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Numbers Chapter 23
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Deuteronomy

Balak and Balaam
23:1 'Build seven altars for me here,' said Balaam to Balak, 'and prepare for me seven bulls and seven rams.'
23:2 When Balak did as Balaam had requested, Balak and Balaam sacrificed a bull and ram as a burnt offering on each altar.
23:3 Balaam said to Balak, 'Keep a vigil beside your burnt offerings, and I will go. Hopefully, God will appear to me, and declare that He will show me something that I can relate to you.' With that, [Balaam] went off to meditate.
23:4 God appeared to Balaam. 'I have set up seven altars,' said [Balaam] to [God], 'and I have sacrificed a bull and ram as a burnt offering on each altar.'
23:5 God placed a message in Balaam's mouth and said, 'Go back to Balak, and declare exactly [what I have told you].'
23:6 When [Balaam] returned, Balak was still standing in vigil over his burnt offering, along with all the Moabite dignitaries.
23:7 [Balaam] declared his oracle, and said, 'Balak, king of Moab, has brought me from Aram, from the hills of the east, [telling me] to come curse Jacob and conjure divine wrath against Israel.
23:8 But what curse can I pronounce if God will not grant curse? What divine wrath can I conjure if God will not be angry?
23:9 'I see [this nation] from mountain tops, and gaze on it from the heights. It is a nation dwelling alone at peace, not counting itself among other nations.
23:10 Jacob [is like] the dust; who can count his [hordes]? Who can number the seed of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, but let my end be like his!'
23:11 Balak said to Balaam, 'What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have made every effort to bless them!'
23:12 [Balaam] interrupted and said, 'Didn't [I tell you that] I must be very careful to say only what God tells me?'
23:13 'If you would,' replied Balak, 'come with me to another place. There you will be able to see only a small section of [the Israelite camp], and you will not have to see them all. From there you may be able to curse them for me.'
23:14 With that, he took [Balaam] to Lookout Field at the top of the cliff. There he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
23:15 'Keep a vigil here with your burnt offering,' said [Balaam] to Balak, 'and I will go yonder and seek a vision.'
23:16 God appeared to Balaam, and placed a message in his mouth. He said, 'Return to Balak, and declare exactly [what I have told you].'
23:17 When [Balaam] returned, [Balak] was standing vigil over his burnt offering, along with the Moabite dignitaries. 'What has God declared?' asked Balak.
23:18 [Balaam] proclaimed his oracle and said, 'Rise, Balak, and listen: pay close attention to my insight, son of Tzippor.
23:19 God is not human that He should be false, nor mortal that He should change His mind. Shall He say something and not do it, or speak and not fulfill?
23:20 It is a blessing that I have taken, and when there is such a blessing, I cannot reverse it.
23:21 '[God ] does not look at wrongdoing in Jacob, and He sees no vice in Israel. God their Lord is with them, and they have the King's friendship.
23:22 Since God brought them out of Egypt, they are like His highest expression of strength.
23:23 'No black magic can [be effective] against Jacob, and no occult powers against Israel. 'How is God acting?' is the only question pertinent to Jacob and Israel.
23:24 This is a nation that rises like the king of beasts, and lifts itself like a lion. It does not lie down until it eats its prey and drinks the blood of its kill.'
23:25 Balak said to Balaam, 'If you can't curse them, at least don't bless them!'
23:26 Balaam interrupted and said to Balak, 'My exact words to you were, 'I will do precisely what God declares,' weren't they?'
23:27 'If you would, let's go on,' said Balak to Balaam. 'I will take you somewhere else. Hopefully, God will consider it proper to let you curse them for me there.'
23:28 Balak took Balaam to the top of the peak that overlooks the Wasteland.
23:29 Balaam said to Balak, 'Build me seven altars here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.'
23:30 Balak did as Balaam said, and he sacrificed a bull and ram as a burnt offering on each altar.



Commentary:

to meditate
  (Saadia). Shefi in Hebrew. Also, 'alone' (Targum; Rashi). Or, 'to an isolated peak' (Ibn Ezra; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; cf. Jeremiah 3:20); 'broken and depressed' (Targum Yonathan; Ibn Ezra; from Psalms 109:16); 'limping' (Targum Yerushalmi; Ibn Ezra; Rashbam; from Job 33:21); 'with a dislocated leg' (Paneach Raza; Sotah 10a); 'straight ahead (Septuagint); 'like a snake' (Shefifon, Genesis 49:17; Lekach Tov). Others say that Shefi here is the name of an unclean angel (Zohar; Kav HaYashar 29; MeAm Lo'ez).

