Balak: A Summary of the Parashah

Cursing and Blessing the Israelites

Print this page Print this page

Balaam said to the angel of God.  “I have sinned.  I did not know that you stood in the way against me.  If you want me to go back I will.”  But the angel of God says, “Go to Balak but say only what I tell you to say.

Balaam reaches Balak and says “Look. I am here but whatever words God puts into my mouth I will say.  Now build seven altars and stand beside the ascent offering.” And Balak did.

Balaam's Blessing

Then Balaam goes to speak with God.  When he returns, he says to Balak, “God brought these people out of the land of Egypt.  These people are to be blessed not cursed.”  Balak answered, “You shall not curse them and you shall not bless them.” But Balaam just said, “I told you that whatever God tells me to say I will say.”  Angered Balak brings Balaam to the top of the Field of Seers to show him the mighty Hebrews.  Balaam tells Balak to build offerings to God there and stand next to them. Balak does. 

Then God tells Balaam to say to Balak, “God will not lie nor change the Almighty ruling.  These people whom God brought out of the land of Egypt must be blessed and not cursed.” Balak repeats his demand. “If you will not curse them do not bless them.” Balaam answers, “Didn’t I already tell you? All that God speaks, I will do.”  Balak says back, “Then I will take you to another place where it may be right in the eyes of God to curse them for me.” 
They went to the peak of Peor that looks over the wasteland.  After making altars and sacrifices, Balaam could see that in the eyes of God it was right only to bless Israel.  When he saw the Israelites camping,  the spirit of God came upon him inspiring him to say aloud  “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.  Like brooks are they turned, like gardens by the river, like cedars beside the waters the waters flow from God’s buckets.  Israel wins against other nations because God brought you out of the land of Egypt to be God’s people.  Those who bless you are blessed and those who curse you are cursed.” 

Balak was furious, “I have asked you to curse my enemies and three times you bless them.  Get away.”  Balaam says, “I must do as God asks me to do. Now, I shall give you one piece of advice.  What the Hebrews will do to your people will be only in the end of days.”  At that Balaam and Balak went their separate ways.

The Hebrews then settle in Shittim and the people began to sin with the daughters of Moab and bow to the Moabite gods.  God was angry at the Israelites and said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and hang them in the presence of the sun and then My anger will go away from Israel.”  And it was done.  Pinhas, a priest, killed the final Israelite man and Midianite woman. Twenty-four thousand lost their lives.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.