Book of Balaam

Book of Balaam - Text Information

Biblical / Historic Figure - Balaam Son of Beor

Date of Text - 8th Century b.c.e


The Balaam inscriptions were discovered at Deir Alla in Jordan 1967. This text, made of plaster, was broken and reconstructed of 119 fragments among the rubble on the building floor, destroyed in an earthquake. This inscription dates back to 8th century b.c. 

Balaam son of Beor, the divine seer was the same person and title as described in the book of Numbers in the Bible chapter 22 - 24.  

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said...For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.” The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination - Numbers 22.4 - 7

Text Translation


Title (line 1)

The misfortunes of the Book of Balaam, son of Beor.2

A divine seer was he.3

The Theophany (lines 1–4)

The gods came to him at night,

And he beheld a vision in accordance with El’s utterance.4

They said to Balaam, son of Beor:

“So will it be done, with naught surviving,

No one has seen [the likes of] what you have heard!”

Balaam Reports his Vision to his Intimates (lines 4–7)

Balaam arose on the morrow;

He summoned the heads of the assembly unto him,

And for two days he fasted, and wept bitterly.

Then his intimates entered into his presence,

And they said to Balaam, son of Beor:

“Why do you fast,

And why do you weep?”

Then he said to them:

“Be seated, and I will relate to you what the Shaddai-godse have planned,

And go, see the acts of the gods!” f

Balaam Describes the Celestial Vision and Its Aftermath in the Land (lines 7–13)

“The gods have banded together;

The Shaddai-gods have established a council. g

And they have said to [the goddess] Shagar:

‘Sew up, close up the heavens with dense cloud,

That darkness exist there, not brilliance; h

Obscurity and not clarity;

So that you instill dread in dense darkness.

And — never utter a sound again!’ ”

“It shall be that the swift and crane will shriek insult to the eagle,

And a nest of vultures shall cry out in response.

The stork, the young of the falcon and the owl,

The chicks of the heron, sparrow and cluster of eagles;

Pigeons and birds, [and fowl in the s]ky.”i

“And a rod [shall flay the cat]tle;

Where there are ewes, a staff shall be brought.

Hares — eat together!

Free[ly feed,] oh beasts [of the field]!

And [freely] drink, asses and hyenas!”

Balaam Acts to Save the Goddess and the Land (lines 13–14)

Heed the admonition, adversaries of Sha[gar-and-Ishtar]!17

[ skilled diviner.

To skilled diviners shall one take you, and to an oracle;

[To] a perfumer of myrrh and a priestess.

[Who] covers his body [with oil],

And rubs himself with olive oil.

To one bearing an offering in a horn;

One augurer after another, and yet another.

As one augurer broke away from his colleagues.

The strikers departed [ ]

The Admonitions are Heeded; The Malevolent Gods are Punished, the Goddess Rescued, and the Land Saved (lines 14–18)

They heard incantations from afar.

[ ]

Then disease was unleashed,

And all beheld acts of distress.

Shagar-and-Ishtar did not [ ]

The piglet [drove out] the leopard;

And [the ] drove out the young of [the ].

[ ] double offerings.

And he beheld [ ]

Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, Context of Scripture,  William W. Hallo, volume II, 2.27, 2000 AD


EXCERPT A: El builds a necropolis (lines 6–7)

El satisfied himself with [lovemaking];

And then El fashioned an eternal house; m

[A house ],

A house where no traveler  enters,2

Nor does a bridegroom enter there.

EXCERPT B: A Half-existence in Sheol (line 8)

Worm rot from a grave.

From the reckless affairs of men,

And from the lustful desires of people

EXCERPT C: The Rejection of a Seer (line 9)

If it is for counsel, one will not counsel with you!

Or for advising him, one will not take advice!

EXCERPTS D-E: More on Conditions in Sheol (lines 10–11)

From the bed they cover themselves with a wrap.

If you hate him, he will be mortally afflicted.

If you [ ]

- - - - -

[Worm rot] is under your head.

You shall lie on your eternal bedding,

To pass away  to [ ]

EXCERPTS F-G: Kings and Other Corpses in Sheol (lines 12–15)

[ ] in their heart.

The corpse moans in his heart q

He moans [ ]

- - - - -

[ ] a daughter.

There, kings behold [ ].

There is no mercy when Death seizes a suckling.

And a suckling [ ];

And a suckling [ ];

A suckling [ ];

There [ ] shall be.

The heart of the corpse is desolate

As he approaches [Sheol].

[ ].

To the edge of She[ol], s

And the shadow of the hedge [ ].

EXCERPTS H-I: An Oracle: The Quests of Kings and Seers Come to Naught (lines 5–17)

“The quest of a king is moth rot,

And the quest of [ ];

[ ] seers.

Your quest is distant from you.

To know how to deliver an oracle to his people.

You have been condemned for your speech,

And [banned] from pronouncing words of execration.”

Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, Context of Scripture,  William W. Hallo, volume II, 2.27, 2000 AD