whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce one whom Adonai has not denounced?
9From the rocky peaks I see him. From the heights I behold him. Look, he lives as a nation apart, and does not consider himself as being like the other nations.
10Who can count Jacob’s dust? Who can number a fourth of Israel? Let my soul die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!”
11Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but look, you’ve actually blessed them!”
12But in response he said, “Mustn’t I speak whatever Adonaiputs into my mouth?”
13Then Balak said to him, “Come now with me to another place where you can see a part of them only, not all of them. Curse them for me from there.”
14He took him to Lookout Field on top of Pisgah. He built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
15“Stay here beside your offering,” he said to Balak, “while I am meeting over there.”
16Adonai met Balaam there and put a message into his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak and speak thus.”
17So he went to him, and behold, he and the princes of Moab were standing beside his offering. Balak asked him, “What did Adonai say?”
18So he uttered his oracle and said: “Rise, Balak! Hear me, son of Zippor!
19God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes his mind! Does He speak and then not do it, or promise and not fulfill it?
20Look, I received a command to bless. He has blessed—I cannot change it!
21No misfortune is to be seen in Jacob, and no misery in Israel! Adonai their God is with them —the King’s shout is among them!
22God is bringing them from Egypt with the strong horns of the wild ox!
23There is no sorcery effective against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel! Now it will be said of Jacob and Israel, ‘See what God has done!’
24The people rise like a lioness, like a lion who does not rest until he eats his prey and drinks his victim’s blood!”
25Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them or bless them at all!”
26Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Haven’t I told you, ‘All that Adonai says, I must do?’
27Balak said to Balaam, “Come with me to another place. Perhaps it will be pleasing to God and you may curse them for me from there.”
28So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland.
29Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.”
30Balak did just as Balaam said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

Chapter 24

How Lovely the Tents of Jacob
1When Balaam realized that it was pleasing in the eyes of Adonai to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorceries as at the other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness.
2Lifting up his eyes, Balaam saw Israel dwelling by tribes. The Ruach Elohim came over him.
3He uttered his oracle and said: “This is the oracle of Balaam son of Beor, and the oracle of a strong man whose eye has been opened,
4the oracle of one hearing God’s speech, one seeing Shaddai’s vision, one fallen down, yet with open eyes:
5How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, and your dwellings, O Israel!
6Like valleys they are spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by Adonai, like cedars beside the waters.
7Water will flow from his buckets, his seed by abundant water. His king will be greater than Agag , his kingdom will be exalted.
8God is bringing him out of Egypt. like the strong horns of a wild ox. He devours nations hostile to him. He will crush their bones. His arrows will pierce them.
9He crouches like a lion or a lioness— who would rouse him? He who blesses you will be blessed, and he who curses you will be cursed.”
10Then Balak became furious at Balaam, and struck his hands together. Balak said to Balaam, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but look, you have blessed them these three times!
11Now, go home! I said I would reward you, but see, Adonaihas kept you from reward!”
12Balaam answered Balak, “Didn’t I indeed tell your messengers whom you sent to me saying:
13‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the mouth of Adonai, to do good or bad from my own heart? Whatever Adonai may speak, I will speak!’
14Now, behold, I am going back to my people. Come, let me counsel you what these people will do to your people in the latter days.
15Then he uttered his oracle: The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the strong man whose eye is opened,
16the oracle of one hearing God’s speech, one experiencing Elyon’s knowledge, one seeing Shaddai’s vision, one fallen down, yet with open eyes:
17‘I see him, yet not at this moment. I behold him, yet not in this location. For a star will come from Jacob, a scepter will arise from Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab and the skulls of all the sons of Seth.
18Edom will be conquered— his enemies will conquer Seir, but Israel will triumph.
19One from Jacob will rule and destroy the city’s survivors.”
20Then he saw Amalek, so he uttered his oracle and said: “Amalek was the first of nations, but will come to ruin at last.”
21Then he saw the Kenite, so he uttered his oracle and said, “Your dwelling is secure. Your nest is set in the rock.
22Yet Kain will be destroyed, when Asshur captures you.”
23Again he uttered his oracle and said, “O, who can live when God does this?
24Ships will come from Kittim’s shore. They will afflict Asshur and Eber, but they too will come to destruction.”
25Then Balaam got up and went and returned to his own place, and Balak went on his way.

Chapter 25

Moabite Seduction and Phineas Arises
1While Israel was staying in Shittim, the people began to have immoral sexual relations with women from Moab.
2Then they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, so the people were eating, and bowing down before their gods.
3When Israel became bound to Baal of Peor, the anger of Adonai grew hot against Israel.
4Adonai said to Moses, “Seize all the ringleaders and hang them before Adonai facing the sun, so that Adonai’s fierce anger may be turned away from Israel.”
5So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you, kill your men who have been joining themselves to Baal of Peor.”
6Then behold, a man from Bnei-Yisrael came and brought a Midianite woman to his brothers before the eyes of Moses and of the whole assembly of Bnei-Yisrael, while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting!
7When Phinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the kohen saw it, he arose from the midst of the assembly, took a spear in his hand,
8and went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced them through—both the Israelite man and the woman’s belly. Then the plague among Bnei-Yisrael was stopped.
9However, 24,000 were dead because of the plague!