chs. 22 and 23, The Prophecy of Bilaam
The Staff of Moses
THE SIX SENSE
Numbers chapters 22 to 23
BALAK, BILAAM AND THE TALKING ASS
King Balak of Moab sent to BILAAM to come and curse Israel, but G-d forced BILAAM to bless them instead. BILAAM prophesied concerning Israel in the future. On a personal level, we can learn that what we perceive as a curse can sometimes be turned into a blessing. We should endeavor to use whatever we have to our own advantage. Circumstance may have placed limitations on our abilities in some directions. Somewhere G-d has predetermined for us other possibilities that conform to the way we were individually predispositioned. On a national level, the prophecy of BILAAM is important since it provides us with yet another description of the Seed of Israel in the End Times. This can assist us in identifying where the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel are today.
[Numbers 22:1] AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL SET FORWARD, AND PITCHED IN THE PLAINS OF MOAB ON THIS SIDE JORDAN BY JERICHO.
[Numbers 22:2] AND BALAK THE SON OF ZIPPOR SAW ALL THAT ISRAEL HAD DONE TO THE AMORITES.
The Israelites had just conquered the lands of Sichon and Og east of the Jordan. All of the area from the Nile to the Euphrates was promised to Israel. Edom, Moab, and Amon were to be left in small enclaves surrounded by Israelite territory. The present-day areas now occupied by Egypt (at least east of the Delta), Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria should belong to Israel.
[Numbers 22:3] AND MOAB WAS SORE AFRAID OF THE PEOPLE, BECAUSE THEY WERE MANY: AND MOAB WAS DISTRESSED BECAUSE OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.
The Israelites were very numerous, even by today’s standards, and at that time relatively speaking even more so.
[Numbers 22:4] AND MOAB SAID UNTO THE ELDERS OF MIDIAN, NOW SHALL THIS COMPANY LICK UP ALL THAT ARE ROUND ABOUT US, AS THE OX LICKETH UP THE GRASS OF THE FIELD. AND BALAK THE SON OF ZIPPOR WAS KING OF THE MOABITES AT THAT TIME.
Midian and Moab were both afraid of the Israelites.
[Numbers 22:5] HE SENT MESSENGERS THEREFORE UNTO BILAAM THE SON OF BEOR TO PETHOR, WHICH IS BY THE RIVER OF THE LAND OF THE CHILDREN OF HIS PEOPLE, TO CALL HIM, SAYING, BEHOLD, THERE IS A PEOPLE COME OUT FROM EGYPT: BEHOLD, THEY COVER THE FACE OF THE EARTH, AND THEY ABIDE OVER AGAINST ME:
“BILAAM” was some kind of religious leader and chief magician. BILAAM hated Israel even more than Balak did. Balak at least had an excuse. He was afraid the Israelites might attack his land or constrict the powers of his nation. BILAAM was fueled by pure hatred. He resented the religious truth that the Israelite nation proclaimed. In a sense, BILAAM was one of the first anti-Semites.
[Numbers 22:6] COME NOW THEREFORE, I PRAY THEE, CURSE ME THIS PEOPLE; FOR THEY ARE TOO MIGHTY FOR ME: PERADVENTURE I SHALL PREVAIL, THAT WE MAY SMITE THEM, AND THAT I MAY DRIVE THEM OUT OF THE LAND: FOR I WOT THAT HE WHOM THOU BLESSEST IS BLESSED, AND HE WHOM THOU CURSEST IS CURSED.
BILAAM was reputed to have spiritual powers. BILAAM is said to have been able to harness the collective subconscious of all the non-Israelite peoples. Everyone of us, has a kind of “sixth sense” of which he is aware of from time to time. Even animals have it in a way. Heard the expression “rats deserting a sinking ship”? It comes from a superstition in the old times of sailing boats on the Ocean. When a ship that was destined to sink would put into port, it was believed that all the rats would leave as if they sensed what was about to happen.
This SENSE can be developed for good or bad purposes. Anyone who is so gifted in this regard should keep it to himself, and use the gift with great CAUTION. A prophet is someone who has been given extra powers from on high, that combine with and enhance, that which he already has. A prophet who tells us to worship idols is to be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-50). A prophet who makes false predictions is likewise culpable (Deuteronomy 18;20-22).
[Numbers 22:7] AND THE ELDERS OF MOAB AND THE ELDERS OF MIDIAN DEPARTED WITH THE REWARDS OF DIVINATION IN THEIR HAND; AND THEY CAME UNTO BILAAM, AND SPAKE UNTO HIM THE WORDS OF BALAK.
