פָּרָשַׁת בָּלָק | Parashat Balaq (Numbers 22:2-25:9), color-coded according to its narrative layers

According to the poetry of the Midrash Tanḥuma, Bereshit 1:1, the words of the Torah were inscribed “black fire on white fire.” For many years, I’ve wanted to look deeply into the black fire and visualize the full spectrum of the Torah’s sources, hidden within the black fire but revealed through a critical analysis of its layers of redaction. Below, I’ve set the text of the first Torah portion in the annual Torah reading cycle, using color-coding to distinguish the stratigraphic layers forming the composition of the Masoretic text according to the Supplementary Hypothesis presented by Tsemaḥ Yoreh in his Kernel to Canon series of books (2013-2017) and his website, the Sources of Biblical Narrative. As Dr. Yoreh explains,

The Supplementary Hypothesis asserts that the Pentateuch was composed by several different writers. This reflects an overwhelming academic consensus on Biblical authorship, even among scholars who do not subscribe to the Supplementary Hypothesis in particular.[….] According to the Supplementary Hypothesis, Biblical narrative is layered. No editor took a blowtorch to the parts of the Bible he disagreed with and destroyed them; if he had, we would not find these repetitions and contradictions. Instead, Biblical narrative began with a coherent, foundational bedrock, which over time accreted more and more storylines. Unlike geological processes, though, this process of addition was deliberate. What happened if one author disagreed with his predecessor’s storyline or worldview? He did not simply take an axe to the narrative; instead, he attempted to bury his predecessor’s point of view by repeating his own over and over again, thus skewing our understanding of the story in new ways. Every generation of readers sees the world differently, and thus every generation of writers seeks to adapt their predecessors’ cultural heritage to their own situation. We are not meant simply to dismiss earlier stories; rather, the intention of later writers is to transform our understanding of those stories via their additions.

Legend

⬛ The kernel of biblical text upon which all other narratives were laid is thought to have been composed in the mid- to late eighth century BCE toward the end of the heyday of the northern Kingdom of Ephraim (one of the two kingdoms that occupied Biblical Israel). This layer, commonly referred to as ‘E’, is indicated with INDIGO text. The first parashah containing text of this layer was parashat Vayera in Sefer Bereshit. The last parashah containing text from E is Parashat Balaq in Sefer b’Midbar.

⬛ The next oldest layer is thought to have been composed in the late 8th or early 7th century BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah. This layer, commonly known as ‘J’, is indicated with a BLUE text.

⬛ This strata, thought to have been composed during the exilic to early post-exilic period (571–486 BCE) is, as Dr. Yoreh explains, “responsible for supplementing the ‘J’ narrative with dates, names, and numbers, thus ‘ordering’ and authenticating ‘J’s account.” This layer, commonly referred to as ‘P’ (for ‘Priestly’) appears here in GREEN text.

⬛ The next strata popularized Kohanite law for the remnant of Judah after the Temple was destroyed, and functioned as an intermediary between Kohanite lists and laws and the surrounding narrative. This layer, which Dr. Yoreh calls ‘H’ (for the ‘Holiness Code’) appears here in LIME-GREEN text.

⬛ The most recent layer of text, is a post-exilic (pre-3rd century BCE) text that Dr. Yoreh refers to as the “Bridger” which supplements earlier strata with genealogies and popular myths, providing narrative bridges between distant story cycles. This ‘B’ layer is presented here in FUCHSIA.

The ‘H’ layer is absent from this parashah.

Parashat Balaq (Numbers 22:2-25:9) in the annual Torah reading cycle is the seventh parashah in Sefer Bamidbar. It is preceded by parashat Ḥuqat (Numbers 19:1-22:1). Parashat Pinḥas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) follows it.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

כב ב וַיַּ֥רְא בָּלָ֖ק בֶּן־צִפּ֑וֹר אֵ֛ת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לָֽאֱמֹרִֽי׃ ג וַיָּ֨גׇר מוֹאָ֜ב מִפְּנֵ֥י הָעָ֛ם מְאֹ֖ד כִּ֣י רַב־ה֑וּא וַיָּ֣קׇץ מוֹאָ֔ב מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ד וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מוֹאָ֜ב אֶל־זִקְנֵ֣י מִדְיָ֗ן עַתָּ֞ה יְלַחֲכ֤וּ הַקָּהָל֙ אֶת־כׇּל־סְבִ֣יבֹתֵ֔ינוּ כִּלְחֹ֣ךְ הַשּׁ֔וֹר אֵ֖ת יֶ֣רֶק הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה
22 2 Now Balaq son of Tsippor saw all that Yisra’el had done to the Emori, 3 and Moav was in exceeding fear before the people,[1]Moab fears the Israelites just as the Egyptian did in Exodus 1:8-10, employing the same terminology. since they were so many;[2]According to E, the Israelites were not especially numerous (and compare Numbers 20:1-11 which indicates only one source of water), which makes this either a J or P insertion. they felt dread before the Children of Yisra’el. 4 Moav said to the elders of Midyan: “Look now, this assembly will lick up everything around us like an ox licks up the green-things of the field!” [3]These verses implicate the Midianites in the plot to curse the Israelites. The Midianite animosity is found only in H (this source tells of a war against the Midianites [Numbers 31] following their implication in the sin of Baal Peor of Numbers 25), which is later than all the sources except for B. The non-priestly narrative style, however, eliminates H as the possible author and we are left with B, who as is his wont, bridges the narrative gap between the Balaam narratives and the sin of Baal Peor by indicating that the Midianites were implicated in both.

וּבָלָ֧ק בֶּן־צִפּ֛וֹר מֶ֥לֶךְ לְמוֹאָ֖ב בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִֽוא׃ ה וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח מַלְאָכִ֜ים אֶל־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּעֹ֗ר‏[4]בספרי ספרד ואשכנז בְּע֗וֹר פְּ֠ת֠וֹרָה אֲשֶׁ֧ר עַל־הַנָּהָ֛ר אֶ֥רֶץ בְּנֵי־עַמּ֖וֹ לִקְרֹא־ל֑וֹ לֵאמֹ֗ר הִ֠נֵּ֠ה עַ֣ם יָצָ֤א מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם֙ הִנֵּ֤ה כִסָּה֙ אֶת־עֵ֣ין הָאָ֔רֶץ וְה֥וּא יֹשֵׁ֖ב מִמֻּלִֽי׃ ו וְעַתָּה֩ לְכָה־נָּ֨א אָֽרָה־לִּ֜י אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֗ה כִּֽי־עָצ֥וּם הוּא֙ מִמֶּ֔נִּי אוּלַ֤י אוּכַל֙ נַכֶּה־בּ֔וֹ וַאֲגָרְשֶׁ֖נּוּ מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ כִּ֣י יָדַ֗עְתִּי אֵ֤ת אֲשֶׁר־תְּבָרֵךְ֙ מְבֹרָ֔ךְ וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּאֹ֖ר יוּאָֽר׃
Now Balaq son of Tsippor was king of Moav at that time. 5 He sent messengers to Bil’am son of Be’or, to Petor, which is beside the River (in) the land of the sons of his kinspeople, to call him, saying: “Here, a people has come up out of Mitsrayim, here, it covers the aspect of the land, it has settled hard upon me! 6 Now then, pray go, curse this people for me, for it is too mighty (in number) for me! Perhaps I will prevail: we will strike it, so that I drive it from the land. For I know that whomever you bless is blessed, whomever you curse is cursed!”[5]Balak’s request to Balaam is phrased using the same terms as were used to describe the plague of locusts in Exodus 10:15 (E) – as spreading over the face of the earth, threatening Moab.

