Numbers 24

 

וַיַּרְא בִּלְעָם כִּי טֹוב בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה לְבָרֵךְ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא־הָלַךְ כְּפַעַם־בְּפַעַם לִקְרַאת נְחָשִׁים וַיָּשֶׁת   24:1

אֶל־הַמִּדְבָּר פָּנָיו

Numb. 24:1  But Balaam saw how good it was in the eyes of the Lord to bless Israel and he did not go, as in the previous times, to seek of enchantments, but he set his face to the wilderness.

וַיִּשָּׂא בִלְעָם אֶת־עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל שֹׁכֵן לִשְׁבָטָיו וַתְּהִי עָלָיו רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים   24:2

Numb. 24:2  And Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling tribe by tribe, and the spirit of God was on him.

וַיִּשָּׂא מְשָׁלֹו וַיֹּאמַר נְאֻם בִּלְעָם בְּנֹו בְעֹר וּנְאֻם הַגֶּבֶר שְׁתֻם הָעָיִן   24:3

Numb. 24:3  And he lifted up his parable and said,

                        “The declaration of Balaam, a stupid man at his birth,

                              now the declaration of a person of opened eyes,

Something interesting here:  Balaam is the son of Beor (see Numb. 22:5), but in this verse and others later, there appears to be a clever play on words.  The words for his son and beor appear in this verse but they are translated differently because of the context and the strange Hebrew.  Beor also means stupid, along with other meanings, and the word for his son is here instead translated as his birth (or his son would work also, but not as well).  The scribe seems to be using a number of plays on words in this chapter.

נְאֻם שֹׁמֵעַ אִמְרֵי־אֵל אֲשֶׁר מַחֲזֵה שַׁדַּי יֶחֱזֶה נֹפֵל וּגְלוּי עֵינָיִם   24:4

Numb. 24:4  the declaration of one hearing the words of God,

                             who shall prophesy of the vision of the Almighty,

                        cast low, but uncovered of eyes:”

מַה־טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל   24:5

Numb. 24:5  “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob,

                              your habitations, O Israel!”

כִּנְחָלִים נִטָּיוּ כְּגַנֹּת עֲלֵי נָהָר כַּאֲהָלִים נָטַע יְהוָה כַּאֲרָזִים עֲלֵי־מָיִם   24:6

Numb. 24:6  “Like extended valleys,

                             as gardens along the sides of a river,

                        like aloes the Lord has planted,

                             as cedars beside the waters.”

יִזַּל־מַיִם מִדָּלְיָו וְזַרְעֹו בְּמַיִם רַבִּים וְיָרֹם מֵאֲגַג מַלְכֹּו וְתִנַּשֵּׂא מַלְכֻתֹו   24:7

Numb. 24:7  “Water shall pour forth from his bucket,

                               and his seed shall be in many waters,

                        and his King shall be higher than Agag,

                               and His kingdom shall be exalted.”

אֵל מֹוצִיאֹו מִמִּצְרַיִם כְּתֹועֲפֹת רְאֵם לֹו יֹאכַל גֹּויִם צָרָיו וְעַצְמֹתֵיהֶם יְגָרֵם וְחִצָּיו יִמְחָץ   24:8

Numb. 24:8  “The God bringing him out of Egypt

                              is like the lofty horns of a buffalo for him.”

                        “He shall devour the nations of His enemies

                              and He shall break their bones;

                        with His arrows He shall pierce.”

כָּרַע שָׁכַב כַּאֲרִי וּכְלָבִיא מִי יְקִימֶנּוּ מְבָרֲכֶיךָ בָרוּךְ וְאֹרְרֶיךָ אָרוּר   24:9

Numb. 24:9  “He crouches, lying low like a lion or like a lioness.”

                              “Who would rouse him?”

                        ”Whoever is blessing you is blessed,

                              and anyone cursing you is cursed.”

וַיִּחַר־אַף בָּלָק אֶל־בִּלְעָם וַיִּסְפֹּק אֶת־כַּפָּיו וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק אֶל־בִּלְעָם לָקֹב אֹיְבַי קְרָאתִיךָ וְהִנֵּה    24:10

בֵּרַכְתָּ בָרֵךְ זֶה שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים

Numb. 24:10   And the anger of Balak was kindled at Balaam, and he clapped his hands, and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemy, and behold, you have abundantly blessed this three times.”

