As the Israelites
passed through the lands of different tribes, they found that some
were peaceful but others were fearful and warlike and would not
let them pass.
To pass through
the land of the Amorites, the children of Israel had to wage war
against them. They conquered the Amorites and dwelt for a time in
their cities and villages. As they
continued on their
journey to the Promised Land of Canaan, they came to the plains of
Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho. The king of the Moabites,
Balak, having heard of the successes of the Israelites against the
Amorites, was afraid. Therefore he sent messengers to the false
prophet Balaam, saying, "Behold, there is a people come from
Egypt. They are covering the face of the earth and are now at my
very boundaries. Come now and curse them for me, so that we may
battle with them and drive them from the land."
But God said to
Balaam, "You shall not go, for these children of Israel are
Then Balak sent
princes from his court as messengers, promising Balaam great
honors if he would go. Again Balaam refused - for he would not go
against the word of the Lord. But this time God appeared to Balaam
saying "Go with these men, but be sure to do as I tell
In the morning
Balaam saddled his ass and went with the princes of Moab. And God
sent an angel who stood before the ass, sword in hand. The ass saw
the angel and turned into the field by the road. Balaam struck the
ass in order to turn her back into the road.
A little farther
on, where the road passed a vineyard with a wall on either side,
the angel stood in the way again. The ass thrust herself against
the wall, crushing Balaam's foot, so that he beat her again. Then
the angel stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn
either to right or left, and the ass fell down under Balaam.
Balaam was so
incensed that he beat the ass with his staff. Then the Lord opened
the mouth of the ass, and she said, "What have I done that
you should beat me so?"
"Because you have mocked me. If I had a sword I would kill
Again the ass
spoke, "I have been a faithful ass for many years. Have I
ever acted so before?"
Even as Balaam
answered "No," the Lord opened his eyes and he saw the
angel, and bowed to the ground, realizing that the faithful ass
had saved his life. The angel then told Balaam that he might go
on, but that he should speak only the words which the Lord put in
So when Balaam
arrived before the King of Moab, he could only bless the children
of Israel, saying, "Blessed is he who blesses you - and
cursed is he who curses you!" Then Balak, in great anger,
refused to honor Balaam, and sent him back to his own country.