ז וַיֵּ֨לְכ֜וּ זִקְנֵ֤י מוֹאָב֙ וְזִקְנֵ֣י מִדְיָ֔ן וּקְסָמִ֖ים בְּיָדָ֑ם וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיְדַבְּר֥וּ אֵלָ֖יו דִּבְרֵ֥י בָלָֽק׃ ח וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵיהֶ֗ם לִ֤ינוּ פֹה֙ הַלַּ֔יְלָה וַהֲשִׁבֹתִ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ דָּבָ֔ר כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר יְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֵלָ֑י וַיֵּשְׁב֥וּ שָׂרֵֽי־מוֹאָ֖ב עִם־בִּלְעָֽם׃
7 The elders of Moav and the elders of Midyan went, tokens-of-augury in their hand, they came to Bil’am and spoke Balaq’s words to him.[6]The inclusion of the Midianites once again points towards B as the author, and see penultimate comment. 8 He said to them: “Spend the night here tonight, then I will bring back to you whatever word YHVH speaks to me.” The nobles of Moav stayed with Bil’am.[7]J depicts Balaam as a Yhwh worshipper throughout, chapters 22-24, by adding verses such as this one, in which Balaam inquires with the Lord before initiating any action, or that he will only utter what the Lord tells him to. It is quite evident that these verses are additions to the narrative since its very unlikely that “Yhwh” the private Israelite God would allow Balaam to curse his nation. The supposition that Elohim, the more general deity, would allow Israel to be cursed is not as farfetched, and thus it is likely that the original layer of this narrative is Elohistic. (Note also the abrupt switches throughout chapter between “God” and “the Lord”, indicating J additions to the E text, such as in vs. 8 and vs. 9).

ט וַיָּבֹ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־בִּלְעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר מִ֛י הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה עִמָּֽךְ׃ י וַיֹּ֥אמֶר בִּלְעָ֖ם אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים בָּלָ֧ק בֶּן־צִפֹּ֛ר מֶ֥לֶךְ מוֹאָ֖ב שָׁלַ֥ח אֵלָֽי׃ יא הִנֵּ֤ה הָעָם֙ הַיֹּצֵ֣א מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם וַיְכַ֖ס אֶת־עֵ֣ין הָאָ֑רֶץ עַתָּ֗ה לְכָ֤ה קָֽבָה־לִּי֙ אֹת֔וֹ אוּלַ֥י אוּכַ֛ל לְהִלָּ֥חֶם בּ֖וֹ וְגֵרַשְׁתִּֽיו׃ יב וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵ֖ךְ עִמָּהֶ֑ם לֹ֤א תָאֹר֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם כִּ֥י בָר֖וּךְ הֽוּא׃ שני (חמישי) יג וַיָּ֤קׇם בִּלְעָם֙ בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־שָׂרֵ֣י בָלָ֔ק לְכ֖וּ אֶֽל־אַרְצְכֶ֑ם כִּ֚י מֵאֵ֣ן יְהֹוָ֔ה לְתִתִּ֖י לַהֲלֹ֥ךְ עִמָּכֶֽם׃
9 Now Elohim came to Bil’am and said: Who are these men with you? 10 Bil’am said to Elohim: “Balaq son of Tsippor, king of Moav, has sent to me: 11 ‘Here, the people that came out of Mitsrayim, it covers the aspect of the land! Now then, pray go, revile it for me, perhaps I will be able to make war upon it and drive it away!'” 12 Elohim said to Bil’am: “You are not to go with them, you are not to damn the people, for it is blessed!” 13 Bil’am arose at daybreak and said to Balaq’s nobles: “Go to your land,[8]In E God warns Balaam not to curse the Israelites. If read together with the J addition, however, the deity is simply telling his disciple not to go down to Moab. for YHVH refuses to give-me-leave to go with you.”[9]See comment on Numbers 22:8.

יד וַיָּק֙וּמוּ֙ שָׂרֵ֣י מוֹאָ֔ב וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אֶל־בָּלָ֑ק וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מֵאֵ֥ן בִּלְעָ֖ם הֲלֹ֥ךְ עִמָּֽנוּ׃ טו וַיֹּ֥סֶף ע֖וֹד בָּלָ֑ק שְׁלֹ֣חַ שָׂרִ֔ים רַבִּ֥ים וְנִכְבָּדִ֖ים מֵאֵֽלֶּה׃ טז וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמְרוּ ל֗וֹ כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ בָּלָ֣ק בֶּן־צִפּ֔וֹר אַל־נָ֥א תִמָּנַ֖ע מֵהֲלֹ֥ךְ אֵלָֽי׃ יז כִּֽי־כַבֵּ֤ד אֲכַבֶּדְךָ֙ מְאֹ֔ד וְכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאמַ֥ר אֵלַ֖י אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֑ה וּלְכָה־נָּא֙ קָֽבָה־לִּ֔י אֵ֖ת הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּֽה׃ יח וַיַּ֣עַן בִּלְעָ֗ם וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־עַבְדֵ֣י בָלָ֔ק אִם־יִתֶּן־לִ֥י בָלָ֛ק מְלֹ֥א בֵית֖וֹ כֶּ֣סֶף וְזָהָ֑ב לֹ֣א אוּכַ֗ל לַעֲבֹר֙ אֶת־פִּי֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהָ֔י לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת קְטַנָּ֖ה א֥וֹ גְדוֹלָֽה׃ יט וְעַתָּ֗ה שְׁב֨וּ נָ֥א בָזֶ֛ה גַּם־אַתֶּ֖ם הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְאֵ֣דְעָ֔ה מַה־יֹּסֵ֥ף יְהֹוָ֖ה דַּבֵּ֥ר עִמִּֽי׃
14 The nobles from Moav arose, they came to Balaq and said: “Bil’am refuses to go with us!” 15 So Balaq once again sent nobles, greater and more honored than those; 16 they came to Bil’am and said to him: “Thus says Balaq son of Tsippor: ‘Pray do not hold back from going to me; 17 indeed, I will honor, yes, honor you exceedingly — anything that you say to me, I will do. Only: pray go, revile for me this people!'”[10]The assumption of two groups of messengers is quite far-fetched if J is viewed as the primary author. After Balak hears that Balaam is a “Yhwh” worshipper, there is no logical reason he’d try to convince Balaam to curse fellow Yhwh worshippers. Once again it becomes clear that the base of this narrative is Elohistic (Balaam’s relationship to Elohim is not one of worship, and Elohim is not the Israelites private God), and see comment viii. 18 Bil’am answered, he said to the servants of Balaq: “If Balaq were to give me his house’s fill of silver and gold I would not be able to cross the order of YHVH my elo’ah to do (anything) small or great! 19 So now, pray stay here, you as well, tonight, that I may know what YHVH will once again speak with me.”[11]See comment on Numbers 22:8.

כ וַיָּבֹ֨א אֱלֹהִ֥ים ׀ אֶל־בִּלְעָם֮ לַ֒יְלָה֒ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ אִם־לִקְרֹ֤א לְךָ֙ בָּ֣אוּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֔ים ק֖וּם לֵ֣ךְ אִתָּ֑ם וְאַ֗ךְ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֛ר אֲשֶׁר־אֲדַבֵּ֥ר אֵלֶ֖יךָ אֹת֥וֹ תַעֲשֶֽׂה׃ שלישי כא וַיָּ֤קׇם בִּלְעָם֙ בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וַֽיַּחֲבֹ֖שׁ אֶת־אֲתֹנ֑וֹ וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ עִם־שָׂרֵ֥י מוֹאָֽב׃
20 And Elohim came to Bil’am at night, he said to him: “Since it is to call you that the men have come, arise, go with them; but-only the word that I speak to you, that (alone) may you do.” 21 Bil’am arose at daybreak, he saddled his atōn/jenny (female donkey), and went with the nobles of Moav.[12]See comment on Numbers 22:17.

כב וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֣ף אֱלֹהִים֮ כִּֽי־הוֹלֵ֣ךְ הוּא֒ וַיִּתְיַצֵּ֞ב מַלְאַ֧ךְ יְהֹוָ֛ה בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ לְשָׂטָ֣ן ל֑וֹ וְהוּא֙ רֹכֵ֣ב עַל־אֲתֹנ֔וֹ וּשְׁנֵ֥י נְעָרָ֖יו עִמּֽוֹ׃ כג וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָאָתוֹן֩ אֶת־מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֜ה נִצָּ֣ב בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וְחַרְבּ֤וֹ שְׁלוּפָה֙ בְּיָד֔וֹ וַתֵּ֤ט הָֽאָתוֹן֙ מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וַתֵּ֖לֶךְ בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וַיַּ֤ךְ בִּלְעָם֙ אֶת־הָ֣אָת֔וֹן לְהַטֹּתָ֖הּ הַדָּֽרֶךְ׃
22 But YHVH’s anger flared up because he was going, so YHVH’s messenger stationed himself in the way as an adversary to him. Now he was riding on his jenny, his two serving-lads with him. 23 Now the jenny saw YHVH’s messenger stationed in the way, his sword drawn in his hand, so the jenny turned aside from the way and went into the field. And Bil’am struck the jenny to turn her back onto the way.

