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Balaam (Hebrew בִּלְעָם, Standard Hebrew Bilʻam, Tiberian Hebrew Bilʻām; could mean "glutton" or "foreigner", but this etymology is uncertain), is a prophet in the Bible, his story occurring in the Book of Numbers. Balaam, the son of Beor, was a Gentile seer; he appears in the history of the Israelites during their sojourn in the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan River, at the close of the Forty Years' wandering, shortly before the death of Moses and the crossing of the Jordan. Israel had conquered two kings east of the Jordan: Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. Balak, king of Moab, became alarmed, and sent for Balaam to curse Israel; Balaam came after some hesitation, but when he sought to curse Israel, God or the Lord compelled him to bless them instead. Jump to: navigation, search Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family spoken by 6 million people mainly in Israel, parts of the Palestinian territories, the United States and by Jewish communities around the world. ... The Modern Hebrew language is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family. ... Tiberian Hebrew is an oral tradition of pronunciation for ancient forms of Hebrew, especially the Hebrew of the Bible, that was given written form by masoretic scholars in the Jewish community at Tiberias in the early middle ages, beginning in the 8th century. ... Jump to: navigation, search Etymology is the study of the origins of words. ... In numerous religions, including Abrahamic religions, Jah religions, Sikhism, and many forms of Paganism, a prophet is an intermediary with a deity, particularly someone who claims to speak for the deity or interprets the deitys will or mind. ... The Bible (sometimes The Book,Good Book, Word of God, or Scripture), from Greek (τα) βιβλια, (ta) biblia, (the) books, plural of βιβλιον, biblion, book, originally a diminutive of βιβλος, biblos, which in turn is derived from βυβλος—byblos, meaning papyrus, from the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos which exported this writing material), is the... The Book of Numbers is the fourth of the books of the Pentateuch, called in the Hebrew ba-midbar במדבר, i. ... The word Gentile (from the Latin gentilis, a translation of the Hebrew Nochri/נכרי) has several meanings. ... An Israelite is a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, descended from the twelve sons of the Biblical patriarch Jacob who was renamed Israel by God in the book of Genesis, 32:28 The Israelites were a group of Hebrews, as described in the Bible. ... Moab (מוֹאָב Seed of father/leader, Standard Hebrew Moʾav, Tiberian Hebrew Môʾāḇ) is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan running along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. ... Northern part of the Great Rift Valley as seen from space (NASA) The Jordan River today The Jordan River is a river in Southwest Asia flowing through the Jordan Rift Valley into the Dead Sea. ... The Bible describes that as the Israelites in their Exodus came to the country east of the Jordan, king Sihon of the Amorites refused to let them pass through his country. ... Amorite (Hebrew ’emōrî, Egyptian Amar, Akkadian Amurrū (corresponding to Sumerian MAR.TU or Martu) refers to a Semitic people who occupied the middle Euphrates area from the second half of the third millennium BC and also appear in the Tanakh. ... Og, pronounced Aug -meaning gigantic, was an ancient Amorite king of Bashan who, along with his sons and army, was slain by Moses and his men at the battle of Edrei (probably modern day Dara, Syria) according to several books of the Old Testament. ... Bashan (meaning light soil) is a biblical place first mentioned in Genesis 14:5, where it is said that Chedorlaomer and his confederates smote the Rephaim in Ashteroth, where Og the king of Bashan had his residence. ... Balak was king of Moab around 1200 BC. When the Israelites reached Moab, Balak ordered Balaam, a prophet, to curse Israel. ... Jump to: navigation, search The term God is capitalized in the English language as a proper noun when used to refer to a specific monotheistic concept of a Supreme Being in accordance with Christian, Jewish (sometimes as G-d - cf. ... The Tetragrammaton in Phoenician (1100 BC to AD 300), Aramaic (10th century BC to 1 BC) and modern Hebrew scripts. ...

Contents


The story

Balak, king of Moab, alarmed at the Israelite conquests, sends elders of Moab and Midian to Balaam, son of Beor, to the land of Ammon, to induce him to come and curse Israel. He sends back word that he can only do what the Lord commands. The current Hebrew Text has the land of Ammon as Ev, "his people," but Ammon is read by the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac and Vulgate Versions and some Hebrew manuscripts, and is accepted by many modern scholars. xxii. 22-3511 to "Balaam," also "Go" and "So Balaam went." Nevertheless Balaam sets out with two servants to go to Balak, but the Angel of YHWH meets him. Moab (מוֹאָב Seed of father/leader, Standard Hebrew Moʾav, Tiberian Hebrew Môʾāḇ) is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan running along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. ... Torah, (תורה) is a Hebrew word meaning teaching, instruction, or especially Law. ... Syriac is an Eastern Aramaic language that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. ... The Vulgate Bible is an early 5th century translation of the Bible into Latin made by St. ...