Aram
  See note on Numbers 22:5.

hills of the east
  Ibid. Some identify these with the hills of Gilead, through which Balaam had to pass (Tur).

like the dust
  See Genesis 13:16, 28:14.

seed
  (Saadia; Rashi; Hirsch). Robha in Hebrew, cf. Leviticus 19:19, 20:16. Or, 'even a fourth' (Targum; Ibn Ezra; Radak, Sherashim); or, 'families' (Septuagint).

Lookout Field
  (cf. Rashi). Sedeh HaTzofim in Hebrew. Or, 'Field of the Seers' or 'Prophets' (Or HaGanuz on Bahir 62; cf. Megillah 2b, end).

cliff
  Pisgah. See note on Numbers 21:19. It is possible that he took him somewhat behind Mount Nebo, where he could only see part of the camp.

offered
  It appears that only Balak offered sacrifice this time. (see Tzafanath Paaneach).

insight
  Ad in Hebrew. Or, 'my words' (Targum; Saadia; Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'testimony' (Septuagint), or, 'listen to me' (Hirsch).

false
  Kazav in Hebrew. Or, 'waver' (Septuagint).

change His mind
  Yith-nachem in Hebrew. Or, 'be threatened' (Septuagint).

and when there is such a blessing...
  Or, 'since God has blessed them...' (Rashi; Ibn Ezra; Baaley Tosafoth); 'I will bless them and not reverse it' (Targum; Saadia; Septuagint); 'I will not return unless I bless them' (Lekach Tov); or, 'I will not hold back a blessing from them' (Targum Yonathan).

God does not look
  (Tanchuma 14; Rashi; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra). Or, 'One cannot see' (Bachya; Septuagint); or 'I do not see' (Targum Yonathan).

wrongdoing
  Aven in Hebrew. Or, 'falsehood' (Ramban; Radak, Sherashim); or, 'trouble' (Septuagint).

vice
  Amal in Hebrew. See Psalms 10:7. Or, 'sorrow' (Septuagint). Thus, according to the Septuagint, 'No trouble or sorrow shall be seen in Israel.'

their
  Literally, 'his.' The entire verse is in the collective singular.

friendship
  (Rashi; Saadia). Teruah in Hebrew; cf. Psalms 27:6, Job 33:26. Or, 'divine presence' (Targum; Rashbam); 'trumpet blast' (Ibn Ezra; Chizzkuni; see Numbers 10:9); 'power' (Bachya); 'homage to the king' (Hirsch); or, 'glory of kings' (Septuagint).

His highest expression of strength
  (Rashi; Targum). Toafoth R'em in Hebrew; see Numbers 24:8. Also see Psalms 95:4. Or, 'like the horns of the r'em' (Saadia; Ibn Ezra) where the r'em is a unicorn or rhinoceros (Radak, Sherashim; Septuagint); the white antelope (Saadia), the wild ox, aurochs, or bison. See Deuteronomy 33:17, Psalms 22:22, 29:6. Or, 'like the r'em's power.' (Radak, Sherashim; Ibn Janach), 'like the glory of a unicorn' (Septuagint); 'like the mighty mountains' (Lekach Tov); 'like the angels [and] demons' (Gittin 68b); 'like the power of demons' (Rashi).

king of beasts
  Lavi in Hebrew. See Numbers 24:9, Genesis 49:9.

proper
  (Targum; Septuagint). Yashar in Hebrew. Or, 'easy.' (Saadia).

peak
  (Targum: Saadia). Others take Peor here as a proper noun (Septuagint), possibly associated with Baal Peor in Numbers 25:3 (cf. Rashi). This overlooked the valley where the Israelites were camped (cf. Deuteronomy 3:29). One ancient source states that Peor is between Livias and Esbus (Cheshbon) (Eusebius, s.v. Aravoth Moab). This would place it to the north of Mount Nebo, possibly in the area of the present Mushakar. From there, he would be able to look east toward the desert (24:1).

Wasteland
  See note on Numbers 21:20.





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