כד וַֽיַּעֲמֹד֙ מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהֹוָ֔ה בְּמִשְׁע֖וֹל הַכְּרָמִ֑ים גָּדֵ֥ר מִזֶּ֖ה וְגָדֵ֥ר מִזֶּֽה׃ כה וַתֵּ֨רֶא הָאָת֜וֹן אֶת־מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהֹוָ֗ה וַתִּלָּחֵץ֙ אֶל־הַקִּ֔יר וַתִּלְחַ֛ץ אֶת־רֶ֥גֶל בִּלְעָ֖ם אֶל־הַקִּ֑יר וַיֹּ֖סֶף לְהַכֹּתָֽהּ׃
24 But YHVH’s messenger stood in the furrow (between) the vineyards, a fence here and a fence there. 25 Now the jenny saw YHVH’s messenger, so she pressed herself against the wall, pressing Bil’am’s foot against the wall; and once again he struck her.

כו וַיּ֥וֹסֶף מַלְאַךְ־יְהֹוָ֖ה עֲב֑וֹר וַֽיַּעֲמֹד֙ בְּמָק֣וֹם צָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֛ר אֵֽין־דֶּ֥רֶךְ לִנְט֖וֹת יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאול׃ כז וַתֵּ֤רֶא הָֽאָתוֹן֙ אֶת־מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהֹוָ֔ה וַתִּרְבַּ֖ץ תַּ֣חַת בִּלְעָ֑ם וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֣ף בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיַּ֥ךְ אֶת־הָאָת֖וֹן בַּמַּקֵּֽל׃
26 But YHVH’s messenger once again crossed over, standing in a narrow place where there was no pathway to turn, right or left. 27 Now the jenny saw YHVH’s messenger, so she crouched down beneath Bil’am. And Bil’am’s anger flared up; he struck the jenny with his staff.

כח וַיִּפְתַּ֥ח יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶת־פִּ֣י הָאָת֑וֹן וַתֹּ֤אמֶר לְבִלְעָם֙ מֶה־עָשִׂ֣יתִֽי לְךָ֔ כִּ֣י הִכִּיתַ֔נִי זֶ֖ה שָׁלֹ֥שׁ רְגָלִֽים׃ כט וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בִּלְעָם֙ לָֽאָת֔וֹן כִּ֥י הִתְעַלַּ֖לְתְּ בִּ֑י ל֤וּ יֶשׁ־חֶ֙רֶב֙ בְּיָדִ֔י כִּ֥י עַתָּ֖ה הֲרַגְתִּֽיךְ׃ ל וַתֹּ֨אמֶר הָאָת֜וֹן אֶל־בִּלְעָ֗ם הֲלוֹא֩ אָנֹכִ֨י אֲתֹֽנְךָ֜ אֲשֶׁר־רָכַ֣בְתָּ עָלַ֗י מֵעֽוֹדְךָ֙ עַד־הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה הַֽהַסְכֵּ֣ן הִסְכַּ֔נְתִּי לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת לְךָ֖ כֹּ֑ה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לֹֽא׃
28 Then YHVH opened the mouth of the jenny and she said to Bil’am: “What have I done to you that you have struck me (on) these three occasions?” 29 Bil’am said: “Because you have been capricious with me! If a sword had been in my hand, by now I would have killed you!” 30 The jenny said to Bil’am: “Am I not your jenny upon whom you have ridden from your past until this day? Have I ever been accustomed, accustomed to do thus to you?” He said: “No.”

לא וַיְגַ֣ל יְהֹוָה֮ אֶת־עֵינֵ֣י בִלְעָם֒ וַיַּ֞רְא אֶת־מַלְאַ֤ךְ יְהֹוָה֙ נִצָּ֣ב בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ וְחַרְבּ֥וֹ שְׁלֻפָ֖ה בְּיָד֑וֹ וַיִּקֹּ֥ד וַיִּשְׁתַּ֖חוּ לְאַפָּֽיו׃ לב וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהֹוָ֔ה עַל־מָ֗ה הִכִּ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־אֲתֹ֣נְךָ֔ זֶ֖ה שָׁל֣וֹשׁ רְגָלִ֑ים הִנֵּ֤ה אָנֹכִי֙ יָצָ֣אתִי לְשָׂטָ֔ן כִּֽי־יָרַ֥ט הַדֶּ֖רֶךְ לְנֶגְדִּֽי׃ לג וַתִּרְאַ֙נִי֙ הָֽאָת֔וֹן וַתֵּ֣ט לְפָנַ֔י זֶ֖ה שָׁלֹ֣שׁ רְגָלִ֑ים אוּלַי֙ נָטְתָ֣ה מִפָּנַ֔י כִּ֥י עַתָּ֛ה גַּם־אֹתְכָ֥ה הָרַ֖גְתִּי וְאוֹתָ֥הּ הֶחֱיֵֽיתִי׃ לד וַיֹּ֨אמֶר בִּלְעָ֜ם אֶל־מַלְאַ֤ךְ יְהֹוָה֙ חָטָ֔אתִי כִּ֚י לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי כִּ֥י אַתָּ֛ה נִצָּ֥ב לִקְרָאתִ֖י בַּדָּ֑רֶךְ וְעַתָּ֛ה אִם־רַ֥ע בְּעֵינֶ֖יךָ אָשׁ֥וּבָה לִּֽי׃ לה וַיֹּ֩אמֶר֩ מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־בִּלְעָ֗ם לֵ֚ךְ עִם־הָ֣אֲנָשִׁ֔ים וְאֶ֗פֶס אֶת־הַדָּבָ֛ר אֲשֶׁר־אֲדַבֵּ֥ר אֵלֶ֖יךָ אֹת֣וֹ תְדַבֵּ֑ר וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ בִּלְעָ֖ם עִם־שָׂרֵ֥י בָלָֽק׃
31 Then YHVH uncovered Bil’am’s eyes and he saw YHVH’s messenger stationed in the way, his sword drawn in his hand; he bowed and prostrated himself, to his brow. 32 YHVH’s messenger said to him: “For what (cause) did you strike your jenny (on) these three occasions? Here, I came out as an adversary, for the way was rushed out against me. 33 Now the jenny saw me, so she turned aside before me (on) these three occasions. Had she not turned aside from me, by now, (it is) you I would have killed; but her I would have left-alive!” 34 Bil’am said to YHVH’s messenger: “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were stationed to meet me in the way. But now, if it is ill in your eyes, I will head back.” 35 YHVH’s messenger said to Bil’am: “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that (alone) may you speak.” And so Bil’am went with Balaq’s nobles.[13]This episode is an anomaly within the Balaam cycle. It is the only section of Chapters 22-24 that depicts Balaam in a negative light. It portrays Balaam as cruel (He strikes his donkey), and disobedient, which doesn’t fit in with vs. 21 in which God had consented that he go down to Moab. This negative description of Balaam in this episode accords with H’s short notice of Balaam murder by the Israelites (Numbers 31:8), and is thus at least as late as this source. If we take into account the fairy-tale element of a talking donkey, it is quite likely that the author of this episode was the late Bridger, who frequently adds shards of extra-biblical myths to the fabric of the Pentateuch.

