Balaam & Balak by Patrick Henry Reardon

Balaam & Balak

The story of the meeting of Balaam and Balak (Num. 22:36–39) is structured on a psychological contrast between the two men: The impatience of the king of Moab is set at variance with the caution of the soothsayer from Pethor. This opposition, established immediately, endures as long as the two men are together (24:25).

Because Balaam delayed coming to Moab, Balak’s greeting is already a remonstration: “Did I not earnestly send to you, calling for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?”

After this greeting—if greeting we can call it—Balak is eager for his hired soothsayer to start saying a bit of vigorous sooth against the recently arrived forces of Israel. This is, after all, what Balak is paying him to do.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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