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BALAN^A


2li


BALAN^A


Balaam cruelly beat it and even threatened it with death. Then the ass was endowed by God with the power of speech, and upbraided its master with his cruelty towards it. At the same time Balaam's eyes were opened and he saw the cause of the ass's strange contluct, viz. an angel of the Lord standing in the way with drawn sword to bar his passage. The angel upbraided Balaam with his cruel con- duct towards the ass and told him that it was the action of the ass which had saved his hfe. Finally, he permitted Balaam to continue his journey, but only on condition that he would speak nothing but what he commanded. Balac met Balaam on the borders of Amon,and they went together to Kiriath- huzoth, where sacrifices were duly offered. The following day, Balac took Balaam to Bamoth-Baal, whence he could see the outskirts of the host of Israel. Seven bullocks and seven rams having been sacrificed, and Balaam having gone apart to consult the Lord, the prophet returned to Balac and refused to curse Israel. On the contrary, he eulogized them: "Who", he said, "can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and my last end be like his. "

Then Balac took Balaam to the top of Mount Phasga, to see if from there he would not curse Israel. But, after the same rites and formalities had been gone through, Balaam again pronounced a blessing on the Israelites, more emphatic than the former: "Behold, I have received commandment to bless. And he hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it."

"Neither bless nor curse", exclaimed Balac. But he resolved to try the prophet once more, and accordingly took him to the top of Alount Phogor which looks towards the wilderness. Here sacrifices were offered, but without further formality, Balaam, under the influence of "the spirit of God", broke forth into the beautiful eulogy of Israel which begins with the words: "How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel !" Filled with anger, Balac dismissed Balaam to his home. But before departing, the prophet de- livered his fourth pronouncement on the glorious future of Israel and the fate of its enemies. His vision, too, piercing beyond the earthly Kingdom of Israel, seems to have dimly seen the Messianic reign to come. "I see him", he said, "but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: there shall come forth a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel", etc. Balac and Balaam separated, but before returning to his own country, Balaam sojourned with the Madianites. There he seems to have instigated his hosts to send Madianite and Moabite women among the Israelites to seduce them from their allegiance to Jehovah (Num., xxxi, 16). This was while the children of Israel were ilwelling at Settim, and no doubt is closely con- nected with the troubles and disorder over Beel- phegor, told of in the twenty-fifth chapter of Num- bers. The punishment inflicted by God on the Israelites was signal. A plague fell upon them, and carried off 24,000 (xxv, 9). Nor did Balaam escape. He was slain, together with the five kings of Madian, in the war waged by Israel against that nation related in the thirty-first chapter of Numbers.

Conservative View. — The usual traditional, or conservative, view of the episode of Balaam is that it is an historical narrative in the ordinary sense. The supernatural plays an important part in it, but it is contended that the creclibility of the narra- tive requires only a belief in the miraculous, and that the acceptance of many of the most important parts of the Bible requires such a belief. The epi.sodeof the speaking ass is strange; but no stranger than the story of the speaking serpent in Paradise.


The future is foretold by Balaam; but so it is by the great prophets of Israel. A question is discussed as to what Balaam was. Was he a prophet in the true sense of the word, or a soothsayer? It does not seem possible to say that he was a prophet in the same sense as Isaias or any of the great prophets of Israel. On the other hand, in Numbers, xxiv, 2, he is said to have spoken under the influence of "the spirit of God". Indeed, throughout his con- nexion with Balac, he seems to have acted under the influence of God's spirit. But when his state of life is looked at as such, he cannot be regarded as having belonged to the order of the prophets. St. Thomas calls him "a prophet of the devil". Scripture does not call him a prophet, but a diviner, and Balac approached him with the price of div- ination. Moreover, the way in which he joined Balac in idolatrous worship seems to preclude the idea of his being a genuine servant of Jehovah. Prophecy is a gift given for the good of others. Balaam was used for the good of Israel.

Critical View. — Modern critics take a different view of the episode, in conformity with their general conclusions as to the Hexateuch. For them the narrative of Numbers, chapters xxii, xxiii, and xxiv, is part of the prophetical history. That is, in these chapters there is no trace of the priestly writer P, though to him is assigned the passage xxv, 6-18, which contains an account of the crime and punish- ment of Zambri and Cozbi. Though critics are unanimous that chapters xxii, xxiii, and xxiv are the work of the two writers called the Jahvist and the Elohist, they do not find it easy to apportion that part of Numbers between the two authors. Indeed, the only point on which they are agreed is that chapter xxii belongs to the Elohist, with the exception of verses 22-35, which they as,sign to the Jahvist. This section contains the episode cf the ass, and critics say that it destroys the sequence of the narrative. Thus in verse 20 Balaam gets leave from God to go \vith the princes of Moab; but in verse 22 God is angry with him, apparently because of his going. Though this apparent inconsistency has been variou.sly explained by conservative com- mentators, critics argue from it and other similar instances, that the episode of the a.ss (verses 22-35) has teen skilfully fitted into the rest of the chapter, but is really the work of another writer; and that the original narrative which is broken off at verse 21 continues at verse 36. Further proofs of dual au- thorship are often far from clear. Thus, there h: said to be a duplication in xxii, 3: "And the Moabites were in great fear of him, and were not able to sus- tain his assault". Surely this is weak in the extreme. Does not the natural tendency of the Jewish wTiter to parallelisms sufficiently explain it?

"The reference to historical events in Balaam's fourth prophecy leads most critical writers to fix the date of its composition not earlier than David's reign. David's Moabitic war is said to be the war refened to in Num., xxiv, 17. But, putting aside the gift of prophecy, we know that writings of this kind, like the Psalms, are often retouched in ages later than that of their original composition. At most, therefore, it seems legitimate to conclude that this passage shows signs of having been expanded and re-edited at that period.

HuMMELAUER. Gencsls (Poris, 1895): Sayce, Early History of the //e6r<!u>« (London, 1897); Woods in Hast., Diet, of the Bihle [\jOnAon, 1898): I>RrvER,Gcnc«is (London. 1904); Renan, lliatoire du peuple d'Israel (Paris, 1887): Palis in ViG., Diet, de la Bible (Paris, 189.3).

J. A. HOWLETT.

Balansea, a titular see of Syria. The city of this name, a colony of Aradus (Strabo, XVI, 753), is placed by Stephanus Byzantius in Phcenicia, though it belongs rather to Syria. Its first known bishop was present at the Council of Nica;a in 325