The Madness of Balaam by David Hart, American Pianist/Composer
Balaam (Hebrew: בִּלְעָם, Standard Bilʻam Tiberian Bilʻām) is a diviner in the Torah, his story occurring towards the end of the Book of Numbers. The etymology of his name is uncertain, and discussed below. Every ancient reference to Balaam considers him a non-Israelite, a prophet, and the son of Beor, though Beor is not so clearly identified. Though other sources describe the apparently positive blessings he delivers upon the Israelites, he is reviled as a "wicked man" in the major story concerning him. Balaam attempted to curse God's people. He failed all three tries, each time producing blessings, not curses (Numbers 22-24).The main story of Balaam occurs during the sojourn of the Israelites in the plains of Midian, east of the Jordan River, at the close of forty years of wandering, shortly before the death of Moses, and the crossing of the Jordan. The Israelites have already defeated two kings on this side of the Jordan: Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. Balak, king of Moab (Numbers 22:2), consequently becomes alarmed, and sends elders of Midian and his messengers (Numbers 22:4-5), to Balaam, son of Beor, to induce him to come and curse Israel. Balaam's location is simply given as his people in the masoretic text and the Septuagint, though the Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, and Syriac Peshitta all identify it as Ammon.
Balaam and the angel. Nuremberg Chronicle (1493).Balaam sends back word that he can only do what YHWH commands, and God has, via a nocturnal dream, told him not to go. Moab consequently sends higher ranking priests and offers Balaam honours; Balaam, in his coveteousness, continues to press God, and God finally gives him over to his greed and permits him to go but with instructions to say only what he commands. Balaam thus, without being asked again, sets out in the morning with the princes of Moab and God becomes angry that he went, and the Angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:22) is sent to prevent him. At first the angel is seen only by the donkey Balaam is riding, which tries to avoid the otherwise invisible angel. After Balaam starts punishing the donkey for refusing to move, it is miraculously given the power to speak to Balaam (Numbers 22:28), and it complains about Balaam's treatment. At this point, Balaam is allowed to see the angel, who informs him that the donkey is the only reason the angel did not kill Balaam. Balaam immediately repents, but is told to go on.
Balak meets with Balaam at Kirjat Huzoth, and they go to the high places of Baal, and offer sacrifices on seven altars, leading to Balaam being given a prophecy by Yahweh, which he speaks to Balak. However, the prophecy blesses Israel; Balak remonstrates, but Balaam reminds him that he can only speak the words put in his mouth, so Balak takes him to another high place at Pisgah, to try again. Building another seven altars here, and making sacrifices on each, Balaam provides another prophecy blessing Israel.
Balaam finally gets taken by a now very frustrated Balak to Peor, and, after the seven sacrifices there, decides not to seek enchantments but instead looks upon the Israelites from the peak. The Spirit of God comes upon Balaam and he delivers a third positive prophecy concerning Israel. Balak's anger rises to the point where he threatens Balaam, but Balaam merely offers a prediction of fate. Balaam then looks upon the Kenites, and Amalekites and offers two more predictions of fate. Balak and Balaam then simply go to their respective homes... for the moment. Deuteronomy 23:3–6 summarises these incidents, and further states that the Ammonites were associated with the Moabites. Joshua, in his farewell speech, also makes reference to it.
Tags: The Madness of Balaam by David Hart, American Pianist/Composer
Location: Charleston, Illinois, United States (load item map)
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