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1Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 2Balak did as Balaam had said; and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offerings while I go aside. Perhaps the L ord will come to meet me. Whatever he shows me I will tell you.” And he went to a bare height.

4 Then God met Balaam; and Balaam said to him, “I have arranged the seven altars, and have offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” 5The L ord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you must say.” 6So he returned to Balak, who was standing beside his burnt offerings with all the officials of Moab. 7Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:

“Balak has brought me from Aram,

the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:

‘Come, curse Jacob for me;

Come, denounce Israel!’


How can I curse whom God has not cursed?

How can I denounce those whom the L ord has not denounced?


For from the top of the crags I see him,

from the hills I behold him.

Here is a people living alone,

and not reckoning itself among the nations!


Who can count the dust of Jacob,

or number the dust-cloud of Israel?

Let me die the death of the upright,

and let my end be like his!”

11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but now you have done nothing but bless them.” 12He answered, “Must I not take care to say what the L ord puts into my mouth?”

Balaam’s Second Oracle

13 So Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only part of them, and shall not see them all; then curse them for me from there.” 14So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offerings, while I meet the L ord over there.” 16The L ord met Balaam, put a word into his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you shall say.” 17When he came to him, he was standing beside his burnt offerings with the officials of Moab. Balak said to him, “What has the L ord said?” 18Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:

“Rise, Balak, and hear;

listen to me, O son of Zippor:


God is not a human being, that he should lie,

or a mortal, that he should change his mind.

Has he promised, and will he not do it?

Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?


See, I received a command to bless;

he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.


He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob;

nor has he seen trouble in Israel.

The L ord their God is with them,

acclaimed as a king among them.


God, who brings them out of Egypt,

is like the horns of a wild ox for them.


Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob,

no divination against Israel;

now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,

‘See what God has done!’


Look, a people rising up like a lioness,

and rousing itself like a lion!

It does not lie down until it has eaten the prey

and drunk the blood of the slain.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.” 26But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the L ord says, that is what I must do’?”

27 So Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” 28So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the wasteland. 29Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30So Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

10. Who can count the dust of Jacob? Hence it is plain that what Balaam was to say was suggested to him by God, since he quotes the words of God’s solemn promise, wherein the seed of Abraham is compared to the dust of the earth. Still, we must bear in mind what I have just adverted to, that, although that multitude was reduced to a small number by the sin of the people, nevertheless this was not declared in vain, inasmuch as that little body at length expanded itself so as to fill the whole world. Speaking by hyperbole, then, he says that their offspring would be infinite, since the fourth part will be almost innumerable. His aspiration at the conclusion is more emphatic than a simple affirmation. “I would (he says) that I might share with them their last end!” 157157     Corn. a Lapide has a curious note on “the death of the righteous,” contrasting the happy deaths of some, whom he deemed righteous, with those of others, whom he counted enemies of the Church. Amongst the latter he refers to Calvin himself. “Calvin, excruciated, according to Beza, by divers diseases, was in addition preyed upon by lice, as Jerome Bolsec, a physician of Lyons, and formerly his disciple, reports in his Life, ch. 22. Hence observe, that those who persecute the Church, were, by God’s just judgment, eaten by worms. Such was the case with Huneric, Herod, Antiochus, the emperors Maximinianus and Arnulphus, and Calvin.” For, in the first place, every one longs for what is most for his good; and again, Balaam confesses himself unworthy to be reckoned among the elect people of God. Hence it might be easily inferred how foolishly Balak trusted to his curse. Further, in these words he refers to everlasting felicity; as much as to say that (Israel) would be blessed in death as in life. At the same time he is a witness to our future immortality; not that he had reflected in himself wherefore the death of the righteous would be desirable, but God extorted this confession from an unholy man, so that, either unwillingly or thoughtlessly, he exclaimed that God so persevered in the extension of His paternal favor towards His people, that He did not cease to be gracious to them even in their death. Hence it follows, that the grace of God extends beyond the bounds of this perishing life. Wherefore this declaration contains a remarkable testimony to our future immortality. For although Balaam, perhaps, did not thoroughly consider what he desired, still, there is no doubt but that he truly professed that he wished it for himself. Nevertheless, as hypocrites are wont to do, he did but conceive an evanescent wish, for it was in no real seriousness that he sought what he was convinced was best. 158158     “Qu’il desireroit d’estre en pare’le condition avecques le peuple d’Israel;” that he desired to be in a like condition with the people of Israel. — Fr.

The Israelites are called righteous (recti,) as also in other places, not on account of their own righteousness, but in accordance with God’s good pleasure, who had deigned to separate them from the unclean nations.

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