Curiously enough, the Rabbinical (Yalkut) identification of Balaam with Laban, Jacob's father-in-law, has been revived from a very different standpoint, by a modern critic.
The Mahommedans, also, have various fables concerning Balaam. He was one of the Anakim, or giants of Palestine; he read the books of Abraham, where he got the name Yahweh, by virtue of which he predicted the future, and got from God whatever he asked. It has been conjectured that the Arabic wise man, commonly called Luqmān (q.v.), is identical with Balaam. The names of their fathers are alike, and “Luqman” means devourer, swallower, a meaning which might be got out of Balaam by a popular etymology.
If we might accept the various theories mentioned above, Balaam would appear in one source of J as an Edomite, in another as an Ammonite; in E as a native of the south of Judah or possibly as an Aramaean; in the tradition followed by the Priestly Code probably as a Midianite. All these peoples either belong to the Hebrew stock or are closely connected with it. We may conclude that Balaam was an ancient figure of traditions originally common to all the Hebrews and their allies, and afterwards appropriated by individual tribes; much as there are various St Georges.
The chief significance of the Balaam narratives for the history of the religion of Israel is the recognition by J and E of the genuine inspiration of a non-Hebrew prophet. Yahweh is as much the God of Balaam as he is of Moses. Probably the original tradition goes back to a time when Yahweh was recognized as a deity of a circle of connected tribes of which the Israelite tribes formed a part. But the retention of the story without modification may imply a continuous recognition through some centuries of the idea that Yahweh revealed his will to nations other than Israel.
Apparently the Priestly Code ignored this feature of the story.
Taking the narratives as we now have them, Balaam is a companion figure to Jonah, the prophet who wanted to go where he was not sent, over against the prophet who ran away from the mission to which he was called.
Bibliography.—Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel3, Bd. ii. p. 298; Hengstenberg's Die Geschichte Bileams und seine Weissagungen (1842); the commentaries on the scriptural passages, especially G. B. Gray on Numbers xxii.-xxiv.; and the articles on “Balaam” (Bileam) in Hamburger's Realencyclopädie für Bibel und Talmud, Hastings' Bible Dict., Black and Cheyne's Encyclopaedia Biblica, Herozog-Hauck's Realencyklopädie. For the analysis into earlier documents, see also the Oxford Hexateuch, Estlin Carpenter and Harford-Battersby.
BALĀDHURĪ (Abū-l-‛Abbās Ahmad ibn Yahyā ibn Jābir al-Balādhurī), Arabian historian, was a Persian by birth, though his sympathies seem to have been strongly with the Arabs, for Mas‛ūdī refers to one of his works in which he refuted the Shu‛ūbites (see Abu ‛Ubaida). He lived at the court of the caliphs al-Mutawakkil and al-Musta‛īn and was tutor to the son of al-Mu‛tazz. He died in 892 as the result of a drug called balādhur (hence his name). The work by which he is best known is the Futūh ul-Buldān (Conquests of Lands), edited by M. J. de Goeje as Liber expugnationis regionum (Leiden, 1870; Cairo, 1901). This work is a digest of a larger one, which is now lost. It contains an account of the early conquests of Mahomet and the early caliphs. Balādhurī is said to have spared no trouble in collecting traditions, and to have visited various parts of north Syria and Mesopotamia for this purpose. Another great historical work of his was the Ansāb ul-Ashrāf (Genealogies of the Nobles), of which he is said to have written forty parts when he died. Of this work the eleventh book has been published by W. Ahlwardt (Greifswald, 1883), and another part is known in manuscript (see Journal of the German Oriental Society, vol. xxxviii. pp. 382-406). He also made some translations from Persian into Arabic. (G. W. T.)