לו וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע בָּלָ֖ק כִּ֣י בָ֣א בִלְעָ֑ם וַיֵּצֵ֨א לִקְרָאת֜וֹ אֶל־עִ֣יר מוֹאָ֗ב אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־גְּב֣וּל אַרְנֹ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֖ר בִּקְצֵ֥ה הַגְּבֽוּל׃ לז וַיֹּ֨אמֶר בָּלָ֜ק אֶל־בִּלְעָ֗ם הֲלֹא֩ שָׁלֹ֨חַ שָׁלַ֤חְתִּי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לִקְרֹא־לָ֔ךְ לָ֥מָּה לֹא־הָלַ֖כְתָּ אֵלָ֑י הַֽאֻמְנָ֔ם לֹ֥א אוּכַ֖ל כַּבְּדֶֽךָ׃ לח וַיֹּ֨אמֶר בִּלְעָ֜ם אֶל־בָּלָ֗ק הִֽנֵּה־בָ֙אתִי֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ עַתָּ֕ה הֲיָכֹ֥ל אוּכַ֖ל דַּבֵּ֣ר מְא֑וּמָה הַדָּבָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָשִׂ֧ים אֱלֹהִ֛ים בְּפִ֖י אֹת֥וֹ אֲדַבֵּֽר׃
36 When Balaq heard that Bil’am was coming, he went out to meet him, to Ír/Town of Moav that is by the Arnon border, that is at the far-edge of the border. 37 And Balaq said to Bil’am: “Did I not send, yes, send to you, to call you! Why did you not go to me? Am I truly not able to honor you?”[14]The E-thread picks up after B’s interruption with Balaam’s arrival in Moab. 38 Bil’am said to Balaq: “Here, I have come to you; but now, am I able, able to speak anything (myself)? The word that Elohim puts in my mouth, that (alone) may I speak.”[15]Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia suggests emending the text from “God” (Elohim) to “my God”, since this verse portrays Balaam, as a worshipper of the deity, which accords more with J’s description of Balaam than with E’s (and Elohim is E’s name for the deity).

רביעי (ששי) לט וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ בִּלְעָ֖ם עִם־בָּלָ֑ק וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ קִרְיַ֥ת חֻצֽוֹת׃ מ וַיִּזְבַּ֥ח בָּלָ֖ק בָּקָ֣ר וָצֹ֑אן וַיְשַׁלַּ֣ח לְבִלְעָ֔ם וְלַשָּׂרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִתּֽוֹ׃ מא וַיְהִ֣י בַבֹּ֔קֶר וַיִּקַּ֤ח בָּלָק֙ אֶת־בִּלְעָ֔ם וַֽיַּעֲלֵ֖הוּ בָּמ֣וֹת בָּ֑עַל וַיַּ֥רְא מִשָּׁ֖ם קְצֵ֥ה הָעָֽם׃
39 Now Bil’am went with Balaq; they came to the village of Ḥutsot/Streets.[16]In E, Balak’s question in vs. 36 is rhetorical, and Balaam simply comes with him. 40 Balaq slaughtered oxen and sheep, and sent them out to Bil’am and to the nobles that were with him. 41 Now it was at daybreak: Balaq took Bil’am and had him go up on the Bamot Baal/Heights of Baal, so that he could see from there the edge of the people.[17]Seeing only a portion of the Israelites implies a large nation, a description with does not accord with E’s relatively small Israelite nation, but does makes sense as a J addition.

כג א וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בִּלְעָם֙ אֶל־בָּלָ֔ק בְּנֵה־לִ֥י בָזֶ֖ה שִׁבְעָ֣ה מִזְבְּחֹ֑ת וְהָכֵ֥ן לִי֙ בָּזֶ֔ה שִׁבְעָ֥ה פָרִ֖ים וְשִׁבְעָ֥ה אֵילִֽים׃ ב וַיַּ֣עַשׂ בָּלָ֔ק כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֣ר בִּלְעָ֑ם וַיַּ֨עַל בָּלָ֧ק וּבִלְעָ֛ם פָּ֥ר וָאַ֖יִל בַּמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃ ג וַיֹּ֨אמֶר בִּלְעָ֜ם לְבָלָ֗ק הִתְיַצֵּב֮ עַל־עֹלָתֶ֒ךָ֒ וְאֵֽלְכָ֗ה אוּלַ֞י יִקָּרֵ֤ה יְהֹוָה֙ לִקְרָאתִ֔י וּדְבַ֥ר מַה־יַּרְאֵ֖נִי וְהִגַּ֣דְתִּי לָ֑ךְ וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ שֶֽׁפִי׃
23 1 Bil’am said to Balaq: “Build me here seven places-for-slaughter, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” 2 Balaq did as Bil’am had spoken to him; then Bil’am and Balaq offered up a bull and a ram on (each) place-for-slaughter.[18]Balaam seeks to tempt God with sacrifices evidence of unsureness, in J Balaam would not seek to influence God since as an unswerving Yahwist he would only unfailingly repeat whatever the Lord tells him to say. 3 Bil’am said to Balaq: “Station yourself beside your offering-up, and I will go: perhaps YHVH will encounter me in an encounter, the word of whatever he lets me see, I will report to you.” So he went off by-himself.[19]Balaam’s obedience to the Lord is once again emphasized in this J addition.

ד וַיִּקָּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־בִּלְעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֗יו אֶת־שִׁבְעַ֤ת הַֽמִּזְבְּחֹת֙ עָרַ֔כְתִּי וָאַ֛עַל פָּ֥ר וָאַ֖יִל בַּמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃ ה וַיָּ֧שֶׂם יְהֹוָ֛ה דָּבָ֖ר בְּפִ֣י בִלְעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֛אמֶר שׁ֥וּב אֶל־בָּלָ֖ק וְכֹ֥ה תְדַבֵּֽר׃ ו וַיָּ֣שׇׁב אֵלָ֔יו וְהִנֵּ֥ה נִצָּ֖ב עַל־עֹלָת֑וֹ ה֖וּא וְכׇל־שָׂרֵ֥י מוֹאָֽב׃
4 Now Elohim did encounter Bil’am,[20]The sacrifices were meant to induce the deity to come, and so they did. he said to him: “The seven places-for-slaughter I have arranged, and I have offered-up a bull and a ram on (each) place-for-slaughter.” 5 YHVH put words in Bil’am’s mouth and said: “Return to Balaq, and thus shall you speak.” 6 So he returned to him, and here: he was standing alongside his offering-up, he and all the nobles of Moav.

ז וַיִּשָּׂ֥א מְשָׁל֖וֹ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר
 
מִן־אֲ֠רָ֠ם יַנְחֵ֨נִי בָלָ֤ק מֶֽלֶךְ־מוֹאָב֙ מֵֽהַרְרֵי־קֶ֔דֶם לְכָה֙ אָֽרָה־לִּ֣י יַעֲקֹ֔ב וּלְכָ֖ה זֹעֲמָ֥ה יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ח מָ֣ה אֶקֹּ֔ב לֹ֥א קַבֹּ֖ה אֵ֑ל וּמָ֣ה אֶזְעֹ֔ם לֹ֥א זָעַ֖ם יְהֹוָה׃ ט כִּֽי־מֵרֹ֤אשׁ צֻרִים֙ אֶרְאֶ֔נּוּ וּמִגְּבָע֖וֹת אֲשׁוּרֶ֑נּוּ הֶן־עָם֙ לְבָדָ֣ד יִשְׁכֹּ֔ן וּבַגּוֹיִ֖ם לֹ֥א יִתְחַשָּֽׁב׃ י מִ֤י מָנָה֙ עֲפַ֣ר יַעֲקֹ֔ב וּמִסְפָּ֖ר אֶת־רֹ֣בַע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל תָּמֹ֤ת נַפְשִׁי֙ מ֣וֹת יְשָׁרִ֔ים וּתְהִ֥י אַחֲרִיתִ֖י כָּמֹֽהוּ׃

7 He took up his parable and said:
 
“From Aram Balaq led me, Moav’s king from the hills of Qedem: Go, damn Yaakov for me, go, execrate Yisra’el! 8 How shall I revile (him) whom El has not reviled, how shall I execrate (him) whom YHVH has not execrated? 9 Indeed, from the top of crags I see him: from hills I behold him: here, a people, alone-in-security it dwells, among the nations it does not need to come-to-reckoning. 10 Who can measure the dust of Yaakov, or (find a) number (for) the dust-clouds of Yisra’el? May I die the death of the upright, may my future be like his!”