At first the Angel is seen only by the ass, which arouses Balaam's anger by its efforts to avoid the Angel. The ass is miraculously enabled to speak to Balaam. YHWH at last enables Balaam to see the Angel, who tells him that he would have slain him but for the ass. Balaam offers to go back, but is told to go on.


Balak meets Balaam and they go together and offer sacrifices; Balaam, however, blesses Israel by divine inspiration, Balak remonstrates but Balaam reminds him of his message and again blesses Israel. Then Balaam "goes home."


God appears to him in a dream and forbids him to go. The princes return and report to Balak, who sends them back to put further pressure on Balaam. God in another dream permits him to go, on condition that he speaks what God tells him. He goes with the princes of Moab. Balak meets them, and Balaam warns him that he can only speak what God tells him. xxii. 40, 41, xxiii. 1-6,11-17. Balak offers sacrifices, but YHWH inspires Balaam with a blessing on Israel. Balak remonstrates and Balaam explains. They try to get a more favourable result by sacrificing on a different spot, and by placing Balaam on the top of Pisgah to view Israel, but he is again compelled to bless Israel. After further remonstrances and explanations [Balaam goes home]. (For the relation of the poems to E's narrative, see below.)


Deut. xxiii. 3-6 i summarizes this incident, adding the feature that the Ammonites were associated with the Moabites, possibly an imperfect reminiscence of the reference to Ammon in J Joshua, in his farewell speech to the Israelites, also refers to this episode. The Priestly Code has a different story of Balaam, in which he advises the Midianites how they may bring disaster on Israel by seducing the people Quoted Neh. xiii I f. 2 Josh. xxiv. 9, i0. E; cf. Micah vi.


5. Num. xxxi. 8 (quoted Josh. xiii. 22), 16. These references are not necessarily inconsistent with JE; but they are probably based on an independent tradition. The date of the Priestly Code is c. 400 BC-- from their loyalty to Yahweh. Later on he is slain in battle, fighting in the ranks of Midian. It is often supposed that the name of the king of Edom, Bela, son of Beor, is a corruption of Balaam, and that, therefore, the form of the tradition made him a king of Edom. Centuries: 5th century BC - 4th century BC - 3rd century BC Decades: 450s BC 440s BC 430s BC 420s BC 410s BC - 400s BC - 390s BC 380s BC 370s BC 360s BC 350s BC Years: 405 BC 404 BC 403 BC 402 BC 401 BC - 400 BC - 399 BC 398 BC...


Interpretation of the ass episode

Speaking animals are a common feature of folklore; the only other case in the Old Testament is the serpent in Eden. The talking animal or speaking animal term may be used in the following senses. ... The Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures (also called the Hebrew Bible) constitutes the first major part of the Bible according to Christianity. ... The various meanings of Eden: Garden of Eden Eden programming language Garden of Eden pattern, a term used in cellular automata Eden is the name of a film. ...


Jewish commentators such as Saadia Gaon and Maimonides taught that a reader should not take this story literally; rather, they explained it as an account of a prophetic experience, which are experiences as dreams or visions. In this view the donkey, in fact, did not actually speak. Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz, one of the great Jewish biblical commentators of the 20th century, writes that these verses "depict the continuance on the subconscious plane of the mental and moral conflict in Balaam's soul; and the dream apparition and the speaking donkey is but a further warning to Balaam against being misled through avarice to violate God's command." Saadia Ben Joseph Gaon (892-942), the Hebrew name of Said al-Fayyumi, was a rabbi who was also a prominent Jewish exilarch, philosopher, and exegete. ... Jump to: navigation, search Commonly used image indicating one artists conception of Maimonidess appearance Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Hebrew: רבי משה בן מיימון; Arabic: Mussa bin Maimun ibn Abdallah al-Kurtubi al-Israili; March 30, 1135—December 13, 1204), commonly known by his Greek name (Moses) Maimonides, was a Jewish rabbi, physician...


Similar views have been held by E. W. Hengstenberg and other Christian scholars. Others, e.g. Voick, regard the statements about the ass speaking as figurative; the ass brayed, and Balaam translated the sound into words.


