Balaam can’t put a curse on Israelites
Attempted curse number one1Balaam told King Balak, “I want you to build me seven altars. I’ll need seven bulls and seven male sheep for the sacrifice.” 2Balak gave Balaam what he wanted. They sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar. 3Balaam told the king, “Stay here by your burnt offering. I’ll go and maybe the LORD will talk to me. If he does, I’ll tell you what he said.” Balaam went to another part of the hill. 4Balaam told God, “I set up seven altars and I burned a bull and a ram on each one.”
5The LORD told Balaam, “Go back to Balak with this message.” 6So he went back to the king and found him standing there with the officials of Moab. 7Balaam delivered this message:
Balak brought me here from Aram’s land,
Moab’s king of the eastern hills.
“Put a hex on Jacob’s people,
A curse on Israel, to doom them all.”
How can I doom them when God won’t doom them?
9I stand on this mountain and watch them below.
From this hilltop I can see their camp.
Look at them, all alone in this world,
A people with no nation to call home.
10Who can count the dust, or those people of Jacob?
Count Israel’s dust cloud if you can.
I hope I die the way a good person dies,
So I’ll end up just like them. 11King Balak said, “What? Do you have any idea what you just did to me? I brought you here to put a curse on these invaders, my enemies! You gave them your blessing instead!” 12Balaam said, “Don’t I have to say what the LORD tells me to say?”
Attempted curse number two13King Balak said, “Let’s try this again. Come with me to a different hill. You’ll see just the edges of the camp, not all of it. Yet from there, put a hex on all those people.” 14Balak took him to a lookout point on Mount Pisgah. Balak again built seven altars and sacrificed a bull and a ram on each one. 15Balaam told the king, “Stay here beside your burnt offering. I’ll go meet with the LORD nearby.” 16The LORD told Balaam, “Go back to Balak with this message.” 17Balaam went back to the king, who was still standing with Moab’s officials beside the burnt offering. King Balak said, “What did the LORD tell you? 18Balaam delivered this message:
“Listen, Balak, and pay attention.
Hear what I say, son of Zippor.
He isn’t a mere mortal. He doesn’t change his mind.
Would he promise, then do nothing?
Would he talk, then not act?
20Look, I’ve been ordered to give a blessing.
What God blesses, I can’t undo with a curse.
21He’s not planning trouble for Jacob’s people.
There’s no hardship ahead for Israel.
Their God, the LORD, is with them.
And they’re happy to call him their king.
22He led them out of Egypt.
He made them strong as horns on a wild bull.
23No magic hex can hurt Jacob’s people.
No supernatural power can stop Israel.
There’s already talk of Jacob’s people,
About what God has done for Israel.
24Watch as they wake like a lion,
That won’t rest until it eats its prey
And drinks the blood of its kill. 25King Balak told Balaam, “So, you’re not going to curse them! Well don’t bless them, either!” 26Balaam answered, “Didn’t I tell you ahead of time? All I can say is what the LORD tells me to say.”
Attempted curse number three27King Balak told Balaam, “Let’s try this again. We’ll go to another place. Maybe God will like it better, and you can put a hex on them there.” 28Balak took Balaam to the top of another hill overlooking the desert, Mount Peor. 29Balaam told Balak, “Build me seven altars. I’ll need seven bulls and seven male sheep for the sacrifice.” 30Balak did what Balaam told him to do. He sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar.
Bulls and male goats (rams) were the among the most prized animals of the day. If someone wanted to impress with a sacrifice, these were the animals to kill.
This was the most common animal sacrifice. Worshipers burned the entire animal. See Leviticus 1.
Many in Bible times considered hilltops a good place to worship a god—with some hills more impressive than others. So, people built shrines and burned sacrifices on hilltops.
The location is more literally “Zophim on Pisgah.” It’s unclear what Zophim means. It could have been the name of a location, but the word means “watcher.” It may have been a ledge on the mountainous plateau where people stood to admire the view. Pisgah means “summit.” Mount Pisgah may refer to one or more of the high points on Moab’s plateau overlooking in the west the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and Canaan. Mount Nebo is there, where Moses died. It’s the highest summit on the plateau, at 2,300 feet elevation, or 710 meters. That’s an especially good vantage point to view what is now Israel and Palestinian territories since the Dead Sea is about 1,400 feet below sea level, or 430 meters. With the Israelites camped near the Jordan River, Balak would have been about a kilometer above them, about three-fourths of a mile.
Mount Peor’s location is unknown. But it sounds as though it was another summit on Moab’s plateau, overlooking the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and Canaan in the west along with the desert to the east.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.