יא וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בָּלָק֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם מֶ֥ה עָשִׂ֖יתָ לִ֑י לָקֹ֤ב אֹיְבַי֙ לְקַחְתִּ֔יךָ וְהִנֵּ֖ה בֵּרַ֥כְתָּ בָרֵֽךְ׃ יב וַיַּ֖עַן וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הֲלֹ֗א אֵת֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָשִׂ֤ים יְהֹוָה֙ בְּפִ֔י אֹת֥וֹ אֶשְׁמֹ֖ר לְדַבֵּֽר׃ חמישי יג וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֜יו בָּלָ֗ק [לך] לְכָה־נָּ֨א אִתִּ֜י אֶל־מָק֤וֹם אַחֵר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּרְאֶ֣נּוּ מִשָּׁ֔ם אֶ֚פֶס קָצֵ֣הוּ תִרְאֶ֔ה וְכֻלּ֖וֹ לֹ֣א תִרְאֶ֑ה וְקׇבְנוֹ־לִ֖י מִשָּֽׁם׃ יד וַיִּקָּחֵ֙הוּ֙ שְׂדֵ֣ה צֹפִ֔ים אֶל־רֹ֖אשׁ הַפִּסְגָּ֑ה וַיִּ֙בֶן֙ שִׁבְעָ֣ה מִזְבְּחֹ֔ת וַיַּ֛עַל פָּ֥ר וָאַ֖יִל בַּמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃ טו וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־בָּלָ֔ק הִתְיַצֵּ֥ב כֹּ֖ה עַל־עֹלָתֶ֑ךָ וְאָנֹכִ֖י אִקָּ֥רֶה כֹּֽה׃ טז וַיִּקָּ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיָּ֥שֶׂם דָּבָ֖ר בְּפִ֑יו וַיֹּ֛אמֶר שׁ֥וּב אֶל־בָּלָ֖ק וְכֹ֥ה תְדַבֵּֽר׃ יז וַיָּבֹ֣א אֵלָ֗יו וְהִנּ֤וֹ נִצָּב֙ עַל־עֹ֣לָת֔וֹ וְשָׂרֵ֥י מוֹאָ֖ב אִתּ֑וֹ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ בָּלָ֔ק מַה־דִּבֶּ֖ר יְהֹוָה׃
11 Balaq said to Bil’am: “What have you done to me? To revile my foes I took you on, and here, you have blessed, yes, blessed (them)!” 12 He answered and said: “Is it not whatever YHVH puts in my mouth, that (alone) I must take-care to speak?” 13 Balaq said to him: “Pray go with me to another place from where you can see them: only their edge will you see, all of them you will not see — revile them for me from there!” 14 So he took him to the Sdeh Tsofim/Field of Watchmen, to the top of the summit. He built seven places-for-slaughter and offered-up a bull and a ram on (each) place-for-slaughter. 15 Then he said to Balaq: “Stand here, alongside your offering-up; as for me, I will seek-an-encounter there.” 16 YHVH let himself be encountered by Bil’am and put words in his mouth, he said: “Return to Balaq, and thus shall you speak.” 17 He came to him: here, he was standing alongside his offering-up, the nobles of Moav with him. Balaq said to him: “What did YHVH speak?”[21]This first blessing / poem is clearly a Yahwistic insert and reflects prominent J themes, such as absolute loyalty to the Lord: 8 How can I curse whom God has not cursed?    How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?; and the large number of Israelites: 10 Who can count the dust of Jacob,  or number the dust-cloud of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!’. Note that J (vss. 13-17) adds a length resumptive repetition recording the whole altar and bull ritual once more, just in a different place (The field of Zophim rather than Bamot Baal).

יח וַיִּשָּׂ֥א מְשָׁל֖וֹ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר
 
ק֤וּם בָּלָק֙ וּֽשְׁמָ֔ע הַאֲזִ֥ינָה עָדַ֖י בְּנ֥וֹ צִפֹּֽר׃ יט לֹ֣א אִ֥ישׁ אֵל֙ וִֽיכַזֵּ֔ב וּבֶן־אָדָ֖ם וְיִתְנֶחָ֑ם הַה֤וּא אָמַר֙ וְלֹ֣א יַעֲשֶׂ֔ה וְדִבֶּ֖ר וְלֹ֥א יְקִימֶֽנָּה׃
כ הִנֵּ֥ה בָרֵ֖ךְ לָקָ֑חְתִּי וּבֵרֵ֖ךְ וְלֹ֥א אֲשִׁיבֶֽנָּה׃ כא לֹֽא־הִבִּ֥יט אָ֙וֶן֙ בְּיַעֲקֹ֔ב וְלֹא־רָאָ֥ה עָמָ֖ל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹהָיו֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וּתְרוּעַ֥ת מֶ֖לֶךְ בּֽוֹ׃ כב אֵ֖ל מוֹצִיאָ֣ם מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם כְּתוֹעֲפֹ֥ת רְאֵ֖ם לֽוֹ׃ כג כִּ֤י לֹא־נַ֙חַשׁ֙ בְּיַעֲקֹ֔ב וְלֹא־קֶ֖סֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כָּעֵ֗ת יֵאָמֵ֤ר לְיַעֲקֹב֙ וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מַה־פָּ֖עַל אֵֽל׃ כד הֶן־עָם֙ כְּלָבִ֣יא יָק֔וּם וְכַאֲרִ֖י יִתְנַשָּׂ֑א לֹ֤א יִשְׁכַּב֙ עַד־יֹ֣אכַל טֶ֔רֶף וְדַם־חֲלָלִ֖ים יִשְׁתֶּֽה׃
18 He took up his parable and said:
 
“Arise, Balaq, and hearken, turn-ear toward me, O son of Tsippor: 19 No man is El, that he should lie, or a human being, that he should retract. He, should he say and not do, speak and not fulfill?
[22]The promise referred to in this blessing / poem is God’s promise to deliver the people from Egypt (vss. 22-24) which was accomplished (through Moses), without any need for unpalatable magical means. 20 Here, to bless I was taken on, when he blesses, I cannot reverse it. 21 He spies no evil in Yaakov, he sees no trouble in Yisra’el, YHVH their elo’ah is with them, fanfare for the king, among them![23]J alludes here to the first blessing/poem which he composed:20See, I received a command to bless;  he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. Note J’s “Lord” as opposed to “God” (El) in vs. 19. 22 The El who brought them out of Mitsrayim like the horns of the wild-ox for him. 23 For there is no divination in Yaakov, and no augury in Yisra’el; at once it is said to Yaakov, to Yisra’el, what El intends. 24 Here, a people arises like a lioness, like a lion it lifts itself up: it does not lie down till it eats (its) prey, and the blood of the slain it drinks.”[24]See comment on Numbers 23:17.

כה וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בָּלָק֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם גַּם־קֹ֖ב לֹ֣א תִקֳּבֶ֑נּוּ גַּם־בָּרֵ֖ךְ לֹ֥א תְבָרְכֶֽנּוּ׃ כו וַיַּ֣עַן בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֶל־בָּלָ֑ק הֲלֹ֗א דִּבַּ֤רְתִּי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־יְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֹת֥וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶֽׂה׃ ששי (שביעי) כז וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בָּלָק֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם לְכָה־נָּא֙ אֶקָּ֣חֲךָ֔ אֶל־מָק֖וֹם אַחֵ֑ר אוּלַ֤י יִישַׁר֙ בְּעֵינֵ֣י הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים וְקַבֹּ֥תוֹ לִ֖י מִשָּֽׁם׃ כח וַיִּקַּ֥ח בָּלָ֖ק אֶת־בִּלְעָ֑ם רֹ֣אשׁ הַפְּע֔וֹר הַנִּשְׁקָ֖ף עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַיְשִׁימֹֽן׃ כט וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בִּלְעָם֙ אֶל־בָּלָ֔ק בְּנֵה־לִ֥י בָזֶ֖ה שִׁבְעָ֣ה מִזְבְּחֹ֑ת וְהָכֵ֥ן לִי֙ בָּזֶ֔ה שִׁבְעָ֥ה פָרִ֖ים וְשִׁבְעָ֥ה אֵילִֽם׃ ל וַיַּ֣עַשׂ בָּלָ֔ק כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר אָמַ֣ר בִּלְעָ֑ם וַיַּ֛עַל פָּ֥ר וָאַ֖יִל בַּמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃
25 Balaq said to Bil’am: “If you just cannot revile, revile them, just do not bless, bless them!” 26 Bil’am spoke up and said to Balaq: “Did I not speak to you (before), saying: ‘All that YHVH speaks — that (alone) may I do?!'”[25]Balaam evinces his loyalty to the Lord as in 22:8, 18 (J). 27 Balaq said to Bil’am: “Pray go, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be right in Elohim’s eyes that you will revile them for me from there.” 28 So Balaq took Bil’am to the top of Pe’or that overlooks the wasteland. 29 Bil’am said to Balaq: “Build me here seven places-for-slaughter and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” 30 So Balaq did as Bil’am had said; and he offered-up a bull and a ram on (each) place-for-slaughter.[26]As in 23:1-2 (E), Balaam seeks to tempt God with sacrifices.