BALAGHAT (i.e. “above the ghats or passes,” the highlands), a district of British India in the Nagpur division of the Central Provinces. The administrative headquarters are at the town of Burha. The district contains an area of 3132 sq. m. It forms the eastern portion of the central plateau which divides the province from east to west. These highlands, formerly known as the Raigarh Bichhia tract, remained desolate and neglected until 1866, when the district of Balaghat was formed, and the country opened to the industrious and enterprising peasantry of the Wainganga valley. Geographically the district is divided into three distinct parts:—(1) The southern lowlands, a slightly undulating plain, comparatively well cultivated and drained by the Wainganga, Bagh, Deo, Ghisri and Son rivers. (2) The long narrow valley known as the Mau Taluka, lying between the hills and the Wainganga river, and comprising a long, narrow, irregular-shaped lowland tract, intersected by hill ranges and peaks covered with dense jungle, and running generally from north to south. (3) The lofty plateau, in which is situated the Raigarh Bichhia tract, comprising irregular ranges of hills, broken into numerous valleys, and generally running from east to west. The highest points in the hills of the district are as follows:—Peaks above Lanji, 2300 or 2500 feet; Tepagarh hill, about 2600 ft.; and Bhainsaghat range, about 3000 ft. above the sea. The principal rivers in the district are the Wainganga, and its tributaries, the Bagh, Nahra and Uskal; a few smaller streams, such as the Masmar, the Mahkara, &c.; and the Banjar, Halon and Jamunia, tributaries of the Nerbudda, which drain a portion of the upper plateau. In the middle of the 19th century the upper part of the district was an impenetrable waste. About that time one Lachhman Naik established the first villages on the Paraswara plateau. But a handsome Buddhist temple of cut stone, belonging to some remote period, is suggestive of a civilization which had disappeared before historic times. The population in 1901 was 326,521, showing a decrease of 15% in the decade, due to the effects of famine. A large part of the area is still covered with forest, the most valuable timber-tree being sal. There are few good roads. The Gondia-Jubbulpore line of the Bengal-Nagpur railway traverses the Wainganga valley in the west of the district. The district suffered very severely from the famine of 1896-1897. It suffered again in 1900, when in April the number of persons relieved rose above 100,000.
BALAGUER, VICTOR (1824-1901), Spanish politician and author, was born at Barcelona on the 11th of December 1824, and was educated at the university of his native town. His precocity was remarkable; his first dramatic essay, Pepin el jorobado, was placed on the Barcelona stage when he was fourteen years of age, and at nineteen he was publicly “crowned” after the production of his second play, Don Enrique el Dadivoso. From 1843 to 1868 he was the chief of the Liberal party in Barcelona, and as proprietor and editor of El Conseller did much to promote the growth of local patriotism in Catalonia. But it was not till 1857 that he wrote his first poem in Catalan—a copy of verses to the Virgin of Montserrat. Henceforward he frequently adopted the pseudonym of “lo Trovador de Montserrat”; in 1859 he helped to restore the “Juegos Florales,” and in 1861 was proclaimed mestre de gay saber. He was removed to Madrid, took a prominent part in political life, and in 1867 emigrated to Provence. On the expulsion of Queen Isabella, he returned to Spain, represented Manresa in the Cortes, and in 1871-1872 was successively minister of the colonies and of finance. He resigned office at the restoration, but finally followed his party in rallying to the dynasty; he was appointed vice-president of congress, and was subsequently a senator. He died at Madrid on the 14th of January 1901. Long before his death he had become alienated from the advanced school of Catalan nationalists, and endeavoured to explain away the severe criticism of Castile in which his Historia de Cataluña y de la Corona de Aragon (1860-1863) abounds. This work, like his Historia politica y literaria de los trovadores (1878-1879), is inaccurate, partial and unscientific; but both books are attractively written and have done great service to the cause which Balaguer once upheld. As a poet he is imitative: reminiscences of Quintana are noticeable in his patriotic songs, of Zorrilla in his historical ballads, of Byron in his lyrical poems. He wrote too hastily to satisfy artistic canons; but if he has the faults he has also the merits of a pioneer, and in Catalonia his name will endure.
- T. Steuernagel, Einwanderung der israelitischen Stämme (1901).