The Poems

The Poems fall into two groups: the first four, in xxiii. rcxiv. 19, are commonly regarded as ancient lyrics of the early monarchy, perhaps in the time of David or Solomon, which J and E inserted in their narrative. Some recent critics,1 however, are inclined to place them in the post-exilic period, in which case a late editor has substituted them for earlier, probably less edifying, oracles. But the features which are held to indicate a late date may be due to editorial revision. The first two are found in an E setting, and therefore, if ancient, formed part of E.


The First, xxiii. 7-10, prophesies the unique exaltation of Israel, and its countless numbers. The Second, xxiii. 18-24, celebrates the moral virtue of Israel, the monarchy and its conquests. Again the second couple are connected with J. The Third, xxiv. 3-9, also celebrates the glory and conquests of the monarchy.A gag, in verse 7, can hardly be the Amalekite king of I Sam. xv.; Amalek was too small and obscure. The Septuagint and other Greek Versions and Sam. Pent. have Gog, which would imply a post-exilic date, cf. Ezek. xxxix. Probably both Agag and Gog are textual corruptions. Og has been suggested, but does not seem a great improvement. The Septuagint (LXX) is the name commonly given in the West to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) produced in the third century BC. The Septuagint Bible includes additional books beyond those used in todays Jewish Tanakh. ...


The Fourth, xxiv. 14-19, announces the coming of a king, possibly David, who shall conquer Edom and Moab.The remaining poems are usually regarded as later additions;thus the Oxford Hexateuch on Num. xxiv. 20-24. "The three concluding oracles seem irrelevant here, being concerned neither with Israel nor Moab. It has been thought that they were added to bring the cycle up to seven." The Fifth, xxiv. 20, deals with the ruin of Amalek; It is of uncertain date; if the historical Amalek is meant, it may be early; but Amalek may be symbolical.The Sixth, xxiv. 21 f., deals with the destruction of the Kenite state by Assyria; also of uncertain date, Assyria being, according to some, the ancient realm of Nineveh, according to others the Seleucid kingdom of Syria, which was also called Assyria. The Seventh, xxiv. 23f, speaks of the coming of ships from the West, to attack Assur and "Eber" it may refer to the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great. Assyria in earliest historical times referred to a region on the Upper Tigris river, named for its original capital, the city of Ashur. ... The Seleucid Empire was one of several political states founded after the death of Alexander the Great, whose generals squabbled over the division of Alexanders empire. ... Alexander the Great fighting the Persian king Darius (Pompeii mosaic, from a 3rd century BC original Greek painting, now lost). ...


Balaam in rabbinic literature

In rabbinic literature Balaam is represented as one of seven gentile prophets; the other six being Balaam's father, Job, and his four friends (Talmud, B. B. 15b). Rabbinic literature, in the broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of Judaisms rabbinic writing/s throughout history. ... In numerous religions, including Abrahamic religions, Jah religions, Sikhism, and many forms of Paganism, a prophet is an intermediary with a deity, particularly someone who claims to speak for the deity or interprets the deitys will or mind. ...


Balaam gradually acquired a position among the heathen as exalted as that of Moses among the chosen people (Midrash Numbers Rabbah 20). At first a mere interpreter of dreams, Balaam later became a magician, until finally the spirit of prophecy descended upon him (ib. 7).


According to the Talmud, Balaam possessed the gift of being able to ascertain the exact moment during which God is wroth — a gift bestowed upon no other creature. Balaam's intention was to curse the Israelites at this moment of wrath; but God purposely restrained His anger in order to baffle the wicked prophet and to save the nation from extermination (Talmud, Berachot 7a). When the law was given to Israel, a mighty voice shook the foundations of the earth; so that all kings trembled, and in their consternation gathered about Balaam, inquiring whether this upheaval of nature portended a second deluge; but the prophet assured them that what they heard was the voice of God giving the sacred Law to His children of Israel (Talmud, Zeb. 116a). The Talmud (תלמוד) is considered an authoritative record of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, Jewish ethics, customs, legends and stories. ...


Nevertheless, it is significant that in rabbinical literature the epithet "rasha" (the wicked one) is often attached to the name of Balaam (Talmud Berachot l.c.; Taanit 20a; Midrash Numbers Rabbah 20:14). Balaam is pictured as blind of one eye and lame in one foot (Talmud Sanhedrin 105a); and his disciples (followers) are distinguished by three morally corrupt qualities, viz., an evil eye, a haughty bearing, and an avaricious spirit—qualities the very opposite of those characterizing the disciples of Abraham (Ab. v. 19; compare Tan., Balak, 6).