כד א וַיַּ֣רְא בִּלְעָ֗ם כִּ֣י ט֞וֹב בְּעֵינֵ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ לְבָרֵ֣ךְ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְלֹא־הָלַ֥ךְ כְּפַֽעַם־בְּפַ֖עַם לִקְרַ֣את נְחָשִׁ֑ים וַיָּ֥שֶׁת אֶל־הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר פָּנָֽיו׃ ב וַיִּשָּׂ֨א בִלְעָ֜ם אֶת־עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּרְא֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שֹׁכֵ֖ן לִשְׁבָטָ֑יו וַתְּהִ֥י עָלָ֖יו ר֥וּחַ אֱלֹהִֽים׃
24 1 Now Bil’am saw that it was good in the eyes of YHVH to bless Yisra’el, and so he did not go forth as time and time (before) to encounter divination-meetings; but he set his face toward the wilderness.[27]Balaam gives up his unorthodox magics and relies solely on the Lord for his blessing/poem. This statement is a reflection of J’s discomfort with Balaam’s modus operandi of altars and sacrifice (E) which can be construed as tempting the deity, and does not befit a Yhwh loyalist, let alone a Yahwistic prophet. 2 And Bil’am lifted up his eyes and saw Yisra’el, dwelling by their tribes, and there came upon him the spirit of Elohim.

ג וַיִּשָּׂ֥א מְשָׁל֖וֹ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר
 
נְאֻ֤ם בִּלְעָם֙ בְּנ֣וֹ בְעֹ֔ר וּנְאֻ֥ם הַגֶּ֖בֶר שְׁתֻ֥ם הָעָֽיִן׃ ד נְאֻ֕ם שֹׁמֵ֖עַ אִמְרֵי־אֵ֑ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר מַחֲזֵ֤ה שַׁדַּי֙ יֶֽחֱזֶ֔ה נֹפֵ֖ל וּגְל֥וּי עֵינָֽיִם׃ ה מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ו כִּנְחָלִ֣ים נִטָּ֔יוּ כְּגַנֹּ֖ת עֲלֵ֣י נָהָ֑ר
כַּאֲהָלִים֙ נָטַ֣ע יְהֹוָ֔ה כַּאֲרָזִ֖ים עֲלֵי־מָֽיִם׃ ז יִֽזַּל־מַ֙יִם֙ מִדָּ֣לְיָ֔ו וְזַרְע֖וֹ בְּמַ֣יִם רַבִּ֑ים וְיָרֹ֤ם מֵֽאֲגַג֙ מַלְכּ֔וֹ וְתִנַּשֵּׂ֖א מַלְכֻתֽוֹ׃ ח אֵ֚ל מוֹצִיא֣וֹ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם כְּתוֹעֲפֹ֥ת רְאֵ֖ם ל֑וֹ יֹאכַ֞ל גּוֹיִ֣ם צָרָ֗יו וְעַצְמֹתֵיהֶ֛ם יְגָרֵ֖ם וְחִצָּ֥יו יִמְחָֽץ׃ ט כָּרַ֨ע שָׁכַ֧ב כַּאֲרִ֛י וּכְלָבִ֖יא מִ֣י יְקִימֶ֑נּוּ מְבָרְכֶ֣יךָ בָר֔וּךְ וְאֹרְרֶ֖יךָ אָרֽוּר׃
3 He took up his parable and said:
 
“Utters Bil’am the son of Be’or, utters the man of the open eye, 4 utters the hearer of El-sayings who envisages a vision of Shaddai, bowed, but with eyes uncovered: 5 How goodly are your tents, O Yaakov, your dwellings, O Yisra’el, 6 like groves stretched out, like gardens beside a river,
[28]In Numbers 22:12 (E), God says they [the Israelites] are blessed, and thus Balaam blesses them unambiguously. like aloes planted by YHVH,[29]This line of the poem was quite clearly inserted by J, since its only the aloes the Lord plants – the rest of the trees are just the objects to which Israel is likened. like cedars beside the water; 7 dripping water from their boughs, their seed in many waters! Their king will rise above Agag, their kingdom be exalted. 8 El who brought them out of Mitsrayim like the horns of the re’em for him! They will consume enemy nations, their bones they will crush; their arrows they will smash! 9 They crouch, they lie down like a lion, like the lioness — who will (dare) rouse him? Those who bless you — blessed, those who curse you — cursed!”

י וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֤ף בָּלָק֙ אֶל־בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיִּסְפֹּ֖ק אֶת־כַּפָּ֑יו וַיֹּ֨אמֶר בָּלָ֜ק אֶל־בִּלְעָ֗ם לָקֹ֤ב אֹֽיְבַי֙ קְרָאתִ֔יךָ וְהִנֵּה֙ בֵּרַ֣כְתָּ בָרֵ֔ךְ זֶ֖ה שָׁלֹ֥שׁ פְּעָמִֽים׃ יא וְעַתָּ֖ה בְּרַח־לְךָ֣ אֶל־מְקוֹמֶ֑ךָ אָמַ֙רְתִּי֙ כַּבֵּ֣ד אֲכַבֶּדְךָ֔ וְהִנֵּ֛ה מְנָעֲךָ֥ יְהֹוָ֖ה מִכָּבֽוֹד׃ יב וַיֹּ֥אמֶר בִּלְעָ֖ם אֶל־בָּלָ֑ק הֲלֹ֗א גַּ֧ם אֶל־מַלְאָכֶ֛יךָ אֲשֶׁר־שָׁלַ֥חְתָּ אֵלַ֖י דִּבַּ֥רְתִּי לֵאמֹֽר׃ יג אִם־יִתֶּן־לִ֨י בָלָ֜ק מְלֹ֣א בֵיתוֹ֮ כֶּ֣סֶף וְזָהָב֒ לֹ֣א אוּכַ֗ל לַעֲבֹר֙ אֶת־פִּ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת טוֹבָ֛ה א֥וֹ רָעָ֖ה מִלִּבִּ֑י אֲשֶׁר־יְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֹת֥וֹ אֲדַבֵּֽר׃ שביעי יד וְעַתָּ֕ה הִנְנִ֥י הוֹלֵ֖ךְ לְעַמִּ֑י לְכָה֙ אִיעָ֣צְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַעֲשֶׂ֜ה הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֛ה לְעַמְּךָ֖ בְּאַחֲרִ֥ית הַיָּמִֽים׃
10 Balaq’s anger flared up at Bil’am, he smacked his hands (together). Balaq said to Bil’am: “To revile my enemies I had you called, and here: you have blessed, yes, blessed them,[30]Note the parallelism between this blessing and the preceding one, both allude to the Exodus from Egypt, and compare Israel to a crouching line. In E Balak’s anger is unadulterated. In J, even Balak admits that it wasn’t Balaam’s fault (vs. 11b), the Lord wished his loyalist to utter blessings, and so he did. these three times![31]Only in J is it three times, in E Balaam has only uttered two blessings/poems. 11 So now, hasten back to your (own) place![32]See first comment on Numbers 24:10. I had said: ‘I will honor, yes, honor you;’ but here: YHVH has denied you honor!”[33]See first comment on Numbers 24:10. 12 Bil’am said to Balaq:[34]What Balaam said to Balak according to E is only recorded after the J insetion. “Didn’t I speak also to the messengers that you sent to me, saying: 13 ‘If Balaq were to give me his house’s fill of silver and gold, I would not be able to cross the order of YHVH, to do good or ill from my (own) heart? What YHVH speaks, that (alone) may I speak!’[35]Balaam utters his Yahwistic statement of faith one final time. 14 So now, here, I am going (back) to my people; come, I will advise you as to what this people will do to your people in future days.”

