Balak (Numbers 22:2 – 25:9)

This Torah portion is Balak, named for the King of Moab.

Summary: King Balak of Moab had heard what the Children of Israel had done to Amorites and he was afraid of what they would do to Moab.  He sends delegates to Balaam to have him curse the Hebrews so that the Moabites can destroy them and drive them out of the land.  Balaam tells them to lodge overnight and he will consult YHVH.  Elohim says to Balaam that he is not to go with the delegation and he is not to curse the Hebrews.  Balaam reports this to the King’s messengers and they depart.  Balak sends of a delegation of princes of higher rank than the first, who offer him great honor and anything he could ask for to come to Balak and curse the Hebrews.  Balaam says that he could have a castle full of gold and silver, and he still could only do what is sanctioned by YHVH.  Once again he tells the men to stay the night.  This time, YHVH says the he can go with the people, but he can only do what He tells him to do.   In the morning, Balaam saddled his she-ass and he went with the princes of Moab.  YHVH was angry with Balaam and he set an angel as an adversary against him.  As they are traveling, the donkey sees the angel and moves to avoid it. Balaam strikes the donkey.  Further along, the donkey crushes Balaam’s leg against a fence when it sees the angel. Balaam strikes it again.  The third time the donkey sees the angel, the donkey lays down.  Balaam hits it a third time.  YHVH opens the donkey’s mouth and it speaks, saying, “What have I done to you that you hit me three times?”  Balaam accuses the donkey of mocking him and says that if he had a sword in his hand, he would kill the donkey.  Eventually, Balaam sees the angel who identifies himself.  Balaam recognizes that he has sinned and offers to return.  Instead, the angel tells him to go forward but only speak the words that the angel tells him.  Balaam and the delegation appear before Balak.  They performed animal sacrifices and in the mornin; at Balaam’s instructions, Balak builds seven altars, upon each a bull and a ram would be sacrificed.  Instead of cursing the Hebrews, Balaam blesses them.  Balak is infuriated with the blessing.  At Balaam’s instructions, Balak built another seven altars at another site, sacrificing a bull and ram on each, with the same results.  This happens a third time.  Balak is angry and will not reward Balaam as he had promised. Balaam instead speaks a prophecy that a “star will rise Jacob” who will destroy the enemies.  There is even a reference to what Assyria may do to the Hebrews.  After a fourth blessing of the Hebrews, Balaam and Balak return to their respective cities.  The Hebrews in Moab become apostates, and YHVH instruct Moses to have them killed. A plague ensues. Pinchas (Aaron’s grandson) sees an Israelite prince and a Midianite princess having sex in sight of all the people.  He spears them, thus stopping the plague that had resulted in the death of 24,000.