Numbers 23:7-10*

Note: the first prophecy of Balaam uses regular parallelisms. But is there also an introverted structure? Balaam begins and ends with reference to himself – A/A’. Then Jacob/Israel is mentioned – B/B’. C and C’ both refer to the unique position of Israel amongst the nations as blessed of God. D again refers to what Balaam himself can see before him of the encampment of Israel (with the pillar of fire on the Tabernacle) on the plains of Moab. 

7 And he took up his parable, and said,

A.  Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram,
out of the mountains of the east, saying,

(more literally – From Aram has brought me Balak,                                                                      the king of Moab from the eastern mountains.)

B. Come, curse me Jacob,
and come, defy Israel.

C. 8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed?
or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?

D. 9 For from the top of the rocks I see him,
         and from the hills I behold him:

C’. lo, the people shall dwell alone,
and shall not be reckoned among the nations.

B’. 10 Who can count the dust of Jacob,
and the number of the fourth part of Israel?

A’.  Let me die the death of the righteous,
and let my last end be like his.

Note: One writer (drawing attention to assonance and alliteration) has an ABA’ structure as follows;

From Aram has brought me Balak, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains.

A. “Come, curse for me Jacob! Come, execrate Israel!” How can I denounce him whom God has not denounced? How can I execrate him whom YHWH has not execrated ?

B. For from the top of the rocks I see him, from the hills I behold him: Lo, a people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations.

A’. Who can count the dust of Jacob? Who can number the dust-clouds of Israel?  Let me die the death of the righteous! Let my end be like his.

The Literary Structure of the First Two Poems of Balaam (Num. XXIII 7-10, 18-24) Angelo Tosato, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 29, Fasc. 1 (Jan., 1979), pp. 98-106

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