טו וַיִּשָּׂ֥א מְשָׁל֖וֹ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר
 
נְאֻ֤ם בִּלְעָם֙ בְּנ֣וֹ בְעֹ֔ר וּנְאֻ֥ם הַגֶּ֖בֶר שְׁתֻ֥ם הָעָֽיִן׃ טז נְאֻ֗ם שֹׁמֵ֙עַ֙ אִמְרֵי־אֵ֔ל וְיֹדֵ֖עַ דַּ֣עַת עֶלְי֑וֹן מַחֲזֵ֤ה שַׁדַּי֙ יֶֽחֱזֶ֔ה נֹפֵ֖ל וּגְל֥וּי עֵינָֽיִם׃ יז אֶרְאֶ֙נּוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א עַתָּ֔ה אֲשׁוּרֶ֖נּוּ וְלֹ֣א קָר֑וֹב דָּרַ֨ךְ כּוֹכָ֜ב מִֽיַּעֲקֹ֗ב וְקָ֥ם שֵׁ֙בֶט֙ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמָחַץ֙ פַּאֲתֵ֣י מוֹאָ֔ב וְקַרְקַ֖ר כׇּל־בְּנֵי־שֵֽׁת׃ יח וְהָיָ֨ה אֱד֜וֹם יְרֵשָׁ֗ה וְהָיָ֧ה יְרֵשָׁ֛ה שֵׂעִ֖יר אֹיְבָ֑יו וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עֹ֥שֶׂה חָֽיִל׃ יט וְיֵ֖רְדְּ מִֽיַּעֲקֹ֑ב וְהֶֽאֱבִ֥יד שָׂרִ֖יד מֵעִֽיר׃

15 So he took up his parable and said:
 
“Utters Bil’am the son of Be’or, utters the man of open eye, 16 utters the hearer of El-sayings, who knows the knowledge of Elyon, envisaging a vision of Shaddai, bowed, but with eyes uncovered: 17 I see it, but not now, I behold it, but not soon: There goes forth a star from Yaakov, there arises a meteor from Yisra’el, it smashes the pate of Moav, the crown of all the Children of Shet. 18 Edom becomes a possession, a possession becomes Se’ir of its enemies, but Yisra’el does valiantly. 19 There rules (one) from Yaakov, destroying the remnant of Ír.”

כ וַיַּרְא֙ אֶת־עֲמָלֵ֔ק וַיִּשָּׂ֥א מְשָׁל֖וֹ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר
 
רֵאשִׁ֤ית גּוֹיִם֙ עֲמָלֵ֔ק וְאַחֲרִית֖וֹ עֲדֵ֥י אֹבֵֽד׃

20 He saw Amaleq, and he took up his parable and said:
 
“Premier of nations, Amaleq, but its future: near to oblivion!”

כא וַיַּרְא֙ אֶת־הַקֵּינִ֔י וַיִּשָּׂ֥א מְשָׁל֖וֹ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר
 
אֵיתָן֙ מֽוֹשָׁבֶ֔ךָ וְשִׂ֥ים בַּסֶּ֖לַע קִנֶּֽךָ׃ כב כִּ֥י אִם־יִהְיֶ֖ה לְבָ֣עֵֽר קָ֑יִן עַד־מָ֖ה אַשּׁ֥וּר תִּשְׁבֶּֽךָּ׃

21 He saw the Qéni, and he took up his parable, and said:
 
“Secure (is) your settlement, set in the clefts (is) your nest, 22 but ablaze will be Qayin, when Ashur takes-you-captive.”

כג וַיִּשָּׂ֥א מְשָׁל֖וֹ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר
 
א֕וֹי מִ֥י יִחְיֶ֖ה מִשֻּׂמ֥וֹ אֵֽל׃ כד וְצִים֙ מִיַּ֣ד כִּתִּ֔ים וְעִנּ֥וּ אַשּׁ֖וּר וְעִנּוּ־עֵ֑בֶר וְגַם־ה֖וּא עֲדֵ֥י אֹבֵֽד׃

23 And he took up his parable and said:
 
“Alas, who can remain-alive whom El has condemned! 24 Ships (come) from the shore of Kittim, they afflict Ashur, they afflict Ever, but they too: near to oblivion!”

כה וַיָּ֣קׇם בִּלְעָ֔ם וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ וַיָּ֣שׇׁב לִמְקֹמ֑וֹ וְגַם־בָּלָ֖ק הָלַ֥ךְ לְדַרְכּֽוֹ׃
25 Then Bil’am arose and went, returning to his place; and also Balaq went on his way.[36]As is the case with many other narrative compositions, the Elohistic composition concludes with a poetic prophecy / blessing, and compare Genesis 49, Deuteronomy 32-33, and II Samuel 22.

כה א וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בַּשִּׁטִּ֑ים וַיָּ֣חֶל הָעָ֔ם לִזְנ֖וֹת אֶל־בְּנ֥וֹת מוֹאָֽב׃ ב וַתִּקְרֶ֣אןָ לָעָ֔ם לְזִבְחֵ֖י אֱלֹהֵיהֶ֑ן וַיֹּ֣אכַל הָעָ֔ם וַיִּֽשְׁתַּחֲו֖וּ לֵאלֹֽהֵיהֶֽן׃ ג וַיִּצָּ֥מֶד יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לְבַ֣עַל פְּע֑וֹר וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֥ף יְהֹוָ֖ה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ד וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה קַ֚ח אֶת־כׇּל־רָאשֵׁ֣י הָעָ֔ם וְהוֹקַ֥ע אוֹתָ֛ם לַיהֹוָ֖ה נֶ֣גֶד הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וְיָשֹׁ֛ב חֲר֥וֹן אַף־יְהֹוָ֖ה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶל־שֹׁפְטֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל הִרְגוּ֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֲנָשָׁ֔יו הַנִּצְמָדִ֖ים לְבַ֥עַל פְּעֽוֹר׃
25 1 Yisra’el stayed in Shittim/Acacias, and the people began to whore with the women of Moav. 2 They called the people for slaughter-offerings to their deities; the people ate and prostrated themselves to their deities. 3 Now Yisra’el yoked themselves to the Baal of Pe’or, so the anger of YHVH flared up against Yisra’el; 4 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Take all the heads of the people and impale them to YHVH, facing the sun, so that the flaming anger of YHVH may turn from Yisra’el.”[37]In the final J episode before Moses’ death, the Israelites sin in just the way J warned against in 34:15-16, and just as in 32:26-28, the punishment for idolatry is lethal. The וישב (turned away) in vs. 4, is vocalized in the Hebrew as a future form, although, I believe it was originally a past tense, i.e. the Lord told Moses how to punish the sinners, and then after Moses did so (not expressly recounted), the Lord’s anger turns away. Vss. 5-9 were clearly added to the narrative, the Israelites are punished with a plague instead of the leaders being impaled, the Midianites are responsible for Israel’s corruption instead of (or in addition to) the Moabites, and finally Phineas the priest is the one who stops the plague instead of Moses (identifying the additions as Priestly). P adds this section to the J account in order to confirm Phineas, Aaron’s grandson as the legitimate heir to the priesthood (vss. 10-13) and its power to atone. 5 Mosheh said to the officials of Yisra’el: “Let each-man kill (those of) his men who yoked themselves to the Baal of Pe’or!”

ו וְהִנֵּ֡ה אִישׁ֩ מִבְּנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל בָּ֗א וַיַּקְרֵ֤ב אֶל־אֶחָיו֙ אֶת־הַמִּדְיָנִ֔ית לְעֵינֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה וּלְעֵינֵ֖י כׇּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְהֵ֣מָּה בֹכִ֔ים פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃ מפטיר ז וַיַּ֗רְא פִּֽינְחָס֙ בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָ֔ר בֶּֽן־אַהֲרֹ֖ן הַכֹּהֵ֑ן וַיָּ֙קׇם֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הָֽעֵדָ֔ה וַיִּקַּ֥ח רֹ֖מַח בְּיָדֽוֹ׃ ח וַ֠יָּבֹ֠א אַחַ֨ר אִֽישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶל־הַקֻּבָּ֗ה וַיִּדְקֹר֙ אֶת־שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם אֵ֚ת אִ֣ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֶת־הָאִשָּׁ֖ה אֶל־קֳבָתָ֑הּ וַתֵּֽעָצַר֙ הַמַּגֵּפָ֔ה מֵעַ֖ל בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ט וַיִּהְי֕וּ הַמֵּתִ֖ים בַּמַּגֵּפָ֑ה אַרְבָּעָ֥ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֖ים אָֽלֶף׃
6 Now here, a man of the Children of Yisra’el had come and had brought-near to his brothers a (certain) Midyanít, before the eyes of Mosheh and before the eyes of the entire community of the Children of Yisra’el while they were (all) weeping at the entrance to the Ohel Mo’ed. 7 When Pin’ḥas son of El’azar son of Aharon the priest saw (it), he arose from the midst of the community, taking a spear in his hand; 8 he came after the man of Yisra’el into the private-chamber, and he thrust through the two of them, the man of Yisra’el and the woman, in her private-parts, and the plague was held-back from the Children of Yisra’el. 9 Now those that died of the plague were four and twenty thousand.

