Then Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place. Perhaps God will deem it right that you damn them for me there.” Balak took Balaam to the peak of Peor, which overlooks the wasteland. Balaam said to Balak, “Build me here seven altars, and have seven bulls and seven rams ready for me here.” Balak did as Balaam said: he offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.
Now Balaam, seeing that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, did not, as on previous occasions, go in search of omens, but turned his face toward the wilderness. As Balaam looked up and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the spirit of God came upon him. Taking up his theme, he said:
Word of Balaam son of Beor,
Word of the man whose eye is true,
Word of him who hears God’s speech,
Who beholds visions from the Almighty,
Prostrate, but with eyes unveiled:
How fair are your tents, O Jacob,
Your dwellings, O Israel!
Like palm-groves that stretch out,
Like gardens beside a river,
Like aloes planted by the Lord,
Like cedars beside the water;
Their boughs drip with moisture,
Their roots have abundant water.
Their king shall rise above Agag,
Their kingdom shall be exalted.
God who freed them from Egypt
Is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
They shall devour enemy nations,
Crush their bones,
And smash their arrows.
They crouch, they lie down like a lion,
Like the king of beasts; who dare rouse them?
Blessed are they who bless you,
Accursed they who curse you!
Enraged at Balaam, Balak struck his hands together. “I called you,” Balak said to Balaam, “to damn my enemies, and instead you have blessed them these three times! Back with you at once to your own place! I was going to reward you richly, but the Lord has denied you the reward.” Balaam replied to Balak, “But I even told the messengers you sent to me, ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not of my own accord do anything good or bad contrary to the Lord’s command. What the Lord says, that I must say.’
From Parshat Balak. From THE TANAKH: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Copyright 1985 by the Jewish Publication Society. Used by permission.
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