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that he would not go with them. On their return home, Balak, in no way discouraged, sent out to Balaam other and even more eminent men with his former request. But the heathen seer replied, “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Yet he invited the strangers to remain with him till the following day. In the night the Lord appeared to him again in a vision, and this time He bade him go with the messengers, but speak no words but those which He would command him. So then on the morning the prophet saddled his ass, and declared himself ready to accompany the men to Moab.
Now followed an event so remarkable and marvellous that we can only insert it in the very words of Scripture:
• And God's anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the Lord placed himself in the way to oppose him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand ; and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field ; and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, a wall being on the one side, and a wall on the other side. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself against the wall, and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again. And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no room to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam : and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with the staff. And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times ? And Balaam said to the ass, Because thou hast mocked
me: I wish there were a sword in my hand, for then would I kill thee. And the ass said to Balaam, Am I not thine ass upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so to thee? And he said, No. Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the
way, and his sword drawn in his hand : and he bowed his head, and fell down upon his face. And the angel of the Lord said to him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times ? Behold, I went out to oppose thee, because thy way is pernicious before me; and the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times : unless she had turned from me, surely I should then have slain thee, and saved her alive. And Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: and now, if it displease thee, I will return home. And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, Go with the men : but only the word that I shall speak to thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.'
When the king heard of Balaam's arrival, he went out to meet him at the northern boundary of his dominions, and received him with the words : Did I not earnestly send to thee, wherefore didst thou not come to me? am I not able to promote thee to honour?' To which Balaam replied, that he had now indeed come to the king, but was unable to speak anything but what God would put into his mind.
On the morrow, Balak took the prophet up to the heights sacred to Baal, and there they built seven altars, upon each of which they sacrificed an ox and a ram. Then Balaam went alone to a solitary place, hoping to receive the word of the Lord. When he returned to the king, he had beheld the vision, and he felt inspired. He stood pear his burnt-offering before Balak and the princes
of Moab, and, urged by an irresistible impulse, he broke forth in these sublime utterances : ‘Balak, the king of Moab, has brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob ! and come, defy Israel! How shall I curse whom God has not cursed ? or how shall I defy whom the Lord has not defied ? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him : lo, the people that dwells alone, and does not reckon itself among the nations! Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!'
Balak was struck with dismay at this speech, and exclaimed, - What hast thou done to me? I took thee to curse my enemies, and, behold! thou hast indeed blessed them. Balaam repeated, that the words were not his own, but the Lord's. Then Balak insisted that he should accompany him to the heights of Pisgah, whence he could see a portion of the Hebrew encampment, and urged him now at least to call down evil upon the ruthless invaders. Again the sacrifices were offered up, and Balaam received in lonely communion the bidding of the Lord. When he returned, he was eagerly surrounded by the king and the people, and he spoke:
Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken to me, thou son of Zippor : God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent; has He said, and shall He not do it? or has He spoken, and shall He not make it good ? Behold! I have received commandments to bless, and He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. He does not behold iniquity in Jacob, nor does He see perverseness in Israel ; the Lord his God is with him, and the trumpet-blowing of his king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt, as with the swiftness of the buffalo. Surely, no enchantment prevails against Jacob,
nor divination against Israel. In the right time it is revealed to Jacob and to Israel what God does. Behold, the people rises up like a great lion, and lifts itself up as a young lion : it does not lie down until it has consumed the prey, and has drunk the blood of the slain!'
As Balaam ended, Balak exclaimed in dread, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.' But Balaam answered humbly, “ All that the Lord speaks that must I do.'
The king resolved to make another trial ; he took the seer up to the heights of Peor, which solemnly rise over the endless desert, and there caused seven altars to be built, and the sacrifices to be offered as before. Balaam, now satisfied that God wished him to bless and not to curse Israel, no more sought the solitude for a Divine inspiration ; but when he looked down, and beheld the brilliant hangings of the Tabernacle, and round it, in vast circles, the spreading tents of the Israelites, he burst forth into enthusiastic praise :
“The speech of Balaam, the son of Beor, and the speech of the man whose eyes are open, the speech of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who is prostrated, but has his eyes open: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of aloes which the Lord has planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. He pours the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he has the swiftness of the buffalo : he consumes the nations, his enemies, and crushes their bones, and pierces them through with his arrows. He couches, he lies down as a lion and as a lioness; who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesses thee, and cursed is he that curses thee!'
Balak's anger was now kindled almost to rage; he upbraided the prophet, and ordered him in disgrace from his presence; but Balaam had more terrible things to reveal; he bade the king stay, to hear what the strange invading nation would do to him and to the neighbouring tribes. And he took
And he took up his parable, and said: Speech of Balaam, the son of Beor, and speech of the man whose eyes are open, speech of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who is prostrated, but has his eyes open: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh. There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of the tumult. And Edom shall be a possession for his enemies, and Israel shall act valiantly. And he that comes out of Jacob shall rule and shall destroy those that escape from the cities.'
Then, after adding a few words about the Amalekites, the Kenites, and the Phænicians, Balaam departed to return to his home, and the king followed, oppressed by gloomy forebodings.
The Hebrews now resumed their military expeditions, and next turned against the Midianites. Twelve thousand chosen men attacked the hostile army, headed by five kings of Midian, and accompanied by Balaam. They routed the army, killed the five kings and the prophet, burnt the towns, made the women and children captives, and seized a vast amount of spoil, which they brought into the Hebrew camp near the Jordan, for equal distribution among the warriors, the congregation, and the priests.