1 The Israelites travelled to Moab. They lived in tents at the side of the River Jordan. Jericho city was on the other side of the river.
2 The king of Moab at that time was Balak, the son of Zippor. He had seen what the Israelites did to the Amorites. 3 The people in Moab were afraid because there were so many Israelites. All the people in Moab became very afraid of the Israelites.
4 So the Moabites said to the leaders of the Midianites, ‘This large group of people will destroy everything round us. They will be like a bull that eats all the grass in a field!’
So Balak, the king of Moab, 5 sent men to get Balaam, the son of Beor. Balaam was living near the Euphrates river at Pethor. Balak told the men to say to Balaam, ‘A large group of people has come here from Egypt. They cover all the ground, everywhere. They have camped at the edge of our land. 6 They are more powerful than I am. Come here and put a curse on them. If you do that, maybe I will win against them. Then I can chase them away from our land. I know that you have the authority to bless people or to curse them.’
7 The leaders of Moab and Midian went to find Balaam. They took the money to pay for Balaam's work. When they found him, they told him what Balak had said. 8 Balaam said to them, ‘Stay here tonight. I will talk to the Lord. Tomorrow, I will tell you his answer.’ So the Moabite officers stayed with Balaam.
9 Then God came to Balaam and he asked, ‘Who are these men who are staying with you?’
10 Balaam said to God, ‘Zippor's son Balak, the king of Moab, has sent a message to me. 11 He said, “A big group of people has come from Egypt and they cover all the ground. So please come and curse them for me. Then perhaps I will be able to fight them and send them away.” ’
12 God said to Balaam, ‘Do not agree to go with them. You must not curse those people. They are special people. I have blessed them.’
13 The next day, Balaam said to the officers from Moab, ‘Go back to Moab. The Lord told me that I should not go with you.’ 14 So the officers went back to Moab. They told King Balak that Balaam would not come with them.
15 Then Balak sent other officers to speak to Balaam. These officers were even more important than the first group, and there were more of them. 16 They said to Balaam, ‘King Balak says, “Do not let anything stop you from coming to me. 17 I will certainly make you rich and famous. I will do for you anything that you want. So please come and curse these people for me.” ’
18 Balaam said to them, ‘No, I will only do what the Lord tells me. I can do no more than that, and no less. Even if Balak gives me his house, all his gold and all his silver, I will only do what the Lord says. 19 Stay here tonight, as the other men did. I will talk to the Lord and see if he has anything more to tell me.’
20 That night, God said to Balaam, ‘These men have asked you to go with them, so go with them. But only do what I tell you.’
Balaam and his donkey
21 In the morning, Balaam prepared his donkey to travel. He went with the officers to Moab. 22 God was angry because Balaam went with the men. The angel of the Lord stood on the road to stop Balaam. Balaam was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 23 The angel of the Lord was holding a sword. When the donkey saw the angel, it tried to leave the road and go into a field. Balaam hit the donkey to make it go back to the road.
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood on the road between two vineyards. The path was narrow there, with a wall on each side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pushed against the wall. Balaam's foot became fixed between the donkey and the wall. So Balaam hit the donkey again.
26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on. He stood in a very narrow place where there was no space to turn round. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord it lay down on the ground. Balaam was still sitting on the donkey and he became very angry. He hit the donkey with his stick. 28 Then the Lord caused the donkey to speak. It said, ‘What have I done to hurt you? Why have you hit me three times like that?’
29 Balaam said to the donkey, ‘You have made me look silly. If I had a sword in my hand now, I would kill you.’
30 The donkey said to Balaam, ‘I am your own donkey that you ride every day. Do I usually do things like this to you?’ Balaam said, ‘No.’
31 Then the Lord let Balaam see the angel of the Lord. He could see that the angel stood there with a sword in his hand. Balaam lay down with his face down towards the ground.
32 The angel of the Lord said to him, ‘You should not have hit your donkey like that! I have come here to stop you because you refuse to obey me. 33 Three times the donkey saw me and turned back. If it had not done that, I would have killed you. But I would not have killed your donkey.’
34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have done a wrong thing. I did not realize that you were standing in the road to stop me. So, if you do not want me to continue, I will return to my home.’ 35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men. But you must say only the words that I will tell you.’ So Balaam went with Balak's officers.
36 Balak heard the news that Balaam was coming. He went out to meet Balaam at the border of Moab's land. The town was beside the river Arnon. 37 Balak said to Balaam, ‘You should have come the first time that I sent men to get you. Why did you not come? Did you think that I could not pay you with enough good things?’
38 Balaam said to Balak, ‘Anyway, I have come to you now! But I cannot choose to say anything. I can only say the words that God tells me to speak.’
39 Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath-Huzoth. 40 When they arrived there, Balak killed bulls and sheep as a sacrifice. He sent some of the meat to Balaam and the officers who were with him. 41 The next day, Balak took Balaam to Bamoth-Baal. From there, Balaam could see some of the big group of the Israelites.