2019-12-11

Numbers 23:27-25:9


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.' And now, as I go back to my people, let me inform you of what this people will do to your people in days to come." He took up his theme, and said: Word of Balaam son of Beor, word of the man whose eye is true, word of him who hears God's speech, who obtains knowledge from the Most High, and beholds visions from the Almighty, prostrate, but with eyes unveiled: what I see for them is not yet, what I behold will not be soon: A star rises from Jacob, a scepter comes forth from Israel; it smashes the brow of Moab, the foundation of all children of Seth. Edom becomes a possession, yea, Seir a possession of its enemies; but Israel is triumphant. A victor issues from Jacob to wipe out what is left of Ir. He saw Amalek and, taking up his theme, he said: a leading nation is Amalek; but its fate is to perish forever. He saw the Kenites and, taking up his theme, he said: Though your abode be secure, and your nest be set among cliffs, yet shall Kain be consumed, when Asshur takes you captive. He took up his theme and said: Alas, who can survive except God has willed it! Ships come from the quarter of Kittim; they subject Asshur, subject Eber. They, too, shall perish forever. Then Balaam set out on his journey back home; and Balak also went his way. While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people profaned themselves by whoring with the Moabite women, who invited the people to the sacrifices for their god. The people partook of them and worshiped that god. Thus Israel attached itself to Baal-peor, and the Lord was incensed with Israel. The Lord said to Moses, "Take all the ringleaders and have them publicly impaled before the Lord, so that the Lord's wrath may turn away from Israel." So Moses said to Israel's officials, "Each of you slay those of his men who attached themselves to Baal-peor." Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman over to his companions, in the sight of Moses and of the whole Israelite community who were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. When Phinehas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, saw this, he left the assembly and, taking a spear in his hand, 8 he followed the Israelite into the chamber and stabbed both of them, the Israelite and the woman, through the belly. Then the plague against the Israelites was checked. Those who died of the plague numbered twenty-four thousand.
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