Numbers 21-22 The Message Bible

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The Canaanites Attack Israel

21 1  The Canaanite king of Arad, ruling in the Negev, heard that Israel was advancing up the road to Atharim. He attacked Israel and took prisoners of war. 2  Israel vowed a vow to God: "If you will give this people into our power, we'll destroy their towns and present the ruins to you as a holy destruction." 3  God listened to Israel's prayer and gave them the Canaanites. They destroyed both them and their towns, a holy destruction. They named the place Hormah (Holy Destruction).

The Fiery Serpents

4  They set out from Mount Hor along the Red Sea Road, a detour around the land of Edom. The people became irritable and cross as they traveled. 5  They spoke out against God and Moses: "Why did you drag us out of Egypt to die in this godforsaken country? No decent food; no water - we can't stomach this stuff any longer." 6  So God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died. 7  The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke out against God and you. Pray to God; ask him to take these snakes from us." Moses prayed for the people. 8  God said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live." 9  So Moses made a snake of fiery copper and put it on top of a flagpole. Anyone bitten by a snake who then looked at the copper snake lived.

The Israelites Journey around Moab

10  The People of Israel set out and camped at Oboth. 11  They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim in the wilderness that faces Moab on the east. 12  They went from there and pitched camp in the Zered Valley. 13  Their next camp was alongside the Arnon River, which marks the border between Amorite country and Moab. 14  The Book of the Wars of God refers to this place: Waheb in Suphah, the canyons of Arnon; 15  Along the canyon ravines that lead to the village Ar And lean hard against the border of Moab. 16  They went on to Beer (The Well), where God said to Moses, "Gather the people; I'll give them water." 17  That's where Israel sang this song: Erupt, Well! Sing the Song of the Well, 18  the well sunk by princes, Dug out by the peoples' leaders digging with their scepters and staffs. 19  to Nahaliel to Bamoth (The Heights) 20  to the valley that opens into the fields of Moab from where Pisgah (The Summit) rises and overlooks Jeshimon (Wasteland).

Israel Conquers Sihon

21  Israel sent emissaries to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, 22  "Let us cross your land. We won't trespass into your fields or drink water in your vineyards. We'll keep to the main road, the King's Road, until we're through your land." 23  But Sihon wouldn't let Israel go through. Instead he got his army together and marched into the wilderness to fight Israel. At Jahaz he attacked Israel. 24  But Israel fought hard, beat him soundly, and took possession of his land from the Arnon all the way to the Jabbok right up to the Ammonite border. They stopped there because the Ammonite border was fortified. 25  Israel took and occupied all the Amorite cities, including Heshbon and all its surrounding villages. 26  Heshbon was the capital city of Sihon king of the Amorites. He had attacked the former king of Moab and captured all his land as far north as the river Arnon. 27  That is why the folk singers sing, Come to Heshbon to rebuild the city, restore Sihon's town. 28  Fire once poured out of Heshbon, flames from the city of Sihon; Burning up Ar of Moab, the natives of Arnon's heights. 29  Doom, Moab! The people of Chemosh, done for! Sons turned out as fugitives, daughters abandoned as captives to the king of the Amorites, to Sihon. 30  Oh, but we finished them off: Nothing left of Heshbon as far as Dibon; Devastation as far off as Nophah, scorched earth all the way to Medeba.

Israel Conquers Og of Bashan

31  Israel moved in and lived in Amorite country. 32  Moses sent men to scout out Jazer. They captured its villages and drove away the Amorites who lived there. 33  Then they turned north on the road to Bashan. Og king of Bashan marched out with his entire army to meet Moses in battle at Edrei. 34  God said to Moses, "Don't be afraid of him. I'm making a present of him to you, him and all his people and his land. Treat him the same as Sihon king of the Amorites who ruled in Heshbon." 35  So they attacked him, his sons, and all the people - there was not a single survivor. Israel took the land.