<<THE ELDERS OF MOAB AND THE ELDERS OF MIDIAN>>: They were united against Israel.
[Numbers 22:8] AND HE SAID UNTO THEM, LODGE HERE THIS NIGHT, AND I WILL BRING YOU WORD AGAIN, AS THE L-RD SHALL SPEAK UNTO ME: AND THE PRINCES OF MOAB ABODE WITH BILAAM.
[Numbers 22:9] AND G-D CAME UNTO BILAAM, AND SAID, WHAT MEN ARE THESE WITH THEE?
[Numbers 22:10] AND BILAAM SAID UNTO G-D, BALAK THE SON OF ZIPPOR, KING OF MOAB, HATH SENT UNTO ME, SAYING,
[Numbers 22:11] BEHOLD, THERE IS A PEOPLE COME OUT OF EGYPT, WHICH COVERETH THE FACE OF THE EARTH: COME NOW, CURSE ME THEM; PERADVENTURE I SHALL BE ABLE TO OVERCOME THEM, AND DRIVE THEM OUT.
[Numbers 22:12] AND G-D SAID UNTO BILAAM, THOU SHALT NOT GO WITH THEM; THOU SHALT NOT CURSE THE PEOPLE: FOR THEY ARE BLESSED.
The Israelites were blessed. This was a fact that could not be undone. BILAAM realized this and so, as we shall see, attempted to at least weaken or diminish the blessing given to Israel.
We have archaeological proof from an early date concerning BILAAM.
The name “BILAAM” is found on an inscription “ Dir Ala” in Jordan which is the site of the Biblical Succoth. The inscription was repaired after an earthquake in 750 BCE so it must have existed before then. Succoth is in territory which was ascribed to the Israelite Tribe of Gad (Joshua 13;27). The inscription was written in a local mixed Aramaic-Hebrew dialect with peculiarities of its own. It has two incompletely preserved sections. In the first section it speaks of BILAAM the Gentile prophet who was hired to curse the Children of Israel (Numbers chapters 22-23) and in the second it speaks of a cultic hero named “Neker” or “Netser”.Translation of Section 1: BILAAM
Note: Portions of the inscription are missing. The writer of the inscription seems to have assumed that the reader would be familiar with the subject matter.
The translation of this Section is based on that of Achitov. The major difference between our version and that of Achitov is that Achitov assumes that numerous gods are being referred to whereas we do not see why One Deity could not be the intention. The singularity of the Deity expressed appears to accord with the existing text. This is despite the fact that belief in the existence of other lesser gods or spiritual forces is quite evident. Whichever approach one adopts, whether ours or that of Achitov, difficulties remain. The whole passage appears strange to our modern psychology but it is similar to that of fertility cults elsewhere, including those of Scandinavia. See below.
The text (Side One) says concerning BILAAM:
The Book of BILAAM son of Beor. A man who saw G-d was he. And came the G-d of gods unto him in the night and he saw a vision
The Prophecy was: And he said unto BILAAM the son of Beor: Thus will be done without delay. [No] man has seen what you have heard
And BILAAM arose the next day…………and he was unable to……...and he grievously wept and G-d came up to him. And he said unto him: BILAAM son of Beor why do you fast and weep?..And he said unto them: Sit and I will tell what Shaddai [the Almighty] will do and then go and see the works of the G-d of gods.
The gods are gathered together [unified] [alternately: the G-d]
The Shadin [demonic forces or godly forces = similar to the Irish Sedeh and from the same root] arraigned themselves together and said to the sun
Blossom forth, dam up the heavens with your clouds. Make darkness and
not light forever. and upon your dam-walls there place a seal in the cloud of darkness. And let it not be thought of forever. For the sis-agur bird [cuckoo?]
abuses the eagle. And the voice of the mercy-bird will answer: The crane, the hawk and hunting-bird, the chickens of the anafa-bird, the sparrow, the eaglet, the dove and the bird…..go down to the place where lambs will be led by a staff . The hares devoured the searching wolf ……they drank wine and the jackals heard reproof.. The cubs of the fox mock the wisemen and a poor woman concocts perfume and the priestess…. Upraised girds a horn He who takes thorough consideration will be well considered… the deaf will hear from afar… the fools see trouble… the travaillers in birth and the ashtor-sheep [alternately: Ashtoreth i.e. the godess “Astarte”] unto… lion , the cub of swine, … my son… they will move their loins and eye
Comment: We have not been able to translate all the text since much of it is missing. Of that which remains and which we have been able to decipher the message would seem to consist of a collection of folk-sayings strung together to impart something deeper.