וְעַתָּה בְּרַח־לְךָ אֶל־מְקֹומֶךָ אָמַרְתִּי כַּבֵּד אֲכַבֶּדְךָ וְהִנֵּה מְנָעֲךָ יְהוָה מִכָּבֹוד   24:11

Numb. 24:11   “So now flee to your place yourself.  I said I would greatly honor you, but lo, the Lord kept you from honor.”

וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם אֶל־בָּלָק הֲלֹא גַּם אֶל־מַלְאָכֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר־שָׁלַחְתָּ אֵלַי דִּבַּרְתִּי לֵאמֹר   24:12

Numb. 24:12   Then Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not also speak to your messengers that you sent to me saying,

אִם־יִתֶּן־לִי בָלָק מְלֹא בֵיתֹו כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב לֹא אוּכַל לַעֲבֹר אֶת־פִּי יְהוָה לַעֲשֹׂות טֹובָה אֹו רָעָה    24:13

מִלִּבִּי אֲשֶׁר־יְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֹתֹו אֲדַבֵּר

Numb. 24:13   ‘If Balak would give the fullness of his house of silver and gold to me, I would not be able to alter the word of the Lord, to do good or bad from my own mind; that which the Lord shall speak, it must I speak?’”

וְעַתָּה הִנְנִי הֹולֵךְ לְעַמִּי לְכָה אִיעָצְךָ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה הָעָם הַזֶּה לְעַמְּךָ בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים   24:14

Numb. 24:14   “And now, here I am departing to my people.  Come, I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the end of days.”

וַיִּשָּׂא מְשָׁלֹו וַיֹּאמַר נְאֻם בִּלְעָם בְּנֹו בְעֹר וּנְאֻם הַגֶּבֶר שְׁתֻם הָעָיִן   24:15

Numb. 24:15   So he lifted up his parable and said,

                           “The declaration of Balaam, at his birth a stupid man,

                                 now the declaration of a person of opened eyes,

נְאֻם שֹׁמֵעַ אִמְרֵי־אֵל וְיֹדֵעַ דַּעַת עֶלְיֹון מַחֲזֵה שַׁדַּי יֶחֱזֶה נֹפֵל וּגְלוּי עֵינָיִם   24:16

Numb. 24:16   the declaration of one hearing the words of God

                                and discerning of the knowledge of the Most High.”

                           “He shall prophecy of the vision of the Almighty,

                                cast low, but uncovered of eyes.”

אֶרְאֶנּוּ וְלֹא עַתָּה אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ וְלֹא קָרֹוב דָּרַךְ כֹּוכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל וּמָחַץ פַּאֲתֵי מֹואָב   24:17

וְקַרְקַר כָּל־בְּנֵי־שֵׁת

Numb. 24:17   “I shall see it, but not now;

                                I shall behold it, but not soon:

                           A star marches forth from Jacob,

                               and a scepter shall rise up from Israel,

                           and strike through the edges of Moab

                               and destroy all the sons of Seth.”

This is an ominous part of the prophecy.  First, the good news!  Balaam says he will be there at the end of times.  Does that mean that we all will be there?  Secondly, the ominous part!  The words sons of Seth basically refer to all of humankind, since we are all descended from Seth, the son of Adam (see Gene. 4:25).

וְהָיָה אֱדֹום יְרֵשָׁה וְהָיָה יְרֵשָׁה שֵׂעִיר אֹיְבָיו וְיִשְׂרָאֵל עֹשֶׂה חָיִל   24:18

Numb. 24:18   “And Edom shall be a possession;

                                 and the satyr of his enemies shall be a possession;

                           and Israel will be doing valiantly.”

We have here another play on words.  The word ry[if, which is translated as satyr, can also be Seir, the father of the Horites, a people present in Edom before the descendants of Esau, and a mountain range in Edom, as well as a portion of Edom south of the Reed Sea.  It seems obvious, as this ongoing prophecy relates to the end times, that the only meaning, if any, that could fit in this verse is the mountain range.  More than likely, though, the meaning in the translation, that is, satyr, is the appropriate one, but its meaning is obscure.  Perhaps the Edomites were hairy or shaggy, synonyms for satyr.