Balak Sends for Balaam

22 1  The People of Israel marched on and camped on the Plains of Moab at Jordan-Jericho. 2  Balak son of Zippor learned of all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3  The people of Moab were in a total panic because of Israel. There were so many of them! They were terrorized. 4  Moab spoke to the leaders of Midian: "Look, this mob is going to clean us out - a bunch of crows picking a carcass clean." 5  sent emissaries to get Balaam son of Beor, who lived at Pethor on the banks of the Euphrates River, his homeland. 6  Come and curse them for me - they're too much for me. Maybe then I can beat them; we'll attack and drive them out of the country. You have a reputation: Those you bless stay blessed; those you curse stay cursed." 7  The leaders of Moab and Midian were soon on their way, with the fee for the cursing tucked safely in their wallets. When they got to Balaam, they gave him Balak's message. 8  "Stay here for the night," Balaam said. "In the morning I'll deliver the answer that God gives me." The Moabite nobles stayed with him. 9  Then God came to Balaam. He asked, "So who are these men here with you?" 10  Balaam answered, "Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent them with a message: 11  'Look, the people that came up out of Egypt are all over the place! Come and curse them for me. Maybe then I'll be able to attack and drive them out of the country.'" 12  God said to Balaam, "Don't go with them. And don't curse the others - they are a blessed people." 13  The next morning Balaam got up and told Balak's nobles, "Go back home; God refuses to give me permission to go with you." 14  So the Moabite nobles left, came back to Balak, and said, "Balaam wouldn't come with us."

15  Balak sent another group of nobles, higher ranking and more distinguished. 16  They came to Balaam and said, "Balak son of Zippor says, 'Please, don't refuse to come to me. 17  I will honor and reward you lavishly - anything you tell me to do, I'll do; I'll pay anything - only come and curse this people.'" 18  Balaam answered Balak's servants: "Even if Balak gave me his house stuffed with silver and gold, I wouldn't be able to defy the orders of my God to do anything, whether big or little. 19  But come along and stay with me tonight as the others did; I'll see what God will say to me this time." 20  God came to Balaam that night and said, "Since these men have come all this way to see you, go ahead and go with them. But make sure you do absolutely nothing other than what I tell you."

The Angel and Balaam's Ass

21  Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went off with the noblemen from Moab.

22  As he was going, though, God's anger flared. The angel of God stood in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. 23  When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, she veered off the road into the ditch. Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road. 24  But as they were going through a vineyard, with a fence on either side, 25  the donkey again saw God's angel blocking the way and veered into the fence, crushing Balaam's foot against the fence. Balaam hit her again. 26  God's angel blocked the way yet again - a very narrow passage this time; there was no getting through on the right or left. 27  Seeing the angel, Balaam's donkey sat down under him. Balaam lost his temper; he beat the donkey with his stick. 28  Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: "What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?" 29  Balaam said, "Because you've been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now." 30  The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you've ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?" He said, "No." 31  Then God helped Balaam see what was going on: He saw God's angel blocking the way, brandishing a sword. Balaam fell to the ground, his face in the dirt. 32  God's angel said to him: "Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you're getting way ahead of yourself. 33  The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she hadn't, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off." 34  Balaam said to God's angel, "I have sinned. I had no idea you were standing in the road blocking my way. If you don't like what I'm doing, I'll head back." 35  But God's angel said to Balaam, "Go ahead and go with them. But only say what I tell you to say - absolutely no other word." And so Balaam continued to go with Balak's nobles.

36  When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him in the Moabite town that was on the banks of the Arnon, right on the boundary of his land. 37  Balak said to Balaam, "Didn't I send an urgent message for help? Why didn't you come when I called? Do you think I can't pay you enough?" 38  Balaam said to Balak, "Well, I'm here now. But I can't tell you just anything. I can speak only words that God gives me - no others." 39  Balaam then accompanied Balak to Kiriath Huzoth (Street-Town). 40  Balak slaughtered cattle and sheep for sacrifices and presented them to Balaam and the nobles who were with him.

Balaam Blesses Israel

41  At daybreak Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal (The Heights of Baal) so that he could get a good view of some of the people.

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