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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.

1. Build me here seven altars. We more positively conclude from hence that this degenerate prophet had been by no means wont to prophesy in accordance with pure revelations from God, but that the art of divination, in which he boasted, had some affinity to magical exorcisms, and was infected with many errors and deceptions. Still this did not prevent him from being sometimes a true prophet by the inspiration of God’s Spirit; because, as has been already said, whilst the world was plunged in darkness, it was God’s will that some little sparks of light should still shine, in order to render even the most ignorant inexcusable. Since, therefore, Balaam was only endowed with a special gift, he borrowed devices in various directions, which savored of nothing but the illusions of the devil, and were utterly foreign to the true and legitimate method of consulting (God.) Hence came the seven victims and the seven altars; for, although God, by consecrating the seventh day unto Himself, as also in the seven lamps, and other things, indicated that there was something of perfection in that number; nevertheless, afterwards, many strange superstitions were invented, and under this pretense Satan cunningly deluded wretched men, by persuading them that secret virtues were contained in this number seven. This frivolous subtlety prevailed also among profane writers, so that they sought the confirmation of the error throughout all nature. Thus they allege the seven planets, as many Pleiades, the Septemtriones, 153153     “The seven stars, or Charles’s wain.” — Ainsworth. “Sed ego quidem cum L. Aelio, et M. Varrone sentio, qui triones rustico certo vocabulo boves appellatos scribunt, quasi quosdam terriones, hoc est, arandae colendaeque terrae idoneos. Itaque hoc sidus, quod a figura posituraque ipsa, quia simile plaustro videtur, antiqui Graecorum, αμαξαν dixerunt, nostri quoque veteres a bubus junctis septemtriones appellarunt; id est, a septem stellis, ex quibus quasi juncti triones figurantur.” — A. Gell. 2:21. and as many circles or zones; and again, that infants do not come into the world alive till the seventh month. Many such things they heap together in order to prove that some hidden mystery is implied in the number seven. This contagion reached the Christians also: for on this point the ancients 154154     “Les anciens docteurs.” — Fr. sometimes philosophize too refinedly, and have in general preferred to corrupt (Scripture) rather than not to restrict the gifts of the Spirit to this number, and to establish the sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost. It is plain that Balaam was infected by this fanciful notion, when he endeavours to draw down God by seven altars, and twice seven sacrifices. Let us, however, learn from Balak’s prompt compliance, that the superstitious neither spare expense, nor refuse anything which is demanded by the masters of their errors. Wherefore we must beware lest we be rashly credulous; whilst at the same time we take care lest, when it is clear what we ought to do, we should be withheld by discreditable supineness, when unbelievers hasten so eagerly and speedily to their own destruction.

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