The second section is similar to the first but speaks of Netser a cultic semi-pagan figure who apparently was revered by the Ancient Israelites. A translation and explanation is to be found in our work"Ephraim". The passages justifies our identifying the expression “Notsri” in the Bible as referring to people from the Lost Ten Tribes. Later this term was popularly used by, and applied to, the early Christians. In our opinion the prophet Isaiah hinted several times that the exiled Lost Tribes of Israel would adopt the Christian religion. ¿ The second section of the inscription does not speak of BILAAM but may be connected since it has heavy sexual connotations.
We shall see how BILAAM tried to curse Israel but was forced to bless them and then go away in disgrace. Immediately afterwards, the Israelites began to fornicate , as part of pagan ceremonies, with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25;1) and Midian (Numbers 25;6). As a result of this immorality they were in danger of extermination but were saved. BILAAM knew that through sexual immorality there was a chance that the Israelites would anger G-d and bring disaster upon themselves. He therefore advised the Moabites and Midianites to prostitute their daughters. BILAAM was thus associated with promiscuous immorality. The mention of BILAAM on the above inscription (connected with a fertility cult) receives added significance in the light of the vile advice he gave.
Orjan Svensson has deciphered several early Swedish inscriptions written in runic script. Runic script was a type of writing first used by the Angles and Goths in Scandinavia . It was partly derived from Ancient Hebrew lettering. Orjan Svensson shows that many of the earliest known runic inscriptions were written in Hebrew and mixed Hebrew-Aramaic dialects. The content of these inscriptions is similar in language, cadence, content, and style to the above inscription concerning “BILAAM” and “Netser”. The subject matter is that of fertility cults similar to what was common in the Middle East and Ancient Israel prior to the exile of the northern ten tribes ¥ . The early settlers of Scandinavia were descended from exiled Israelites.
BILAAM and His Talking Donkey
[Numbers 22:13] AND BILAAM ROSE UP IN THE MORNING, AND SAID UNTO THE PRINCES OF BALAK, GET YOU INTO YOUR LAND: FOR THE L-RD REFUSETH TO GIVE ME LEAVE TO GO WITH YOU.
<<TO GO WITH YOU>>: G-d had said, “THOU SHALT NOT GO WITH THEM”, BILAAM interpreted this as meaning that he should not go with those specific people but he might go with others. G-d had intended that he should no go at all but had expressed Himself in such a way as to leave an opening to err if he so wished (Daat Sofrim ): “In the way that a man wants to go, so he is led” (Midrash).
[Numbers 22:14] AND THE PRINCES OF MOAB ROSE UP, AND THEY WENT UNTO BALAK, AND SAID, BILAAM REFUSETH TO COME WITH US.
[Numbers 22:15] AND BALAK SENT YET AGAIN PRINCES, MORE, AND MORE HONOURABLE THAN THEY.
[Numbers 22:16] AND THEY CAME TO BILAAM, AND SAID TO HIM, THUS SAITH BALAK THE SON OF ZIPPOR, LET NOTHING, I PRAY THEE, HINDER THEE FROM COMING UNTO ME:
[Numbers 22:17] FOR I WILL PROMOTE THEE UNTO VERY GREAT HONOUR, AND I WILL DO WHATSOEVER THOU SAYEST UNTO ME: COME THEREFORE, I PRAY THEE, CURSE ME THIS PEOPLE.
[Numbers 22:18] AND BILAAM ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO THE SERVANTS OF BALAK, IF BALAK WOULD GIVE ME HIS HOUSE FULL OF SILVER AND GOLD, I CANNOT GO BEYOND THE WORD OF THE L-RD MY G-D, TO DO LESS OR MORE.
[Numbers 22:19] NOW THEREFORE, I PRAY YOU, TARRY YE ALSO HERE THIS NIGHT, THAT I MAY KNOW WHAT THE L-RD WILL SAY UNTO ME MORE.
BILAAM wanted to go. He wanted to curse the Israelites even though he had been told that this was against the will of G-d.
[Numbers 22:20] AND G-D CAME UNTO BILAAM AT NIGHT, AND SAID UNTO HIM, IF THE MEN COME TO CALL THEE, RISE UP, AND GO WITH THEM; BUT YET THE WORD WHICH I SHALL SAY UNTO THEE, THAT SHALT THOU DO.
G-d let BILAAM go in the way he wished yet forbade him to overtly transgress His decree.
[Numbers 22:21] AND BILAAM ROSE UP IN THE MORNING, AND SADDLED HIS ASS, AND WENT WITH THE PRINCES OF MOAB.
