#294. To which god was Balaam subservient: Yahweh OR El? (Num 23:8, 23:26 vs Num 23:8)
#295. By which god was Israel blessed: Yahweh OR El? (Num 24:1 vs Num 24:4)
#296. Who liberated the Israelites from Egypt: Yahweh OR El? (Ex 20:21; Lev 19:36, 23:43; Deut 5:6, 13:10, etc. vs Num 23:22, 24:8)

In contradiction #27—Is Yahweh and El the same god or different gods? (which has become one of my most visited posts)—I not only laid out the biblical evidence suggesting that Yahweh and El were variously viewed as the same deity on several occasions, while in a few rare instances as two distinct deities, but I also summarized the scholarly evidence for the claim that (some of ?) the early Israelites actuallyRead More

#293. Has Yahweh not found iniquity in Israel OR has he? (Num 23:21 vs Num 21:5-9, 25:1-18)

Another textual indicator that the Balaam pericope derives from a different source than its surrounding material is its radically contrary depiction of Yahweh (or El) towards Israel and of Israel itself. In Balak’s second attempt to extract from Balaam a divine curse against Israel, Balaam comes back with these words from Yahweh, or El (see forthcoming). He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, and neither has he seen any evil inRead More

#292. Who comes forth against Balaam as a satan: an angel of Yahweh OR Yahweh himself? (Num 22:22, 22:32 vs Num 22:32)

I throw this one out there for its provocative effect—to allow us to think about the relationship between 3 figures as they were depicted and understood by ancient Israelite scribes: Yahweh, Yahweh’s angel, and satan (literally without definite article, ‘an adversary’). Although the Balaam story is pretty clear and adamant about the fact that it is Yahweh’s angel (malak) who comes out as “satan” or an adversary against Balaam, a caseRead More

#291. Does Balaam wish to curse Israel and is prevented by Yahweh OR does he not wish to curse Israel? (Deut 23:5-6; Josh 24:9-10; Neh 13:2; 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 1:11; Rev 2:14 vs Num 22:22-35)

The narrative of Numbers 22-24 never presents nor implies that Balaam wishes to harm or curse Israel. To the contrary, Balaam is presented as a loyal vassal of Yahweh, and when on three separate occasions Balak asks Balaam to pronounce curses upon Israel, Balaam refuses saying that he can only utter that which his god—Yahweh—has placed in his own mouth. Indeed, Balaam even refers to Yahweh as “my god,” which mightRead More

#290. Does Yahweh permit Balaam to depart OR not? (Num 22:20 vs Num 22:22)

This contradiction is typically cited in the scholarly literature, although for my part it doesn’t seem all too problematic, nor even relevant. It does create for some interesting narrative tension however. Scholars who note this contradiction usually argue that the story about Balaam and his talking ass come from a different tradition. In either case, Yahweh’s pronouncement that Balaam should go with the king’s men in Num 22:20 and Yahweh’s angerRead More

#289. Where does Balaam come from: Pethor OR Aram (Num 22:5 vs Num 23:7)

Within the Balaam story itself, especially between the prose and poetry sections, there seems to be conflating traditions concerning Balaam’s origin. The prose of Numbers 22:5 places his coming from Pethor, while the poetry section of Numbers 23:7 accredits him originating from as far away as Aram. We will note other textual inconsistencies between the prose and poetry sections of Numbers 22-24 in future posts, all of which have led scholarsRead More

#288. Where are the Israelites: on the plains of Moab OR on the border of Moab? (Num 22:1 vs Num 22:3-5)

And the children of Israel traveled and they camped in the plains of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho. (Num 22:1) The preceding itinerary, and indeed the final destination of the 40 year wilderness trek before the crossing of the Jordan, leads to the Israelites’ encampment on the plains of Moab (cf. Num 33:49-50 & Deut 1:1). Yet the following story—traditionally identified as the Balaam pericope (Num 22:3-24:25)—implies that the IsraelitesRead More