Then the people of Israel traveled to the plains of Moab and camped east of the Jordan River, across from Jericho.
Balak son of Zippor, the Moabite king, knew what the Israelites had done to the Amorites.
And when they saw how many Israelites there were, he and his people were terrified.
The king of Moab said to the leaders of Midian, "This mob will devour everything in sight, like an ox devours grass!" So Balak, king of Moab,
sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor, who was living in his native land of Pethor a near the Euphrates River. b He sent this message to request that Balaam come to help him: "A vast horde of people has arrived from Egypt. They cover the face of the earth and are threatening me.
Please come and curse them for me because they are so numerous. Then perhaps I will be able to conquer them and drive them from the land. I know that blessings fall on the people you bless. I also know that the people you curse are doomed."
Balak's messengers, officials of both Moab and Midian, set out and took money with them to pay Balaam to curse Israel. They went to Balaam and urgently explained to him what Balak wanted.
"Stay here overnight," Balaam said. "In the morning I will tell you whatever the LORD directs me to say." So the officials from Moab stayed there with Balaam.
That night God came to Balaam and asked him, "Who are these men with you?"
So Balaam said to God, "Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent me this message:
'A vast horde of people has come from Egypt and has spread out over the whole land. Come at once to curse them. Perhaps then I will be able to conquer them and drive them from the land.'"
"Do not go with them," God told Balaam. "You are not to curse these people, for I have blessed them!"
The next morning Balaam got up and told Balak's officials, "Go on home! The LORD will not let me go with you."
So the Moabite officials returned to King Balak and reported, "Balaam refused to come with us."
Then Balak tried again. This time he sent a larger number of even more distinguished officials than those he had sent the first time.
They went to Balaam and gave him this message: "This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Please don't let anything stop you from coming.
I will pay you well and do anything you ask of me. Just come and curse these people for me!"
But Balaam answered them, "Even if Balak were to give me a palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD my God.
But stay here one more night to see if the LORD has anything else to say to me."
That night God came to Balaam and told him, "Since these men have come for you, get up and go with them. But be sure to do only what I tell you to do."
So the next morning Balaam saddled his donkey and started off with the Moabite officials.
But God was furious that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the LORD to stand in the road to block his way. As Balaam and two servants were riding along,
Balaam's donkey suddenly saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand. The donkey bolted off the road into a field, but Balaam beat it and turned it back onto the road.
Then the angel of the LORD stood at a place where the road narrowed between two vineyard walls.
When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing there, it tried to squeeze by and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall. So Balaam beat the donkey again.
Then the angel of the LORD moved farther down the road and stood in a place so narrow that the donkey could not get by at all.
This time when the donkey saw the angel, it lay down under Balaam. In a fit of rage Balaam beat it again with his staff.
Then the LORD caused the donkey to speak. "What have I done to you that deserves your beating me these three times?" it asked Balaam.
"Because you have made me look like a fool!" Balaam shouted. "If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!"
"But I am the same donkey you always ride on," the donkey answered. "Have I ever done anything like this before?" "No," he admitted.
Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam fell face down on the ground before him.
"Why did you beat your donkey those three times?" the angel of the LORD demanded. "I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me.
Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey."
Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will go back home if you are against my going."
But the angel of the LORD told him, "Go with these men, but you may say only what I tell you to say." So Balaam went on with Balak's officials.
When King Balak heard that Balaam was on the way, he went out to meet him at a Moabite town on the Arnon River at the border of his land.
"Did I not send you an urgent invitation? Why didn't you come right away?" Balak asked Balaam. "Didn't you believe me when I said I would reward you richly?"
Balaam replied, "I have come, but I have no power to say just anything. I will speak only the messages that God gives me."
Then Balaam accompanied Balak to Kiriath-huzoth,
where the king sacrificed cattle and sheep. He sent portions of the meat to Balaam and the officials who were with him.
The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth-baal. From there he could see the people of Israel spread out below him.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)