[Numbers 22:22] AND G-D'S ANGER WAS KINDLED BECAUSE HE WENT: AND THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD STOOD IN THE WAY FOR AN ADVERSARY AGAINST HIM. NOW HE WAS RIDING UPON HIS ASS, AND HIS TWO SERVANTS WERE WITH HIM.
[Numbers 22:23] AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD STANDING IN THE WAY, AND HIS SWORD DRAWN IN HIS HAND: AND THE ASS TURNED ASIDE OUT OF THE WAY, AND WENT INTO THE FIELD: AND BILAAM SMOTE THE ASS, TO TURN HER INTO THE WAY.
The animal saw an angel. An angel is a higher spiritual being, an emissary of G-d. The word for angel in Hebrew is “malakh ” meaning literally “messenger”. The viewing of angels may be similar to seeing ghosts though ghosts come from a lower plane of existence. Do ghosts exist? My grandfather and father said they saw them. I never did, as far as I know, but everybody at some time has had a feeling of experiencing something beyond the range of human mortality. They say that dogs feel the presence of ghosts before humans do. Animals can sometimes sense things we are only numbly aware of. A person should avoid superstition while being aware that a spiritual dimension is an integral part of our existence. Nevertheless, G-d wants us to work in this world on the physical level and not “hover” around in spheres we are not responsible for. Our task in this world is here. The Bible forbids spiritualism and the practice of séances (Deuteronomy 18:11).
[Numbers 22:24] BUT THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD STOOD IN A PATH OF THE VINEYARDS, A WALL BEING ON THIS SIDE, AND A WALL ON THAT SIDE.
[Numbers 22:25] AND WHEN THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD, SHE THRUST HERSELF UNTO THE WALL, AND CRUSHED BILAAM'S FOOT AGAINST THE WALL: AND HE SMOTE HER AGAIN.
[Numbers 22:26] AND THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD WENT FURTHER, AND STOOD IN A NARROW PLACE, WHERE WAS NO WAY TO TURN EITHER TO THE RIGHT HAND OR TO THE LEFT.
[Numbers 22:27] AND WHEN THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD, SHE FELL DOWN UNDER BILAAM: AND BILAAM'S ANGER WAS KINDLED, AND HE SMOTE THE ASS WITH A STAFF.
[Numbers 22:28] AND THE L-RD OPENED THE MOUTH OF THE ASS, AND SHE SAID UNTO BILAAM, WHAT HAVE I DONE UNTO THEE, THAT THOU HAST SMITTEN ME THESE THREE TIMES?
First the ass went into the field, then she crushed his leg against the wall, then she laid down. Then she communicated. BILAAM should have learnt that nothing happens by chance. Sometimes impediments are placed in our path for our own good. We should try to open our eyes and listen (Daat Sofrim ).
[Numbers 22:29] AND BILAAM SAID UNTO THE ASS, BECAUSE THOU HAST MOCKED ME: I WOULD THERE WERE A SWORD IN MINE HAND, FOR NOW WOULD I KILL THEE.
<<BILAAM SAID>>: BILAAM does not seem to have been nonplussed by the ass suddenly talking to him. He took it in his stride. He was evidently used to what we would consider supernatural occurrences happening about him.
[Numbers 22:30] AND THE ASS SAID UNTO BILAAM, AM NOT I THINE ASS, UPON WHICH THOU HAST RIDDEN EVER SINCE I WAS THINE UNTO THIS DAY? WAS I EVER WONT TO DO SO UNTO THEE? AND HE SAID, NAY.
[Numbers 22:31] THEN THE L-RD OPENED THE EYES OF BILAAM, AND HE SAW THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD STANDING IN THE WAY, AND HIS SWORD DRAWN IN HIS HAND: AND HE BOWED DOWN HIS HEAD, AND FELL FLAT ON HIS FACE.
[Numbers 22:32] AND THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD SAID UNTO HIM, WHEREFORE HAST THOU SMITTEN THINE ASS THESE THREE TIMES? BEHOLD, I WENT OUT TO WITHSTAND THEE, BECAUSE THY WAY IS PERVERSE BEFORE ME:
[Numbers 22:33] AND THE ASS SAW ME, AND TURNED FROM ME THESE THREE TIMES: UNLESS SHE HAD TURNED FROM ME, SURELY NOW ALSO I HAD SLAIN THEE, AND SAVED HER ALIVE.
[Numbers 22:34] AND BILAAM SAID UNTO THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD, I HAVE SINNED; FOR I KNEW NOT THAT THOU STOODEST IN THE WAY AGAINST ME: NOW THEREFORE, IF IT DISPLEASE THEE, I WILL GET ME BACK AGAIN.
