Balaam's God

In Numbers 22, Balak the Moabite calls Ballam son of Beor to curse the Israelites.

However first Balaam announces that he will seek advice from the LORD (translations caps)
Then God (again translation) and Balaam chat.
Then Balaam tells the king what the Lord has said.
And then that he can't go against the "Lord my God"

In the next bit then God sends the angel of the Lord.
Finally Balaam meets the king and here is the first time when the speech talks about God and the narration has the Lord doing something.

Then you have the prophecies which are God heavy, but also about the Lord(23:8,24:6) and in 24:16 MostHigh/ almighty.

While the dialog is back to being the Lord. And even Balak asks "what did the Lord say", as well as "maybe God" and "It's the Lord's fault"

Now I know you have the JEPD thing about which word is used (which could explain the poetic prophecies), but the uses of the two words seems much more deliberate, with almost a consistent pattern and more oddly it seems backwards.

If pagan Balaam wanted to speak to the gods but instead Jehovah (or however you render it) speaks to him, that would make an obvious kind of sense. And the writing could reflect this.

But instead the emphasis seems to almost suggest that Balaams actively serves the god of Israel (in fact, if you ignored the rest of the Bible you could almost get the impression that the writer thought the Lord was not the god of Israel but a Moabite deity).

So firstly, is there actually a pattern and is it deliberate. Secondly, what actually is Balaam (and Moab,notably associated with Lot).
Thirdly are there any other/actual places where there seem to be interesting possibly distinct deliberate language distinctions.


  • jay_emm wrote: »
    In Numbers 22 . . .
    which can be read here.

  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    edited September 2020
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    jay_emm wrote: »
    In Numbers 22 . . .
    which can be read here.

    God approved of Ballam but he didn't get any more work from Balak
  • Probably not, especially as he gets stabbed 7 chapters (and not much time later)
    bible gateway.
    And doesn't seem that popular later,search page

    Which makes it the more odd if the writer makes it seem he did respect/acknowledge God (by making him use the name God gives to moses, while the narrator uses the more general one)
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited September 2020
    Balaam appears to be a free-lance--someone with no actual deep loyalty to any god (except himself, I suppose.) He advertises himself as a person who can speak to (probably various) gods, and do various magical things (like cursing enemies), but in every case, Balaam appears to be in it for Balaam. I see him as the sort of guy who has a menu out front--choose your god, choose your desired outcome, and come to me and I'll make it (for a cost). Like sub sandwiches. And I would guess that, like the witch of Endor, he spent most of his time bullshitting his customers, and was not actually in touch with supernatural beings on a regular basis. The extent to which he believed his own bullshit is of course unknown.

    As for the use of the name YHWH, I don't think we can draw conclusions--it may be that the story's reteller used the name in order to be absolutely clear about who was being referenced. But if the portrait I've drawn of the man is correct, he would certainly be the dude-most-likely to become an early Gentile user of the name YHWH in that area of the world. Such a man is always on the lookout for new forms of power, and a newly-revealed name of God is just up his alley. He'd probably want it for use in spells and incantations.
  • The first part is how I'd always 'read it', but I'm not sure we have an actually firm basis for it (other than that the rest of the Bible has him as a bad guy).

    If it were for simple clarity. I'd have thought the writer could have a better effect by reversing the usages (or at least using the name in his narration). But it's always a possibility.
    Another option I suppose is that the writer thought elohim was more sophisticated/correct. With the short parts of Balaam's dialog (also) being from an older source (or vice versa), or just the author trying to emulate a charlitan ( it really doesn't read like a document smash up, at some level a writer must have decided it was the right thing to do)

    That second part makes sense as a backstory if it's deliberate. Cheers.
  • edited September 2020
    It' fascinates me that Balaam turns up in in the role of a divine seer bringing bad news in the non-Israelite and decidedly polytheistic 800 BCE Deir Alla inscription. There aren't many characters who have an early extra-Biblical existence

    Combination I
    [i.1] The misfortunes of the Book of Balaam, son of Beor. A divine seer was he.

    The Theophany
    [i.2] The gods came to him at night.

    And he beheld a vision in accordance with El's utterance.

    They said to Balaam, son of Beor:

    "So will it be done, with naught surviving.

    No one has seen [the likes of] what you have heard!"

    Balaam Reports his Vision to His Intimates
    [i.5] Balaam arose on the morrow;

    He summoned the heads of the assembly to him,

    [i.6] And for two days he fasted, and wept bitterly.

    Then his intimates entered into his presence,

    and they said to Balaam, son of Beor,

    "Why do you fast, and why do you weep?"

    [i.7] Then he said to them: "Be seated, and I will relate to you what the Shaddai gods have planned,

  • That is indeed very interesting @Friendly_Persuader .
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    I have a thread, why did I not see it?
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    I have understood the YHWH passages in Numbers 22 to be that Balaam is asking the Israelites own God to curse them rather that meaning Balaam followed YHWH.
  • It makes as much sense as the other options.

    I'd kind of expect some of the sentences to be slightly different in that case (e.g. V8 "in the morning I will tell you what the Lord directs me to say" sounds slightly off to me, if you are asking your enemies god I'd expect negotiation rather than obedience but given its in translation, third hand, etc... it's close enough), but what it loses there it saves in being simple.

    I don't think I've come across any "this all fits too perfectly to doubt" solutions.

    The other text is interesting too, it sounds quite late, so not sure what happened to the cultures in that time.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    edited October 2020
    Apparently Balaam is the oldest person named in the Bible for whom we have independent documentary evidence. (I see Friendly Persuader has already said so.)
  • I was going to say there's not many before (you have the patriarchs, who'd be of very niche interest), Joseph, Moses (arguably to some extent the same issues, but less so), and pharoahs (who arguably would qualify if only they were named). And obviously the genealogies wouldn't count (unless you had a triple run).

    But then I thought, surely Israel (and Rome) can't be the only place with tribe name based backstories, so if we haven't found a Moabite text going something like "and then Edam did a sheep and it bore Israel and Jydea", we haven't been looking.
    obviously from the point of view of qualifying as evidence of their individual existence (even if they matched more than my deliberately 'independent explaination' example), but you'd expect enough to need a sentence discounting it (e.g. if my example had been real noting that the relationships were backward) in favour of the two big brush character consistency of the Balaam accounts, and then perhaps one with something even more specific matching.
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