“The Israelites set out, and camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho. Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that the Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were so numerous. Moab was overcome with fear of the Israelites. Moab said to the elders of Midian, ‘This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.’ Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is on the Euphrates River, in the land of Amaw to summon him, saying, ‘A people has come out of Egypt. They have spread over the face of the earth. They have settled next to me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land. I know that whomever you bless is blessed. Whomever you curse is cursed.”
The Israelites camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho. Balak son of Zippor, the king of the Moabites realized what the Israelites had done to the Amorites. They were overcome with fear of the Israelites. So Balak sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is in Babylon near the Euphrates River. Balaam was some kind of Babylonian mystic, sorcerer, magician, diviner, medium, or spiritualist. Balak wanted Balaam to curse these people who came out of Egypt and spread over the face of the earth. What is worse, they have settled next to Balak. If he had Balaam’s blessing, he might be able to defeat them.
“So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. They came to Balaam, and gave him Balak’s message. He said to them, ‘Stay here tonight. I will bring back word to you, just as Yahweh speaks to me.’ So the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam.”
The elders of Moab and Midian departed with the spiritual fees. They came to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message. They were ready to pay for his blessing and curse. Balaam, however, told them to stay there that night. He would bring back word after he had spoken to Yahweh. So the officials of Moab stayed with Balaam. It is interesting that Balaam is subject to Yahweh and not independent. Once again the Babylonian roots of Yahweh and the Israelites appear.
“God came to Balaam and said, ‘Who are these men with you?’ Balaam said to God, ‘King Balak son of Zippor of Moab has sent me this message. ‘A people has come out of Egypt. They have spread over the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’ God said to Balaam, ‘You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.’ So Balaam rose in the morning, and said to the officials of Balak, ‘Go to your own land, for Yahweh has refused to let me go with you.’ So the officials of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, ‘Balaam refuses to come with us.’”
God came to Balaam and wanted to know who these men were. Balaam explained that King Balak son of Zippor of Moab had sent them. God then said to Balaam that he should not go with them because the Israelites were a blessed people. The next morning Balaam told the officials of Balak to go home because Yahweh would not let him curse the Israelites. So the officials of Moab went back to Balak and told him that Balaam refused to come with us.
“Once again Balak sent officials, more numerous and more distinguished than these. They came to Balaam and said to him, ‘Thus says Balak son of Zippor: ‘Do not let anything hinder you from coming to me. For I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’ But Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, ‘Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of Yahweh to do less or more. You remain here, as the others did, so that I may learn what more Yahweh may say to me.’ That night God came to Balaam and said to him, ‘If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them. But do only what I tell you to do.’ So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.”
So there you have it. Balak is asking Balaam to curse the Israelites, but Balaam is listening to Yahweh, who is on the Israelite side. This is going to be difficult for the Moabites. However, Yahweh says that it is okay to go as long as Balaam listens to Yahweh.