וְיֵרְדְּ מִיַּעֲקֹב וְהֶאֱבִיד שָׂרִיד מֵעִיר   24:19

Numb. 24:19   “And he shall descend from Jacob,

                                 and the remnant shall perish from the city.”

וַיַּרְא אֶת־עֲמָלֵק וַיִּשָּׂא מְשָׁלֹו וַיֹּאמַר רֵאשִׁית גֹּויִם עֲמָלֵק וְאַחֲרִיתֹו עֲדֵי אֹבֵד   24:20

Numb. 24:20   Then he considered Amalek and lifted up his parable and said,

                           “Amalek shall be the first of the nations,

                                  and his end shall be an eternity of wretchedness.”

Amalek shall be the first nation destroyed.  We will learn how this is to be accomplished when we get to Deuteronomy 25.                                                                                                         [Return to Deut. 25:19]

וַיַּרְא אֶת־הַקֵּינִי וַיִּשָּׂא מְשָׁלֹו וַיֹּאמַר אֵיתָן מֹושָׁבֶךָ וְשִׂים בַּסֶּלַע קִנֶּךָ   24:21

Numb. 24:21   And he considered the Kenite and lifted up his parable and said,

                           “Firm is your dwelling place

                                and set in rock is your nest,

כִּי אִם־יִהְיֶה לְבָעֵר קָיִן עַד־מָה אַשּׁוּר תִּשְׁבֶּךָּ   24:22

Numb. 24:22   yet Kain shall surely become a waste,

                                when Assyria will take you captive.”

The term Kain is probably another play on words.  It seems to implicate the infamous Cain, as well as referencing the Kenite people.  Refer back to Gene. 4:1.  Notice the similarity of ynêIyQeh, the Kenite, in v. 24:21 and  !yIq+, Kain or Cain, in this verse.  On another point, notice the term hm-d[;, which might normally mean for how long or as far as what or even why, among other possibilities.  Its translation above as when is unusual, but none of the tried and true translations seem to fit better.  And the term presents another play on words.  The term d[ has a number of unrelated meanings, but surprisingly, many of them seem to add something to the meaning of this verse.  Other meanings for the word are witness,eternity, prey, and a rag. Now Balaam is a witness, he is prophesying about end times when the Kenite will be prey to Assyria, and he will be wasted, like a rag.  We have here some splendid and inspired poetry.

וַיִּשָּׂא מְשָׁלֹו וַיֹּאמַר אֹוי מִי יִחְיֶה מִשֻּׂמֹו אֵל   24:23

Numb. 24:23   And he lifted up his parable and said,

                           “Alas, who can survive after God appoints him?”

There is a long-standing question about whom the pronoun him refers to.  Some believe it’s Assyria.  Others believe it’s the messiah.  I suspect it is a rhetorical question, so that the pronoun refers to the “whom” who God appoints.  In other words, Balaam is saying if once God has appointed a nation or a people for destruction, it is impossible that they could survive.  To me, it’s just that simple.  An ironic twist to the scribe’s inspired cleverness.

וְצִים מִיַּד כִּתִּים וְעִנּוּ אַשּׁוּר וְעִנּוּ־עֵבֶר וְגַם־הוּא עֲדֵי אֹבֵד   24:24

Numb. 24:24   “Then, ships from the coast of Kittim!”

                                 “And they shall afflict Assyria,

                           and they shall afflict Eber,

                                 and he also shall be forever lost.”

In this verse, there is uncertainty as to whom the pronoun he refers.  The term Kittim is thought to be a reference to the Romans, who did afflict Assyria and the Hebrews (Eber?) and that is the antecedent of the pronoun.  But if these parables refer to the end times, this conclusion seems unreasonable.  More likely the pronoun refers to Eber, the people descended from Shem (Eber was Shem’s grandson).  Some think Kittim refers to the inhabitants of Cyprus, hence the mention of the ships.  And Rome came to the Middle East primarily by land.  It seems to me that the word also means that both Assyria and Eber will be lost forever.  If so, what could that mean?

וַיָּקָם בִּלְעָם וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיָּשָׁב לִמְקֹמֹו וְגַם־בָּלָק הָלַךְ לְדַרְכֹּו   24:25

Numb. 24:25   Then Balaam rose up and went and returned to his place, and Balak also went to his journey.

 

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