The Masoretic text presented here is from Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish’s Miqra al pi ha-Mesorah. For the translation in English, I have adapted the translation of Everett Fox in the Schocken Bible (1997), mostly to re-Hebraize divine names, place names, and personal names. Instead of “damn” and “damned,” I have used cursed. Insted of “slaughter-site,” I have used “place-for-slaughter.” Instead of “she-ass” for a female donkey, I have used “jenny” which is the name for a female donkey in English. Instead of “king-of-beasts,” I have “lioness.” Aside from these, I have made minor punctuation changes.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Moab fears the Israelites just as the Egyptian did in Exodus 1:8-10, employing the same terminology.
  2. According to E, the Israelites were not especially numerous (and compare Numbers 20:1-11 which indicates only one source of water), which makes this either a J or P insertion.
  3. These verses implicate the Midianites in the plot to curse the Israelites. The Midianite animosity is found only in H (this source tells of a war against the Midianites [Numbers 31] following their implication in the sin of Baal Peor of Numbers 25), which is later than all the sources except for B. The non-priestly narrative style, however, eliminates H as the possible author and we are left with B, who as is his wont, bridges the narrative gap between the Balaam narratives and the sin of Baal Peor by indicating that the Midianites were implicated in both.
  4. בספרי ספרד ואשכנז בְּע֗וֹר
  5. Balak’s request to Balaam is phrased using the same terms as were used to describe the plague of locusts in Exodus 10:15 (E) – as spreading over the face of the earth, threatening Moab.
  6. The inclusion of the Midianites once again points towards B as the author, and see penultimate comment.
  7. J depicts Balaam as a Yhwh worshipper throughout, chapters 22-24, by adding verses such as this one, in which Balaam inquires with the Lord before initiating any action, or that he will only utter what the Lord tells him to. It is quite evident that these verses are additions to the narrative since its very unlikely that “Yhwh” the private Israelite God would allow Balaam to curse his nation. The supposition that Elohim, the more general deity, would allow Israel to be cursed is not as farfetched, and thus it is likely that the original layer of this narrative is Elohistic. (Note also the abrupt switches throughout chapter between “God” and “the Lord”, indicating J additions to the E text, such as in vs. 8 and vs. 9).
  8. In E God warns Balaam not to curse the Israelites. If read together with the J addition, however, the deity is simply telling his disciple not to go down to Moab.
  9, 11. See comment on Numbers 22:8.
  10. The assumption of two groups of messengers is quite far-fetched if J is viewed as the primary author. After Balak hears that Balaam is a “Yhwh” worshipper, there is no logical reason he’d try to convince Balaam to curse fellow Yhwh worshippers. Once again it becomes clear that the base of this narrative is Elohistic (Balaam’s relationship to Elohim is not one of worship, and Elohim is not the Israelites private God), and see comment viii.
  12. See comment on Numbers 22:17.
  13. This episode is an anomaly within the Balaam cycle. It is the only section of Chapters 22-24 that depicts Balaam in a negative light. It portrays Balaam as cruel (He strikes his donkey), and disobedient, which doesn’t fit in with vs. 21 in which God had consented that he go down to Moab. This negative description of Balaam in this episode accords with H’s short notice of Balaam murder by the Israelites (Numbers 31:8), and is thus at least as late as this source. If we take into account the fairy-tale element of a talking donkey, it is quite likely that the author of this episode was the late Bridger, who frequently adds shards of extra-biblical myths to the fabric of the Pentateuch.
  14. The E-thread picks up after B’s interruption with Balaam’s arrival in Moab.
  15. Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia suggests emending the text from “God” (Elohim) to “my God”, since this verse portrays Balaam, as a worshipper of the deity, which accords more with J’s description of Balaam than with E’s (and Elohim is E’s name for the deity).
  16. In E, Balak’s question in vs. 36 is rhetorical, and Balaam simply comes with him.
  17. Seeing only a portion of the Israelites implies a large nation, a description with does not accord with E’s relatively small Israelite nation, but does makes sense as a J addition.
  18. Balaam seeks to tempt God with sacrifices evidence of unsureness, in J Balaam would not seek to influence God since as an unswerving Yahwist he would only unfailingly repeat whatever the Lord tells him to say.
  19. Balaam’s obedience to the Lord is once again emphasized in this J addition.
  20. The sacrifices were meant to induce the deity to come, and so they did.
  21. This first blessing / poem is clearly a Yahwistic insert and reflects prominent J themes, such as absolute loyalty to the Lord: 8 How can I curse whom God has not cursed?    How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?; and the large number of Israelites: 10 Who can count the dust of Jacob,  or number the dust-cloud of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!’. Note that J (vss. 13-17) adds a length resumptive repetition recording the whole altar and bull ritual once more, just in a different place (The field of Zophim rather than Bamot Baal).
  22. The promise referred to in this blessing / poem is God’s promise to deliver the people from Egypt (vss. 22-24) which was accomplished (through Moses), without any need for unpalatable magical means.
  23. J alludes here to the first blessing/poem which he composed:20See, I received a command to bless;  he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. Note J’s “Lord” as opposed to “God” (El) in vs. 19.
  24. See comment on Numbers 23:17.
  25. Balaam evinces his loyalty to the Lord as in 22:8, 18 (J).
  26. As in 23:1-2 (E), Balaam seeks to tempt God with sacrifices.
  27. Balaam gives up his unorthodox magics and relies solely on the Lord for his blessing/poem. This statement is a reflection of J’s discomfort with Balaam’s modus operandi of altars and sacrifice (E) which can be construed as tempting the deity, and does not befit a Yhwh loyalist, let alone a Yahwistic prophet.
  28. In Numbers 22:12 (E), God says they [the Israelites] are blessed, and thus Balaam blesses them unambiguously.
  29. This line of the poem was quite clearly inserted by J, since its only the aloes the Lord plants – the rest of the trees are just the objects to which Israel is likened.
  30. Note the parallelism between this blessing and the preceding one, both allude to the Exodus from Egypt, and compare Israel to a crouching line. In E Balak’s anger is unadulterated. In J, even Balak admits that it wasn’t Balaam’s fault (vs. 11b), the Lord wished his loyalist to utter blessings, and so he did.
  31. Only in J is it three times, in E Balaam has only uttered two blessings/poems.
  32, 33. See first comment on Numbers 24:10.
  34. What Balaam said to Balak according to E is only recorded after the J insetion.
  35. Balaam utters his Yahwistic statement of faith one final time.
  36. As is the case with many other narrative compositions, the Elohistic composition concludes with a poetic prophecy / blessing, and compare Genesis 49, Deuteronomy 32-33, and II Samuel 22.
  37. In the final J episode before Moses’ death, the Israelites sin in just the way J warned against in 34:15-16, and just as in 32:26-28, the punishment for idolatry is lethal. The וישב (turned away) in vs. 4, is vocalized in the Hebrew as a future form, although, I believe it was originally a past tense, i.e. the Lord told Moses how to punish the sinners, and then after Moses did so (not expressly recounted), the Lord’s anger turns away. Vss. 5-9 were clearly added to the narrative, the Israelites are punished with a plague instead of the leaders being impaled, the Midianites are responsible for Israel’s corruption instead of (or in addition to) the Moabites, and finally Phineas the priest is the one who stops the plague instead of Moses (identifying the additions as Priestly). P adds this section to the J account in order to confirm Phineas, Aaron’s grandson as the legitimate heir to the priesthood (vss. 10-13) and its power to atone.

Comments, Corrections, and Queries


בסיעתא דארעא