1 The Israelites travelled to Moab. They lived in tents at the side of the River Jordan. On the other side of the river was the city called Jericho. 2 Balak was the son of Zippor. He saw what the Israelites did to the Amorites. 3 So the people in Moab were afraid because there were very many Israelites. And all the people in Moab became very afraid of the Israelites. 4 So the Moabites said to the leaders of the Midianites, ‘This very large group of people will destroy everything round us. They will be like a bull that eats all the grass in a field!’ Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 He sent men to get Balaam who was the son of Beor. Balaam was near the river at Pethor. Pethor was his home. Balak told them that they should say to Balaam, ‘Many people have come from Egypt. And they cover the ground, everywhere. They want to take our land. 6 They are more powerful than I am. Put a curse on them. Then maybe I will be more powerful than I already am. Then I can send them away from our land. When you bless people, it is good for them. When you curse people, they fail. I know that.’
7 The leaders of Moab and Midian went to find Balaam. They took the money for the curse with them. They found him. And 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 what he says.’ The leaders of Moab and Midian stayed with Balaam. 9 Then God came to Balaam and he said, ‘Who are these men who are with you?’
10 And Balaam said to God, ‘Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent a message to me. 11 He said, “Many people have come from Egypt. And they cover the ground, everywhere. So come and curse them for me. Then perhaps I will be able to fight them. And perhaps I will be able to send them away.” ’
12 God said to Balaam, ‘Do not curse these people. They are special people. I have blessed them.’ 13 The next day, Balaam said to the men from Moab, ‘Go back to Moab. The LORD told me that I should not go with you.’ 14 The men went back to Moab. They told Balak that Balaam would not come with them.
15 Then Balak sent more leaders to Balaam. These leaders were even more important than the first group of leaders. 16 They said to him, ‘Balak says, “Do not let anything stop you coming to me. 17 I will certainly make you rich and famous. And I will do for you anything that you want. So please come and curse these people for me.” ’ 18 Balaam said to them, ‘No, not even if Balak gives me his house, all his gold and all his silver. I will only do what the LORD says.’ 19 Balaam said, ‘Stay here tonight as the other men did. I will talk to the LORD.’ 20 That night, God spoke to Balaam. God said to him, ‘Go with these men. But only do what I say.’
Balaam and his donkey
21 In the morning, Balaam put a blanket on his donkey. He went with the men to Moab. 22 The LORD was angry because Balaam went with the men. He put an angel on the road to stop Balaam. Balaam was riding on his donkey and two servants were with him. 23 The angel of the LORD was holding a sword. The donkey saw the angel. So it tried to leave the road and it tried to 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 a narrow road. There were walls on each side of the road. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it pushed towards the wall. Balaam had his foot fixed between the donkey and the wall. Balaam hit the donkey again.
26 The angel of the LORD moved and he stood in another narrow place. There was no space to turn round. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD it lay down on the road. Balaam was angry. He hit the donkey with his stick. 28 The LORD made the donkey speak. It said, ‘What have I done? Why have you hit me 3 times?’
29 Balaam said to the donkey, ‘You have made me look silly. If I had a sword, I would kill you.’ 30 The donkey said to Balaam, ‘I am your own donkey. Do I usually do things like this to you?’ Balaam said, ‘No.’ 31 Then the LORD let Balaam see the angel who was standing in the road. Balaam lay down with his face on the road.
32 The angel of the LORD said to him, ‘You have hit your donkey 3 times! I have come here to stop you. What you are doing is against me. 33 If the donkey had not turned from me 3 times, I would have killed you. I would not have killed the donkey.’
34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, ‘I have sinned. But I did not know that you were standing in the road to stop me. So, if this is making you angry, 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 important men.
36 People told Balak that Balaam was coming. Balak went out to meet him at the town in Moab on the river Arnon that is on the border. 37 Balak said to Balaam, ‘I will not give anything to you because you did not come to me quickly.’
38 So Balaam said to Balak, ‘I have come to you now! But I cannot choose to say the things that I want to say. I can only say the words that God puts into my mouth.’
39 Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath-Huzoth. 40 And Balak sacrificed bulls and sheep. And he sent some to Balaam and to the important men who were with him. 41 The next day Balak and Balaam went to Bamoth-Baal. Balaam saw some of the Israelites.