Balaam received the divine communication at night only—a limitation that applies also to the other non-Jewish prophets (Midrash Numbers Rabbah 20:12). The Rabbis hold Balaam responsible for the unchastity which led to the apostasy in Shittim, and in chastisement of which 24,000 persons fell victims to a pestilence (Num. xxv. 1-9). When Balaam, "the wicked," saw that he could not curse the children of Israel, he advised Balak (intimated in Num. xxiv. 14) as a last resort to tempt the Hebrew nation to immoral acts and, through these, to the worship of Baal-peor. "The God of the Hebrews," adds Balaam, "hates lewdness; and severe chastisement must follow" (San. 106a; Yer. ib. x. 28d; Num. R. l.c.).


The rabbis, playing on the name Balaam, call him "Belo 'Am" (without people; that is, without a share with the people in the world to come), or "Billa' 'Am" (one that ruined a people); and this hostility against his memory finds its climax in the dictum that whenever one discovers a feature of wickedness or disgrace in his life, one should preach about it (Sanh. 106b).


Balaam in the New Testament

An interesting, but doubtful, emendation makes this poem describe the nun of Shamal, a state in northwest Syria. In the New Testament Balaam is cited as a type of avarice ;6 in Rev. ii. 14 we read of false teachers at Pergamum who held the "teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication." Balaam has attracted much interest, alike from Jews, Christians and Muslims. Josephus paraphrases the story more so, and speaks of Balaam, as the best prophet of his time, but with a disposition ill adapted to resist temptation. Philo describes him in the Life of Moses as a great magician; elsewhere he speaks of "the sophist Balaam, being," i.e. symbolizing, "a vain crowd of contrary and warring opinions" and again as "a vain people" both phrases being based on a mistaken etymology of the name Balaam. The New Testament, sometimes called the Greek Testament or Greek Scriptures is the name given to the part of the Christian Bible that was written after the birth of Jesus. ... Josephus (ca. ... Philo (20 BCE - 40 CE) was a Hellenized Jewish philosopher born in Alexandria, Egypt. ...


Critical historical view

The main passage concerning Balaam in Numbers xxii-xxv.; it consists of a narrative which serves as a framework for seven oracular poems, the first four being of some length and the last three very brief.


According to higher biblical criticism, the text of the Torah has been edited together from several earlier traditions; this is known as the documentary hypothesis. The sections about Balaam have two sources, the J source and the E source. The story of Balaam originally was a single story (in the traditional view, spoken by God to Moses at Mount Sinai.) However, this story was imperfectly transmitted among the Israelites over a period of centuries. As such, over time, two different forms of this story appeared. At some later time, these two traditions were fused together to create the version we now see today. The documentary hypothesis is a theory proposed by many historians and academics in the field of linguistics and source criticism that the Five Books of Moses (the Torah) are in fact a combination of documents from different sources rather than authored by one individual. ...


Other records of Balaam

In 1967, an archaeological mission found in Deir Alla, Jordan, an ancient Aramaic (Ammonite dialect) inscription written in red and black ink on plaster walls telling about a hitherto unknown prophecy from the "Book of Balaam", foretelling destruction for disobedience to the gods. Balaam in this narrative is a prophet of Shamash, the Semitic sun god. 1967 was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Aramaic is a Semitic language with a four-thousand year history. ... This article is about the marine animal. ... Shamash in his trone from the tablette of Sippar ca. ... Jump to: navigation, search Semitic is an adjective referring to the peoples who have traditionally spoken Semitic languages or to things pertaining to them. ...


See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
JewishEncyclopedia.com - BALAAM (2932 words)
But notwithstanding the previous permission, God's anger is kindled at Balaam as he goes; and the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword in his hand shows himself accordingly to the ass, which refuses to proceed along the road despite Balaam's efforts to urge it.
Balaam's intention was to curse the Israelites at this moment of wrath; but God purposely restrained His anger in order to baffle the wicked prophet and to save the nation from extermination (Ber.
Balaam, according to J, is requested by the messengers of Balak to come and pronounce a curse against the Israelites, of whose growing power the Moabite chief is not unreasonably in dread.
Balaam - LoveToKnow 1911 (2120 words)
Balaam, the son of Beor, was a Gentile seer; he appears in the history of the Israelites during their sojourn in the plains of Moab, east of Jordan, at the close of the Forty Years' wandering, shortly before the death of Moses and the crossing of the Jordan.
It is often supposed that the name of the king of Edom,4 Bela, son of Beor, is a corruption of Balaam, and that, therefore, one form of the tradition made him a king of Edom.
The chief significance of the Balaam narratives for the history of the religion of Israel is the recognition by J and E of the genuine inspiration of a non-Hebrew prophet.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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