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Home » Daily Readings, Old Testament

The Prophecy of Balaam

Submitted by on Monday, 15 December 2008No Comment
  • Reading I: Numbers 24:2-7,15-17
  • Resp. Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5,8-9
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:23-27

balaam

Balaam was called in to pronounce a curse over Israel as it lay encamped in the desert.  But instead of a curse, he uttered a blessing.  It is narrated that "the spirit of God came upon him" and so he blessed Israel.

It is interesting how Balaam introduces himself.

The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor,
the utterance of a 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:

and again

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.

In both these introductory phrases, Balaam identifies himself as one with a special connection with "El", "the Almighty", "the Most High".   He isn’t an Israelite and yet he also speaks for the God of Israel.  While we don’t know much about Balaam (see this WikiPedia artile: Balaam) here is a case where the spirit of God influences an "enemy" to do something positive for Israel (although later on, Balak will be giving the advice that would cause Israel to fall away from Yahweh). 

The content of the prophecy of Balaam is about a royal sceptre that will arise from Israel.  The "star" that he sees rising will be proclaimed by Matthew as the same star that leads the Magi to the place where Jesus is born1.

Numbers 24:2-7,15-17
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
2And lifting up his eyes, he saw Israel abiding in their tents by their tribes: and the spirit of God rushing upon him,
3He took up his parable and said: Balaam the son of Beor hath said: The man hath said, whose eye ire stopped up:
4The hearer of the words of God hath said, he that hath beheld the vision of the Almighty, he that falleth, and so his eyes are opened:
5How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel!
6As woody valleys, as watered gardens near the rivers, as tabernacles which the Lord hath pitched, as cedars by the waterside.
7Water shall flow out of his bucket, and his seed shall be in many waters. For Agag his king shall be removed, and his kingdom shall be taken awry.
15Therefore taking up his parable, again he said: Balaam the son of Beor hath said: The man whose eye is stopped up, hath said:
16The hearer of the words of God hath said, who knoweth the doctrine of the Highest, and seeth the visions of the Almighty, who falling hath his eyes opened:
17I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth.
Psalm 25:4-5,8-9
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
4Let all them be confounded that act unjust things without cause. Shew, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.
5Direct me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art God my Saviour; and on thee have I waited all the day long.
8The Lord is sweet and righteous: therefore he will give a law to sinners in the way.
9He will guide the mild in judgment: he will teach the meek his ways.
Matthew 21:23-27
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
23And when he was come into the temple, there came to him, as he was teaching, the chief priests and ancients of the people, saying: By what authority dost thou these things? and who hath given thee this authority?
24Jesus answering, said to them: I also will ask you one word, which if you shall tell me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.
25The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men? But they thought within themselves, saying:
26If we shall say, from heaven, he will say to us: Why then did you not believe him? But if we shall say, from men, we are afraid of the multitude: for all held John as a prophet.
27And answering Jesus, they said: We know not. He also said to them: Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

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  1. The magi who come to pay homage to Jesus are Zoroastrians.  Zoroaster — it is claimed — is identifiable with Balaam of Numbers. []

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