[Numbers 22:35] AND THE ANGEL OF THE L-RD SAID UNTO BILAAM, GO WITH THE MEN: BUT ONLY THE WORD THAT I SHALL SPEAK UNTO THEE, THAT THOU SHALT SPEAK. SO BILAAM WENT WITH THE PRINCES OF BALAK.
[Numbers 22:36] AND WHEN BALAK HEARD THAT BILAAM WAS COME, HE WENT OUT TO MEET HIM UNTO A CITY OF MOAB, WHICH IS IN THE BORDER OF ARNON, WHICH IS IN THE UTMOST COAST.
[Numbers 22:37] AND BALAK SAID UNTO BILAAM, DID I NOT EARNESTLY SEND UNTO THEE TO CALL THEE? WHEREFORE CAMEST THOU NOT UNTO ME? AM I NOT ABLE INDEED TO PROMOTE THEE TO HONOUR?
Balak was angry that his invitation had not been accepted the first time round.
[Numbers 22:38] AND BILAAM SAID UNTO BALAK, LO, I AM COME UNTO THEE: HAVE I NOW ANY POWER AT ALL TO SAY ANY THING? THE WORD THAT G-D PUTTETH IN MY MOUTH, THAT SHALL I SPEAK.
[Numbers 22:39] AND BILAAM WENT WITH BALAK, AND THEY CAME UNTO KIRJATHHUZOTH.
<<KIRJATHHUZOTH>>: “Kiryat Chutsot” literally “The City of Streets.” As if he wanted to emphasize the great numbers of people the Israelites in his opinion were threatening.
[Numbers 22:40] AND BALAK OFFERED OXEN AND SHEEP, AND SENT TO BILAAM, AND TO THE PRINCES THAT WERE WITH HIM.
[Numbers 22:41] AND IT CAME TO PASS ON THE MORROW, THAT BALAK TOOK BILAAM, AND BROUGHT HIM UP INTO THE HIGH PLACES OF BAAL, THAT THENCE HE MIGHT SEE THE UTMOST PART OF THE PEOPLE.
<<THE HIGH PLACES OF BAAL>>: BILAAM acknowledged the G-d of Israel as G-d of all, the ONE G-D. He never denied Him nor did he openly disobey him. He preached about Him to Balak. By sacrificing to Him on the place of Baal, the Commentator Daat Sofrim suggests that BILAAM was trying to combine Baalism with worship of the True G-d or even to replace the worship of Baal with that of the Almighty. It was as if he was offering G-d the service of Balak in place of that of Israel. Balak would become the “New Israel”. BILAAM initiated “Replacement Theology.”
[Numbers 23:1] AND BILAAM SAID UNTO BALAK, BUILD ME HERE SEVEN ALTARS, AND PREPARE ME HERE SEVEN OXEN AND SEVEN RAMS.
[Numbers 23:2] AND BALAK DID AS BILAAM HAD SPOKEN; AND BALAK AND BILAAM OFFERED ON EVERY ALTAR A BULLOCK AND A RAM.
[Numbers 23:3] AND BILAAM SAID UNTO BALAK, STAND BY THY BURNT OFFERING, AND I WILL GO: PERADVENTURE THE L-RD WILL COME TO MEET ME: AND WHATSOEVER HE SHEWETH ME I WILL TELL THEE. AND HE WENT TO AN HIGH PLACE.
[Numbers 23:4] AND G-D MET BILAAM: AND HE SAID UNTO HIM, I HAVE PREPARED SEVEN ALTARS, AND I HAVE OFFERED UPON EVERY ALTAR A BULLOCK AND A RAM.
[Numbers 23:5] AND THE L-RD PUT A WORD IN BILAAM'S MOUTH, AND SAID, RETURN UNTO BALAK, AND THUS THOU SHALT SPEAK.
[Numbers 23:6] AND HE RETURNED UNTO HIM, AND, LO, HE STOOD BY HIS BURNT SACRIFICE, HE, AND ALL THE PRINCES OF MOAB.
Y Adapted from "Ephraim"; (2nd edition) by Yair Davidi (2001). The inscription is illustrated and explained in an article by Shmuel Achitov, "Ancient Inscriptions of the Peoples East of the Jordan" (Hebrew) in “HaYarden VeAtaryiah”, 1995, Jerusalem .
¿ As we explained in detail in “Ephraim ” by Yair Davidi, chapter nine.
¥ The findings of Orjan Svensson have been published in two Swedish books, Blekinges Aldstakanda Runinskrifter, Karlskrona, Sweden , 1998 and De blekingska runornas hemligheter, Sweden, Karlskrona, Swden, 2001 and in English on his web-site: