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Let's Talk About Balaam


Karhoof
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I seem to be missing something here.

The story of Balaam in Numbers, chapters 22-24 descibe a fairly detailed account of Balak king of Moab calling Balaam to curse the Israelites for him... because everyone knows that simply speaking a curse against someone will ensure your victory.

 

Right from the word "go", Balaam explains that he would only do what god told him to do. At the first calling, god tells him not to go, so he doesn't go. At the second calling, god tells him to go, so he goes... and immediately gets furious with him for going, sending an angel who tells him, "If that donkey didn't stop, I'd have chopped your head off!"

Balaam continues his path to Moab and tells Balak right up front that he has to consult with god before he says anything that might bless or curse. Three times he asks god what to say and god tells him to bless the Israelites, so he does. Balaam even throws in one more blessing on Israel... buy three, get one free I guess. Of course Balak is furious at him so they part company.

 

After two mentions of his death at the hands of the Israelites (Num. 31:8 Jos. 13:22), the entire rest of the bible Balaam becomes Public Enemy #1 with only one exception.

 

Deuteronomy 23:5

Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee.

Joshua 24:10

But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.

Nehemiah 13:2

Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.

 

These verses say that god changed Balaam's mind. The Neh. verse is fairly subtle, but it's still there.

This is not what the text in Num. 22-24 says.

 

He doesn't get any better treatment in the NT either.

2 Peter 2:15

Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

Jude 1:11

Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.

Revelation 2:14

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

 

 

The only one who seems to have actually read Numbers 22-24 is the author of Micah.

Micah 6:5

O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.

 

Balaam was completely upfront and honest with everyone right from the start. Compared to the Israelites, he's a saint.

Why is he villianized and slandered like that?

 

 

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Further, Num.31:16 says, (Moses speaking)

Numbers 31:16

Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

This chapter tells of the naughty Israelites misbehaving again and not killing everything that god told them to kill. The "matter of Peor" is a refference to Balaam and Balak on top of Mount Peor.

The full story of this plague is in Numbers chapter 25 (only 18 verses)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+25&version=KJV

 

This last bit above, I'm just not getting. I'm missing part of the story here.

How the hell does god and Moses get Balaam into the middle of this? The only refference I can see is verse 18 in Num. 25

Numbers 25:18

For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake.

 

Numbers 31:16 reffers to Numbers 25:18

All I'm getting from everything below the "X's" is that god wanted to kill a shitload of people and threw that on Balaam's shoulders too.

 

 

What am I missing?

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Oh, you really struck a nerve here! :vent: In my recent study of the OT, I have written pages of notes and questions on this exact thing! The whole Balaam story really ticks me off because it blatantly makes NO sense.

 

And you're right, the later references to Balaam leading them all astray and being the reason for their disobedience are completely out of nowhere. He only did exactly what God told him to do! Balaam even told the servants of Balak, who were trying to bribe him, "Though Balak [the king] were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything [...] contrary to the command of the Lord my God." In the next verses, God said, "Go". Balaam went. God became angry because Balaam went. What?!?!

 

The translator notes in my Bible make a pathetic attempt to excuse the contradictions by saying, "God was angry about Balaam's greedy attitude. Balaam claimed that he would not go against God just for money, but his resolve was beginning to slip. His greed for the wealth offered by the king blinded him so that he could not see how God was trying to stop him." Where do they get this?! THIS is not in the Bible. They are completely making it up. What a lying bunch of @(*(*@&....

 

(Wow, I get all angered up when I think about this! Time to go calm down.)

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It seems to me that there are a some edits that occurred and maybe not everyone's version had them?

 

4 [...]At that time Balak, the son of Zippor, was king of Moab. 5 So he sent men to Balaam, son of Beor, at Pethor [...]

 

6 Come now, in answer to my prayer, and put a curse on this people, [...] for it is clear that good comes to him who has your blessing, but he on whom you put your curse is cursed. 7 So the responsible men of Moab and Midian went away, taking in their hands rewards for the prophet; and they came to Balaam [...].

 

8 And he said to them, Take your rest here tonight, and I will give you an answer after hearing what the Lord says; [...]. 9 And God came to Balaam and said, Who are these men with you? 10 [...]. 12 And God said to Balaam, You are not to go with them, or put a curse on this people, for they have my blessing. 13 In the morning Balaam got up and said to the chiefs of Balak, Go back to your land, for the Lord will not let me go with you. 14 So the chiefs of Moab went back to Balak and said, Balaam will not come with us.

 

15 So Balak sent more chiefs, [...] 16 And they came to Balaam and said, Balak, son of Zippor, says, Let nothing keep you from coming to me: 17 For I will give you a place of very great honour, and whatever you say to me I will do; [...] 18 [...] 19 [...] 20 And that night God came to Balaam and said to him, If these men have come for you, go with them: but do only what I say to you. 21 So in the morning Balaam got up and, making his ass ready, went with the chiefs of Moab.

 

22 But God was moved to wrath because he went: and the angel of the Lord took up a position in the road to keep him from his purpose. Now he was seated on his ass, and his two servants were with him. 23 [...] 24 [...] 25 [...] 26 [...] 27 [...] 28 [...] 29 [...] 30 [...] 31 [...] 32 And the angel of the Lord said to him, Why have you given your ass blows these three times? See, I have come out against you to keep you back, because your purpose is not pleasing to me. [...] 34 And Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, I have done wrong, for I did not see that you were in the way against me: but now, if it is evil in your eyes, I will go back again. 35 And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, Go with the men; but say only what I give you to say. Then Balaam went on with the chiefs of Balak.

 

36 [...] 37 And Balak said to Balaam, Did I not send to you, requesting you with all my heart to come to me? why did you not come? am I not able to give you a place of honour? 38 Then Balaam said to Balak, Now I have come to you; but have I power to say anything? Only what God puts into my mouth may I say.

It seems to me that in one version that Balaam goes with them right away and meets up with the angel on the road. The angel then tells him that "god" is not pleased but he can go on but only to say what he is told to say.

 

In the other version he waits for "god" to give him an answer, the answer is "no" so he sends the men away. The return and so "god" relents and lets him go with them but with the same instructions as before. He should only say what he is told.

 

In the first version it is obvious that he is a "prophet for hire." He is all to willing to simply take some money and go out to curse the Hebrews. This is no good so "god" has to intervene and set him right. At that point he is Mr. Nice Guy but in reality just a puppet.

 

In the second version, the version we have, it's all muddy. Is he a good guy or not? He seems to be doing all the right things but yet "god" is not happy and threatening him. "God" is acting irrational. It makes little sense.

 

This is why I think we're not privy to the version that people may have circulated back then. Josephus makes Balaam sound like a rather nice guy. This tells me he knew the written version we do. But these other versions, of the "evil" Balaam, had to come from somewhere. Oral tradition? I don't know. The NT verses seem to indicate a "hired gun" sort of thing. But that would mean that Paul, taking money for preaching, would fall here. A hired gun. But, of course we'd only want to apply that to Simon Magus and not dear old Paul. I can't see where he takes pay for the blessings anyhow (I may have missed it in my scan).

 

Also, I believe this is one of the very few people from these stories that actually has any archaeological support. I'd have to check but I think they found something with Balaam's name on it.

 

mwc

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It seems to me that there are a some edits that occurred and maybe not everyone's version had them?

 

This is why I think we're not privy to the version that people may have circulated back then. Josephus makes Balaam sound like a rather nice guy. This tells me he knew the written version we do. But these other versions, of the "evil" Balaam, had to come from somewhere. Oral tradition? I don't know. mwc

I think there could be an entire set of books missing here. This is tantamount to apologetics, but one could write a book about what Balaam did with the Isrealites, the callings and journeys to Moab, and all of the other stories surrounding this guy.

 

So, if something doesn't make sense, imagine that the Book of Balaam is missing and write your own verses to fit what must have happened.

 

Pardon me while I kick myself.

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It seems to me that there are a some edits that occurred and maybe not everyone's version had them?

 

This is why I think we're not privy to the version that people may have circulated back then. Josephus makes Balaam sound like a rather nice guy. This tells me he knew the written version we do. But these other versions, of the "evil" Balaam, had to come from somewhere. Oral tradition? I don't know. mwc

I think there could be an entire set of books missing here. This is tantamount to apologetics, but one could write a book about what Balaam did with the Isrealites, the callings and journeys to Moab, and all of the other stories surrounding this guy.

 

So, if something doesn't make sense, imagine that the Book of Balaam is missing and write your own verses to fit what must have happened.

 

Pardon me while I kick myself.

 

I think I may have found one of those missing books Shyone. ;)

After reading mwc's post, I did a search for the Josephus text and found this:

6. But Balak being very angry that the Israelites were not cursed, sent away Balaam without thinking him worthy of any honor. Whereupon, when he was just upon his journey, in order to pass the Euphrates, he sent for Balak, and for the princes of the Midianites, and spake thus to them: - "O Balak, and you Midianites that are here present, (for I am obliged even without the will of God to gratify you,) it is true no entire destruction can seize upon the nation of the Hebrews, neither by war, nor by plague, nor by scarcity of the fruits of the earth, nor can any other unexpected accident be their entire ruin; for the providence of God is concerned to preserve them from such a misfortune; nor will it permit any such calamity to come upon them whereby they may all perish; but some small misfortunes, and those for a short time, whereby they may appear to be brought low, may still befall them; but after that they will flourish again, to the terror of those that brought those mischiefs upon them. So that if you have a mind to gain a victory over them for a short space of time, you will obtain it by following my directions: - Do you therefore set out the handsomest of such of your daughters as are most eminent for beauty, (10) and proper to force and conquer the modesty of those that behold them, and these decked and trimmed to the highest degree able. Then do you send them to be near camp, and give them in charge, that the young men of the Hebrews desire their allow it them; and when they see they are enamored of them, let them take leaves; and if they entreat them to stay, let give their consent till they have persuaded leave off their obedience to their own laws, the worship of that God who established them to worship the gods of the Midianites and for by this means God will be angry at them (11). Accordingly, when Balaam had suggested counsel to them, he went his way.

from here:

http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/josephus/ant4.html

 

If we insert Josephus' text (ch. 6) directly between Numbers 24 and 25, it all makes a lot more sense and explains the refferences in Num. 25:18 and Num. 31:16

 

Looks to me like Josephus is a better historian than the christians give him credit for.

So, where did he get it from and, more importantly, where did it go?

 

 

Oh, you really struck a nerve here! :vent:

 

(Wow, I get all angered up when I think about this! Time to go calm down.)

 

I know. This just needles at ya, doesn't it?

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I think there could be an entire set of books missing here. This is tantamount to apologetics, but one could write a book about what Balaam did with the Isrealites, the callings and journeys to Moab, and all of the other stories surrounding this guy.

 

So, if something doesn't make sense, imagine that the Book of Balaam is missing and write your own verses to fit what must have happened.

 

Pardon me while I kick myself.

Well, I don't think what I said precludes that possibility. :)

 

I just don't have enough information to know what any edits may, or not, have included. But it sure appears that not everyone got the same version of the Balaam story passed along to them over the years. If they did it's pretty amazing how some folks were quick to condemn a guy that *appeared* to be doing his best to do everything his god wanted. Especially compared to the amazingly shitty things the so-called heroes that were his contemporaries were doing.

 

mwc

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I had never thought this much about Balaam. The whole talking donkey thing completely dominated my memory of him. My favorite part about this discussion is that you can remove the donkey thing entirely and the story is still crazy. But at least he was a real person. I figure most people mentioned are real enough, or at least representative of real people. But great study everyone! I am intrigued to look farther into this whole Balaamm story again as I hadn't realized that he was mentioned so frequently through the Bible.

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True. The talking donkey usually ends it for a lot of people.

 

I tend to see these stories in a much different way. I see most of them as historical allegories. Just like with the story of King David we talked about awhile back.

 

So you have a king (Balek) who sends off to another guy (Balaam) for a curse. Why? Because his curses normally work. Okay. He's either really good or really lucky. He's well known that's for certain. Ambassador's get sent and he refuses. In our version it's because "god" says so. On the return, and more cash, he goes. We'll ignore whether or not "god" did/said anything at this point.

 

Now he starts riding an ass. That's fine but he's the only one who has this mentioned. Supposedly he's with the ambassador's but they disappear and he's now with two servants who will also disappear (kind of like Paul in Acts). Now instead of "god" we have an angel (which is simply a messenger) and it has a sword. The ass, of course, does everything to stop Balaam and in the nick of time he can see the angel and stops. So the ass is what? It could be the ambassador's themselves. The armed group sent to retrieve him? Or perhaps simply his own troops? His two "servants." They were entering into danger and Balaam simply didn't see and was chastising them for their efforts.

 

He comes under the "control" of the "angel" or enemy forces and is allowed to continue. He's now a "traitor." If he's a mercenary then they may have simply out-paid him or maybe they took hostages and were using a little "friendly persuasion." It wasn't unusual. He continues on and instead of helping Balak he helps their enemies instead. Maybe by a little treachery or something of that nature?

 

Eventually he and the king part ways. The king could have attacked. He didn't *need* a curse and to put all this effort into getting a single person to place a curse is silly. Even with a blessing no one actually *does* anything. No battles are waged on either side. There's no way to measure the effectiveness of what he's doing and yet this man goes down in their history. He must have *done* something even if it is simply in legend.

 

The recommendation made in Josephus that he allow the king to let the enemy bang their daughters and over time they would integrate is a little clue. Someone lost in battle. They took their women. They took their lifestyle. They integrated. They took their religion. This "victory" or "blessing" was really a curse. It diluted their culture. Balaam screwed them by blessing them. Balaam screwed them by helping them win over Balak.

 

mwc

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This is an interesting thread. I think it reveals a lot of what was involved in OT compilation: Adapting famous legends and stories to force fit them into the religious perspectives of the Hebrews of that day.

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<snip>

History major? Your insight is always helpful and more than a little telling. ;)

 

The recommendation (by Balaam) made in Josephus ...

 

After re-reading Num. 22 - 32 last night, inserting Josephus Bk.4, ch.6 between Num. 24 and 25, everything else in the bible makes much more sense. The narrative and everything following works just fine. We can understand why Balaam is treated poorly.

(Edited to add:

Also, looking at Num.25, it's only 18 verses long. That could mean nothing at all, but there's also a disconnect between ch.24 and ch.25. Replacing Josephus' part of the story would lengthen it nearer to those chapters surrounding it.)

 

To quote Paul Harvey, "And now we know... the rest of the story."

 

However, it raises a few more questions. Assuming Josephus was writing mid-first century, he had to be working from existing texts. I see no motive at all for him inventing Bk.4 ch.6 of his Antiquities.

Either the NT authors also had these texts (since they also slander Balaam), or they were working from Josephus. Either way, he's the only one who still has this part of the story.

 

I can't help but ask a question for which there's no answer.

Where did that block of text go?

 

Clearly it belongs there. Why did it get deleted from the bible?

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<snip>

History major? Your insight is always helpful and more than a little telling. ;)

 

The recommendation (by Balaam) made in Josephus ...

 

After re-reading Num. 22 - 32 last night, inserting Josephus Bk.4, ch.6 between Num. 24 and 25, everything else in the bible makes much more sense. The narrative and everything following works just fine. We can understand why Balaam is treated poorly.

(Edited to add:

Also, looking at Num.25, it's only 18 verses long. That could mean nothing at all, but there's also a disconnect between ch.24 and ch.25. Replacing Josephus' part of the story would lengthen it nearer to those chapters surrounding it.)

 

I'm pretty certain that the originally the books of the Bible were just long scrolls. The chapters and verses were just added in later to make it easier to quote from.

 

To quote Paul Harvey, "And now we know... the rest of the story."

 

However, it raises a few more questions. Assuming Josephus was writing mid-first century, he had to be working from existing texts. I see no motive at all for him inventing Bk.4 ch.6 of his Antiquities.

Either the NT authors also had these texts (since they also slander Balaam), or they were working from Josephus. Either way, he's the only one who still has this part of the story.

 

I can't help but ask a question for which there's no answer.

Where did that block of text go?

 

Clearly it belongs there. Why did it get deleted from the bible?

 

Or why wasn't it added in. When you come down to it how do you know that the Josephus verses aren't just a later story developed to explain Exodus 25. It could very well be that Num 25 comes from a different story about Balaam altogether and they put the two stories beside each other without bothering to explain them, much like how there are two sets of ten commandments in Exodus. They wanted to put both stories in but weren't overly worried about explaining the discrepancies. If that's the case then later on somebody who was worried about the discrepancies between Num 24 and 25 could have decided to write his own explanation to fit in between them. This explanation could later be quoted by Josephus.

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History major? Your insight is always helpful and more than a little telling. ;)

No. A history buff...

 

However, it raises a few more questions. Assuming Josephus was writing mid-first century, he had to be working from existing texts. I see no motive at all for him inventing Bk.4 ch.6 of his Antiquities.

Josephus wrote late in the 1st century. About the time of Domitian. He says he's 56(?) at the end of one the books. He was ~30 when the war started (in 66) which would place it in ~92/93? How long it took him to write all those books is beyond me but it was still after the war.

 

Either the NT authors also had these texts (since they also slander Balaam), or they were working from Josephus. Either way, he's the only one who still has this part of the story.

They don't have to have to be working from Josephus nor do they have to have the same texts. There's enough time for a tradition to form and Balaam to be well known. Like a Benedict Arnold or a "Judas" character. They may have had the same text(s) or they could have have something different (or nothing at all). The problem is we can't know and we're left to speculate.

 

For example, in Wars it is mentioned that there was another author, basically Josephus' evil enemy, who also wrote a history but it was full of lies and errors. For all we know this guy also included the story of Balaam, for some reason, in his account. But it's lost. What I'm getting at is that there was another contemporary history that was known to have been written that may well have contained all sorts of information but we can't ever know what that information was. It's not fair to assume that it must have been Josephus or nothing. This or nothing. X or nothing. If people thought Josephus a traitor (and they did) they may have used this other history instead. There's no way to know what everyone did.

 

I can't help but ask a question for which there's no answer.

Where did that block of text go?

 

Clearly it belongs there. Why did it get deleted from the bible?

Maybe it never got inserted in the first place? It never existed in the bible.

 

What I'm saying is I doubt the entire story of Balaam was ever in the bible to be redacted back out to begin with. I imagine that it was placed in there pretty closely to what's there now and edits/insertions were made to that.

 

So there was a midrash and/or parallel tradition(s) that grew up as a result of all this. Meaning the questions that arise from the biblical account along with the possibility that there was an outside tradition concerning Balaam. I'd personally lean toward the midrash explaination since it was very common. Anyhow you wind up with things like this (from the Samaritan Joshua):

When the kings heard him relate what has preceded, they said to him: "How is the way to accomplish what thou hast mentioned concerning their destruction?" And he looked up the last resource of infidelity and pollution, and made it known unto them, and said to them: "Select of the most beautiful and fair women as many as ye can, and the king shall be the first to send forth his daughter with them; thereupon give unto each one of them an idol which she may worship, and an ornament which she may look at, and perfume which she may inhale, and food and drink; and the daughter of the king should be in a chariot which is wafted along with the wind, and it should be enjoined upon her that she make it her aim to go to the tabernacle, and pay her respects to no one except to their chief unto whom the crowd show deference, for he is their chief. And if in this she meets his approval, then she shall say unto him: " Wilt thou not receive me, or eat of my food and drink of my drink and offer sacrifices unto my god? For after this I will be thine, and with thee will do whatsoever thou desirest." For know, O king, that by the chief of this people being polluted, both he and his company will perish, and of them there will not remain a survivor." And the kings did what he recommended unto them; and there were collected to them twenty-four thousand girls, and they sent them away on the Sabbath day. And as they descended opposite the tabernacle, the chief of the tribe of Shim'aun (Simeon) rose up; for he was the chief of fifty-nine thousand men and was in the advance. And the daughter of the king advanced unto him, for she on beholding the great deference shown to him by his companions supposed him to be the prophet Musa- peace be upon him, and he ate of her food and drank of her drink and worshipped the idol which was in her hand, and after this she was submissive to him in his desire. Thereupon everyone of them- I mean this particular tribe- took one girl for himself; and the Creator became angry at the people, and destroyed of them in the wink of an eye four thousand men together with four thousand girls. And had not Finahas (Phinehas) the imam- peace be upon him- rushed from the presence of Musa the Prophet- peace be upon him- while he and his assembly were weeping at the door of the tabernacle, and seized in his hand a lance and bursting in upon them thrust through the man and girl- I mean the daughter of the king- and dispatched them, assuredly would the wrath of the Creator have destroyed the whole people; but by this action he removed and warded off the Divine anger from the children of Israil. And to Finahas- peace be upon him- there resulted from this noble fame and an excellent remembrance, and a covenant to the end of the ages. And praise be to God the Creator without cessation!

And if you look this is essentially what Josephus says happens.

 

It's unfortunate there's no way to figure out where this part of the larger text originated. Is it as old as the Masoratic text? Does it date back to time of Balaam (which is post-Babylon though the story tries to make it out to be earlier)? Does it mean the Samaritans maintained their own texts even before the infamous parting of the ways? If so, could this mean that this maybe was in the MT but it was considered Samaritan and removed? Or did the Samaritans add it? Or was it just a parallel version? Something else? Lots of options. Clearly the whole text is much later than the MT biblical text but these little snippets are always intriguing.

 

mwc

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I thought I'd add this from Philo (early-mid 1st century CE) from his Life on Moses:

LIV. (295) Come, then, let us examine into his fine recommendations, and see how cunningly they were contrived with reference to the most certain defeat of those who had hitherto always been able to conquer. As he knew that the only way by which the Hebrews could be subdued was by leading them to violate the law, he endeavoured to seduce them by means of debauchery and intemperance, that mighty evil, to the still greater crime of impiety, putting pleasure before them as a bait; (296) for, said he, "O king! the women of the country surpass all other women in beauty, and there are no means by which a man is more easily subdued than by the beauty of a woman; therefore, if you enjoin the most beautiful of them to grant their favours to them and to prostitute themselves to them, they will allure and overcome the youth of your enemies. (297) But you must warn them not to surrender their beauty to those who desire them with too great facility and too speedily, for resistance and coyness will stimulate the passions and excite them more, and will kindle a more impetuous desire; and so, being wholly subdued by their appetites, they will endure to do and to suffer anything. (298) "And let any damsel who is thus prepared for the sport resist, and say, wantonly, to a lover who is thus influenced, "It is not fitting for you to enjoy my society till you have first abandoned your native habits, and have changed, and learnt to honour the same practices that I do. And I must have a conspicuous proof of your real change, which I can only have by your consenting to join me in the same sacrifices and libations which I use, and which we may then offer together at the same images and statues, and other erections in honour of my gods. (299) And the lover being, as it were, taken in the net of her manifold and multiform snares, not being able to resist her beauty and seductive conversation, will become wholly subdued in his reason, and, like a miserable man, will obey all the commands which she lays upon him, and will en enrolled as the salve of passion."

 

LV. (300) This, then, was the advice which Balaam gave to Balak. And he, thinking that what he said to him did not want sense, repealed the law against adulteries, and having abrogated all the enactments which had been established against seduction and harlotry, as if they had never been enacted at all, exhorted the women to admit to their favours, without any restraint, every man whom they chose. (301) Accordingly, when licence was thus given, they brought over a multitude of young men, having already long before this seduced their minds, and having by their tricks and allurements perverted them to impiety; until Phinehas, the son of the chief priest, being exceedingly indignant at all that was taking place (for it appeared to him to be a most scandalous thing for his countrymen to give up at one time both their bodies and souls--their bodies to pleasure, and their souls to transgression of the law, and to works of wickedness), undertook a bold and impetuous action, such as was becoming to a young, and grave, and virtuous man. (302) For when he saw a man of his nation sacrificing with and then entering into the tent of a harlot, and that too without casting his eyes down on the ground and seeking to avoid the notice of the multitude, but making a display of his licentiousness with shameless boldness, and giving himself airs as if he were about to engage in a creditable action, and one deserving of smiles--Phinehas, I say, being very indignant and being filled with a just anger, ran in, and while they were still lying on the bed, slew both the lover and the harlot, cutting them in two pieces in the middle, because they thus indulged in illicit connections. (303) When some persons of those who admired temperance, and chastity, and piety, saw this example, they, at the command of Moses, imitated it, and slew all their own relations and friends, even to a man, who had sacrificed to idols made with hands, and thus they effaced the stain which was defiling the nation by this implacable revenge which they thus wreaked on those who had set the example of wrong doing, and so saved the rest, who made a clear defence of themselves, demonstrating their own piety, showing no compassion on any one of those who were justly condemned to death, and not passing over their offences out of pity, but looking upon those who slew them as pure from all sin. Therefore they did not allow any escape whatever to those who sinned in this way, and such conduct is the truest praise; (304) and they say that twenty-four thousand men were slain in one day, the common pollution, which was defiling the whole army, being thus at once got rid of. And when the works of purification were thus accomplished, Moses began to seek how he might give an honour worthy of him who had displayed such permanent excellence to the son of the chief priest, who was the first who hastened to inflict chastisement on the offenders. But God was beforehand with him, giving to Phinehas, by means of his holy word, the greatest of all good things, namely, peace, which no man is able to bestow; and also, in addition to this peace, he gave him the perpetual possession of the priesthood, an inheritance to his family, which could not be taken from it.

It's in agreement with Josephus and the Samaritan text. It would appear that this opinion on Balaam predates them.

 

Josephus knows of Philo (he mentions his embassy) but he most likely does not get this information from Philo. They were both from priestly families but this information is missing from the MT texts we have (all of the copies that I'm aware of at least). And since they were basically enemies of the Samaritans at this time it seems unlikely (but maybe not impossible?) they would take it from their text. I'm at a loss to explain it beyond the old "oral tradition" but that's not very satisfying. Maybe a Balaam apocrypha of some sort? A predecessor of the talmud (or a type of proto-talmud which is basically the oral laws and traditions)?

 

mwc

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Josephus knows of Philo (he mentions his embassy) but he most likely does not get this information from Philo. They were both from priestly families but this information is missing from the MT texts we have (all of the copies that I'm aware of at least). And since they were basically enemies of the Samaritans at this time it seems unlikely (but maybe not impossible?) they would take it from their text. I'm at a loss to explain it beyond the old "oral tradition" but that's not very satisfying. Maybe a Balaam apocrypha of some sort? A predecessor of the talmud (or a type of proto-talmud which is basically the oral laws and traditions)?

 

mwc

 

After reading all of that, I'd hafta agree. The story is a lot better known than I thought.

What has me thinking it was removed from the the biblical texts is, the tales following (and all the comments after that) are still a muddled mess without it. Just the simple addition of that little bit of Josephus Bk.4 ch.6.6 that I posted above clears everything up. Doesn't even have to be that long. Most of the bible tales are considerably shorter than these other versions.

I understand that it may never have been in the biblical text to start, for any number of reasons. I'm just not that confident that this little tale was that well known that everyone of the day would simply understand it as such and read it into the text.

 

Dunno. Like I said, with it added, it clears everything up.

I'm gonna chalk this one up to one of life's little mysteries.

 

As always, thanks. :thanks:

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I'm re-reading the story in Numbers and in chapter 25 it does mention all this:

1 Now when Israel was living in Shittim the people became false to the Lord, doing evil with the daughters of Moab: 2 For they sent for the people to be present at the offerings made to their gods; and the people took part in their feasts and gave honour to their gods. 3 So Israel had relations with the women of Moab in honour of the Baal of Peor: and the Lord was moved to wrath against Israel.

...

5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, Let everyone put to death those of his men who have had relations with the women of Moab in honour of the Baal of Peor.

It doesn't mention anything about Balaam telling them to send out their daughters to do all this but this could be seen as a basic framework with which to perform a midrash.

 

This verse (which I skipped above) struck me:

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, Take all the chiefs of the people, hanging them up in the sun before the Lord, so that the wrath of the Lord may be turned from Israel.

This is a human sacrifice. The reason I say that is because of the word "before the Lord" and to turn away the "wrath." This isn't a simple punishment, as in "those people need to be hanged for what they so do as I command says the Lord" but it's more. It's worse.

 

I'm also looking through some of the other verses and it looks like the way they're written it looks like there was a curse given (or something is taken as a curse) and it is ignored or reversed. Since this is all done in the context of battle (Balek wanting to make war) I still think this is to do with that but the sacrifices are a pretty sure sign that someone was not pleased.

 

mwc

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This verse (which I skipped above) struck me:

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, Take all the chiefs of the people, hanging them up in the sun before the Lord, so that the wrath of the Lord may be turned from Israel.

This is a human sacrifice. The reason I say that is because of the word "before the Lord" and to turn away the "wrath." This isn't a simple punishment, as in "those people need to be hanged for what they so do as I command says the Lord" but it's more. It's worse.

 

I'm also looking through some of the other verses and it looks like the way they're written it looks like there was a curse given (or something is taken as a curse) and it is ignored or reversed. Since this is all done in the context of battle (Balek wanting to make war) I still think this is to do with that but the sacrifices are a pretty sure sign that someone was not pleased.

 

mwc

Brilliant observation and analysis. I am deeply impressed.

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I'm re-reading the story in Numbers and in chapter 25 it does mention all this:

1 Now when Israel was living in Shittim the people became false to the Lord, doing evil with the daughters of Moab: 2 For they sent for the people to be present at the offerings made to their gods; and the people took part in their feasts and gave honour to their gods. 3 So Israel had relations with the women of Moab in honour of the Baal of Peor: and the Lord was moved to wrath against Israel.

...

5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, Let everyone put to death those of his men who have had relations with the women of Moab in honour of the Baal of Peor.

It doesn't mention anything about Balaam telling them to send out their daughters to do all this but this could be seen as a basic framework with which to perform a midrash.

This is what I'm saying. ;)

I've re-read Num. 22 - 31 three or four times now, looking to make it read coherently as is. It's difficult at best if not impossible. There's still that one little fact left out, that Balaam told Balak to send in the clowns. I still think something is missing from the text. Even two sentences saying that Balaam said that would clear up everything about him.

 

This verse (which I skipped above) struck me:

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, Take all the chiefs of the people, hanging them up in the sun before the Lord, so that the wrath of the Lord may be turned from Israel.

This is a human sacrifice. The reason I say that is because of the word "before the Lord" and to turn away the "wrath." This isn't a simple punishment, as in "those people need to be hanged for what they so do as I command says the Lord" but it's more. It's worse.

 

I'm also looking through some of the other verses and it looks like the way they're written it looks like there was a curse given (or something is taken as a curse) and it is ignored or reversed. Since this is all done in the context of battle (Balek wanting to make war) I still think this is to do with that but the sacrifices are a pretty sure sign that someone was not pleased.

 

mwc

Balak was looking to protect his kingdom from the invading marauders. In his shoes, I would have called Balaam too.

Num.25:18 clearly gives the reason for Moses calling for this slaughter (Damn that Balaam!). According to him and god, the Israelites had it coming to them. He'd already warned them back in the wilderness not to go whoring after other gods.

This sacrifice of the sinful is well within the context of Exodus/Numbers. God himself opened the earth and swallowed up half a tribe just for back-talking Moses. :HaHa:

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This is a human sacrifice. The reason I say that is because of the word "before the Lord" and to turn away the "wrath." This isn't a simple punishment, as in "those people need to be hanged for what they so do as I command says the Lord" but it's more. It's worse.

 

I'm also looking through some of the other verses and it looks like the way they're written it looks like there was a curse given (or something is taken as a curse) and it is ignored or reversed. Since this is all done in the context of battle (Balek wanting to make war) I still think this is to do with that but the sacrifices are a pretty sure sign that someone was not pleased.

 

mwc

 

My guess is that another good example of this would be David having to sacrifice 7 of Saul's sons to the Gibeonites to make it rain at the end of second Samuel.

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My guess is that another good example of this would be David having to sacrifice 7 of Saul's sons to the Gibeonites to make it rain at the end of second Samuel.

I'd agree. That would be another example of this type of human sacrifice.

 

mwc

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My guess is that another good example of this would be David having to sacrifice 7 of Saul's sons to the Gibeonites to make it rain at the end of second Samuel.

I'd agree. That would be another example of this type of human sacrifice.

 

mwc

 

How likely do you think it would be that this is an adaptation of an older legend which involved a much more overt human sacrifice to either a heathen God or YWYH. If it likely was how much evidence would their be for it. Is it quite similar to any other myths from the area.

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How likely do you think it would be that this is an adaptation of an older legend which involved a much more overt human sacrifice to either a heathen God or YWYH. If it likely was how much evidence would their be for it. Is it quite similar to any other myths from the area.

Ah, but the thing is, we're looking back at stories that are thousands of years old. Anything to positively support them has been lost to time (probably forever).

 

IMO, most of these early tales are a mix of legend and real events. A major (at the time) event happened and with each re-telling, legends were piggy-backed onto these stories.

 

Think of a group of late Bronze Age peoples gathering and sitting around the fire at the new moon to recite the tales of the ancients.

As the generations progressed, the lines between reality and fantasy got a little more blurred. Eventually, the tales were "set" and became the word of "YeahWhatever".

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Ah, but the thing is, we're looking back at stories that are thousands of years old. Anything to positively support them has been lost to time (probably forever).

 

IMO, most of these early tales are a mix of legend and real events. A major (at the time) event happened and with each re-telling, legends were piggy-backed onto these stories.

 

Think of a group of late Bronze Age peoples gathering and sitting around the fire at the new moon to recite the tales of the ancients.

As the generations progressed, the lines between reality and fantasy got a little more blurred. Eventually, the tales were "set" and became the word of "YeahWhatever".

 

I was mainly wondering whether anyone had found similar or parallel stories to it, like how the Sumerians have older stories of the flood. Although now that I think about it I would have to think stories about people being sacrificed to make it rain would be common throughout ancient history.

 

On a side note isn't Samuel one of the books which is substantially different in the masoretic and the septuagint. That and it had substantially different versions in the dead sea scrolls. Would reading the different versions be interesting?

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I was mainly wondering whether anyone had found similar or parallel stories to it, like how the Sumerians have older stories of the flood. Although now that I think about it I would have to think stories about people being sacrificed to make it rain would be common throughout ancient history.

I have a "Big Book of Ancient Writings" (actually called "Ancient Near Eastern Texts") and most of it is religious garbage. There aren't a lot of details about much of anything, but if you can dig through some of the inscriptions you will find "tribute" amounts and this includes stuff about sacrifice.

 

Archeologically, there are some digs that reveal human sacrifice. There is even a book about Human Sacrifice that includes both actual and accused cases of human sacrifice.

 

The Bible was largely expunged in this regard, but they left behind enough clues that it is possible to tell that it was done under some circumstances by the Hebrew people, even as they were criticising their own people for sacrificing to "Molech" (or "Moloch"). Even some of the Hebrew kings did so. I can't quite recall the name, but I think one such Hebrew King's name was Ahab. Well, it began with the letter "A".

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