December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Balaam, however, perceiving that the LORD was pleased to bless Israel, did not go aside as before to seek omens, but turned his gaze toward the desert.
- When he raised his eyes and saw Israel encamped, tribe by tribe, the spirit of God came upon him,
- and he gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eye is true,
- The utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, Of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured, and with eyes unveiled:
- How goodly are your tents, O Jacob; your encampments, O Israel!
- They are like gardens beside a stream, like the cedars planted by the LORD.
- His wells shall yield free-flowing waters, he shall have the sea within reach; His king shall rise higher than. . . . and his royalty shall be exalted.
- It is God who brought him out of Egypt, a wild bull of towering might. He shall devour the nations like grass, their bones he shall strip bare.
- He lies crouching like a lion, or like a lioness; who shall arouse him? Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you!
- 1 Balak beat his palms together in a blaze of anger at Balaam and said to him, "It was to curse my foes that I summoned you here; yet three times now you have even blessed them instead!
- Be off at once, then, to your home. I promised to reward you richly, but the LORD has withheld the reward from you!"
- Balaam replied to Balak, "Did I not warn the very messengers whom you sent to me,
- 'Even if Balak gave me his house full of silver and gold, I could not of my own accord to anything, good or evil, contrary to the command of the LORD'? Whatever the LORD says I must repeat.
- "But now that I am about to go to my own people, let me first warn you what this people will do to your people in the days to come."
- Then Balaam gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eye is true,
- The utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, Of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured and with eyes unveiled.
- 2 I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel, That shall smite the brows of Moab, and the skulls of all the Shuthites,
- Till Edom is dispossessed, and no fugitive is left in Seir. Israel shall do valiantly,
- and Jacob shall overcome his foes.
- 3 Upon seeing Amalek, Balaam gave voice to his oracle: First of the peoples was Amalek, but his end is to perish forever.
- 4 Upon seeing the Kenites, he gave voice to his oracle: Your abode is enduring, O smith, and your nest is set on a cliff;
- Yet destined for burning-- even as I watch--are your inhabitants.
- 5 Upon seeing. . . . he gave voice to his oracle: Alas, who shall survive of Ishmael,
- to deliver his people from the hands of the Kittim? When they have conquered Asshur and conquered Eber, He too shall perish forever.
- Then Balaam set out on his journey home; and Balak also went his way.
Table of Contents Previous Chapter Next Chapter
1  Balak beat his palms: a sign of disclaiming any responsibility for paying the promised reward.
2  A star . . . a staff: many of the Fathers have understood this as a Messianic prophecy, although it is not referred to anywhere in the New Testament; in this sense the star is Christ himself, just as he is the staff from Israel; cf Isaiah 11:1. But it is doubtful whether this passage is to be connected with the "star of the Magi" in Matthew 2:1-12. The Shuthites: mentioned in other documents of this period as nomads on the borders of Palestine.
3  First: literally "the beginning." Amalek was an aboriginal people in Palestine and therefore considered as of great antiquity. There is a deliberate contrast here between the words first and end.
4  The Kenites lived in high strongholds in the mountains of southern Palestine and the Sinai Peninsula, and were skilled in working the various metals found in their territory. Their name is connected, at least by popular etymology, with the Hebrew word for "smith"; of similar sound is the Hebrew word for "nest"-hence the play on words in the present passage.
5 [23-24] The translation of this short oracle is based on a reconstructed text and is rather uncertain. Ishmael: the survival of Ishmael is indicated in Genesis 17:20; 21:13, 18.
New American Bible Copyright © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
USCCB Home Page New American Bible Home Page
New American Bible
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000