Numbers 23

Balaam's first message from God

1 Balaam said to King Balak, ‘Build seven altars here for me. Prepare seven bulls and seven male sheep.’ 2 Balak did this. Balaam and Balak then offered a bull and a male sheep on each altar as a sacrifice.

3 Then Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stand next to your burnt offering. I will go to see if the Lord will come to meet me. If he shows something to me, I will tell you about it.’ Then Balaam went to the top of a hill where there were no trees.

4 Balaam said to the Lord, ‘I made seven altars. On each altar, I have offered a bull and a male sheep.’

5 God told Balaam the message that he should speak to Balak.

6 So Balaam returned to Balak. Balak was still standing by his burnt offering with all the Moabite officers.

7 Then Balaam started to speak his message from God. He said, ‘Balak, the king of Moab, has brought me from Syria. He brought me from the mountains in the east. He said “Come and curse Jacob's descendants for me. Say bad things against the Israelites!”

8 But I cannot curse these people, because God has not cursed them. I cannot speak against people that the Lord does not speak against.

9 When I stand on the rocks, I can see the Israelites. I can watch them from the hills. They are people who are separate from other nations.

10 Nobody can count Jacob's descendants. They are as many as the dust on the ground! It would be too difficult to count even a quarter of the Israelites. I would like to die in peace like those righteous people!’

11 Balak said to Balaam, ‘You have not done what I wanted you to do! I brought you here to curse my enemies. But you have blessed them!’

12 Balaam answered, ‘I can only speak the message that the Lord has told me.’

Balaam's second message from God

13 Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Please come with me to another place where you can see the Israelites. You will not see all of them from there. Then curse those people for me.’

14 Balak took Balaam to the field of Zophim. It was at the top of Pisgah mountain. Balak built seven altars there. He offered a bull and a male sheep on each altar as sacrifices.

15 Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stay here beside your burnt offering. I will go to meet with the Lord.’

16 The Lord met Balaam and told him the message that he should speak to Balak. He told Balaam to go and tell it to Balak. 17 So Balaam went back to Balak. Balak and the Moabite officers were standing beside the burnt offerings. Balak asked Balaam, ‘What did the Lord say?’

18 Balaam spoke his message from God. He said, ‘Balak, son of Zippor, be ready! Listen carefully to me.

19 God is not human. He does not tell lies. He does not change his thoughts. If he promises to do something, it happens. 20 He told me that I must bless the Israelites. He has blessed them, so I must do it too.

21 I do not see that any trouble will come to the Israelites. The Lord their God is with them, to help them. They call him their king. 22 He brought them out of Egypt. He fights on their behalf, as strong as a wild bull.

23 Nobody can curse the Israelites. No magic has any power to hurt them. Now people will say about them, “See the great things that God has done for them!” 24 The Israelites are like a strong lion. It eats the animals that it has killed. It does not rest until it has eaten as much as it wants. It also drinks their blood.’

25 Balak said to Balaam, ‘You do not have to curse the Israelites, but please do not bless them!’ 26 Balaam replied, ‘I already told you, “I must do everything that the Lord tells me.” ’

27 Balak said to Balaam, ‘Let me take you to a different place. Perhaps God will let you curse the Israelites from that place.’ 28 Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor mountain. From there they could look over the desert. 29 Balaam said, ‘Build seven altars here. Prepare seven bulls and seven male sheep as sacrifices.’ 30 Balak did that. He offered a bull and a male sheep on each altar as sacrifices.