International Standard Version
1The Israelis continued their travels, eventually encamping on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River opposite Jericho.
2Zippor's son Balak saw everything that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3As a result, Moab greatly feared the people, because they were so numerous. Because a sense of impending doom was afflicting the Moabites as they faced the Israelis, 4the Moabites told the elders of Midian, "This horde of people is about to lick up everything around us, like an ox licks up the green ground." At that time, Zippor's son Balak was the king of Moab. 5He sent messengers to Beor's son Balaam in Pethor, near the Euphrates River, the land where the descendants of his people originated, to summon his aid. He said, "Look! A group of people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth, and are sitting here right in front of me. 6So come right now and curse this people for me, because there are too many of them for me to handle. Perhaps I'll be able to strike them down and drive them out of the land, since I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed."
7So the elders of Moab and Midian left to visit Balaam, bringing an honorarium with them, and communicated Balak's concerns to him. 8In answer, Balaam told them, "Stay here for the night and I'll bring back a message to you, depending on what the LORD says to me." So the officers of Moab stayed with Balaam overnight. 9God visited Balaam and asked him, "Who are these men with you?" 10Then Balaam told God, "Zippor's son Balak, king of Moab, sent them to me and said, 11Look! A group of people have escaped from Egypt. They cover the surface of the whole earth! So come right now and curse them for me. Perhaps I'll be able to fight against them and drive them out.'" 12But God told Balaam, "Don't go with them. Don't curse the people, because they're blessed." 13So Balaam got up the next morning and told Balak's officials, "Go back to your homeland, because the LORD has refused me permission to go with you." 14So Balak's officials got up, returned to Balak and reported, "Balaam refused to come with us."
15In response, Balak sent more officers—higher ranking ones, at that!— 16who approached Balaam with this message: "This is what Zippor's son Balak says: 'Don't let anything get in the way of your coming to me. 17I'm determined to reward you generously, and I'll do everything you tell me to do. So come right away and curse this people for me.'" 18Balaam responded to Balak's entourage by saying, "Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I won't double-cross the command of the LORD my God in even the slightest way. 19Meanwhile, stay here overnight so I may learn what the LORD might say to me." 20God came to visit Balaam that same night and told him, "If the men come to call on you, get up and go with them, but be sure to do only what I tell you to do."
21The next morning, Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started to leave, accompanied by the Moabite officials.
22At this, the anger of the LORD flared up against Balaam, because he was leaving. So the angel of the LORD stood in the way to oppose him. As Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by two of his servants, 23all of a sudden the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand! The donkey turned off the road and went into an open field. Balaam started beating the donkey in order to turn her back to the road, 24but the angel of the LORD stood on a narrow path that crossed the vineyards. It had walls on both sides of the path. 25When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she squeezed herself so close to the wall that Balaam's foot was pressed to the wall. So he beat her again! 26Then the angel of the LORD went along a little further and stood in a much narrower space, where it was impossible to turn either right or left. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she crouched down under Balaam. As a result, Balaam got so angry that he started to whip the donkey with his staff. 28That's when the LORD enabled the donkey to speak. She asked Balaam, "What did I do to you that you would beat me in the space of only three footsteps?" 29"Because you're playing a dirty trick on me," Balaam answered the donkey. "If only I had a sword in my hand! I'd kill you right now!" 30But in response, the donkey asked Balaam, "I'm your donkey that you've ridden on in the past without incident, am I not, and I'm the same donkey you're riding on right now, am I not? Am I in the habit of treating you like this?" "No," he admitted.
31Then the LORD enabled Balaam to see, so he observed the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with an unsheathed sword in his hand. So he bowed down and prostrated himself on his face. 32Then the angel of the LORD asked him, "Why did you beat your donkey in the space of only three footsteps? I've come to oppose you, because I say that what you're doing is perverted. 33The donkey saw me and turned in front of me in the space of those three footsteps. 34If she hadn't turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and left her alive!" At this, Balaam replied to the angel of the LORD, "I've sinned! I didn't know that you were standing to meet me on the road. So now, since it displeases you, let me go back." 35But the angel of the LORD told Balaam, "Go with the men, but deliver only the message that I'm going to give you." So Balaam went with Balak's officials.
36When Balak heard that Balaam had arrived, he went out to meet him in the city of Moab on the border of Arnon at the extreme end of his territory. 37Balak asked Balaam, "Didn't I repeatedly send for you to summon you? Why didn't you come to me? I can pay you well, can't I?" 38Balaam answered Balak, "Well, I'm here now. I've come to you, but I can't just say anything, can I? I'll speak only what God puts in my mouth to say." 39So accompanied by Balaam and Balak's officials, Balak traveled to Kiriath-huzoth, 40where he sacrificed oxen and sheep.
41The next day, Balak brought Balaam up to Bamoth-baal, where he could see part of the community of Israel.