A Wise Ass & Baalam, the Son of Beor

The Israelites shouldn’t be mad at Moses because if it wasn’t for him You might have zapped them. 

And even if You wouldn’t have done that they couldn’t have won all those wars without You. I understand why You call them stiffnecked.

The date was March 17, 1967, a Friday. A Dutch expedition led by Professor Henk J. Franken of the University of Leiden was excavating a mound named Tell Deir Alla in the middle Jordan Valley, east of the river, in Jordan.
The site lay halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, barely a mile north of what was known in Biblical times as the Jabbok River and now is called the Zerqa, a tributary of the Jordan.

The Israelites moved forward and pitched their tents in the plains of Moab, and Balak knew what the Israelites had done to the Amorites.  He and all of Moab were afraid, so he came up with a plan to defeat the Israelites.

“He sent messengers therefore unto 1 Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me.

2 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. 

And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.

And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. 

 And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? 

And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, 

Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out.

And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed” (Num 22:5-12).  

Some scholars have identified Deir Alla with Biblical Succoth, where Jacob built a house for himself and booths (succoth) for his cattle (Gens 33:17).My own view, as I shall explain, is that the tell is Biblical Penuel, where Jacob wrestled with the angel (Gen 32:25–32). Of one thing we may be certain: During the eighth to seventh centuries B.C., long after Jacob’s time, Deir Alla was an important city, probably more than ten acres in size.It was in the archaeological levels from this city that the Dutch expedition was digging on that fateful Friday in 1967. An Arab foreman named Ali Abdul-Rasul suddenly noticed traces of letters on tiny pieces of plaster among the debris the workers were cleaning up.

In the morning Balaam told Balak what God had said to him, but Balak begged Balaam to help him, promising him honor.

“And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. 

Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. 

And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. 

And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him.  Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.

But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. 

And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. 

And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 

And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

The dating of the ink on plaster inscription has ranged from the 8th century to the Persian period, although most seem to hold an 8th century date.
The issue of dating was initially complicated by two problems.
First, the text is fragmentary and at least 15 combinations of the inscription have been proposed.
Second, the form of the text is debated (Canaanite, Aramaic, both?).
However, it is now generally agreed that the first combination is the most likely and that the text is Aramaic (at least primarily).
In the first combination, and in the first line, Balaam is described as a “seer of the gods.” Interestingly, Yahweh is never mentioned, although El, El Shaddayin (plural), and a goddess (whose name is mostly missing from the fragmentary text) are found in the text. The superscription also mentions that Balaam sees an oracle like a vision.
The rest of the text contains material not found in the biblical record (although some of the language is similar). The oracle itself appears to relate to divine punishment and the loss of fertility. A detailed examination of the text is not possible here but such treatments are available.
Overall, the inscription, unlike most of the biblical material, presents Balaam as a positive figure. Although he is not called a prophet, he is identified as a seer and his oracle apparently was seen as significant enough to record and place on a wall or stele in a sanctuary. The fact that he is mentioned at all suggests some prominence. What is not certain is who held him in such high regard. The question as to whether the sanctuary was Israelite or non-Israelite has also not been answered definitively.

And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. 

And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day?  Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?  And he said, Nay.

Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times?  Behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: 

And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.

And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. 

And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak.  So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast. 

And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? Wherefore camest thou not unto me?  Am I not able indeed to promote thee to honor?

And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say anything?  The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak. 

And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjath-huzoth. 

And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people” (Num 22:18-41).

1 Balaam was a diviner from Euphrates.  God condemns the use of divination because it’s of the devil, and in the end He will destroy all of them, i.e., place them in Hell for eternity (Lev 19:31, Deut 18:10-12, Is 8:19).

2 At that time only the Israelites were God’s people, so of course Satan wants to destroy them and uses Balak to do his dirty work. 

When Jesus came everyone became God’s people, so Satan went to the source, Jesus.  He offered Him wealth and power if He would disregard God (Matt 4:1-10).

Baalam, the Son of Beor

“The misfortunes of the Book of Balaam, son of Beor. A divine seer was he.”

These were the first words of a remarkable fragmentary inscription discovered in 1967 at Deir Alla, Jordan, about 25 miles north of the plains of Moab, where the Israelites camped.

ritten in black and red ink on a plaster wall, this fragmentary inscription dates to between 800 and 700 B.C.

The prophet Balaam was active on the eastern side of the Jordan River at the time the Israelites entered Canaan.

He was referred to hundreds of years later not only by the author of the Deir Alla inscription but also over a wide range of time by various Biblical writ­ers.

There is no doubt that this is the same Balaam mentioned in Numbers. The distinc­tive name “Balaam son of Beor” is rendered identically in both contexts.

In addition, the inscription was found in the same general area as the events described in Num 22-24.

Reflecting the activities of the Bibli­cal Balaam and using language similar to that found in the Numbers account, the Deir Alla inscription speaks of divine visitations and visions, signs, admonitions, destruction and death.

Early Bronze Shaft Tomb
The most remarkable feature of Early Bronze Bab edh-Dhra is the number of graves. While the population apparently numbered only 1,000 individuals, an estimated 20,000 tombs are located on site. These family tombs would have held approximately half a million people and over 3 million pottery vessels. Rather than understanding them as a cemetery for semi-nomads, a better explanation is that they were a central burial ground for the country as a whole.

Yet, except for including the name Ba­laam and describing him as a “seer,” the Deir Alla inscription does not mention any details found in the account in Num 22- 24.

Nor does it speak of Yahweh, although it does refer to gods as shaddayyin, a word similar to the Hebrew el shaddai, usually translated “God Almighty.”

So it is unlikely that either author borrowed from the other. Both seem to have gone back to independ­ent traditions.