Parashat Balak Summary

Parashat Balak is the seventh parasha in Sefer Bamidbar (also known as Numbers). In some years it is combined with the sixth parasha, Parashat Chukat.

This parasha is verses Bamidbar 22:2 – 25:9, for a total of 104 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Bamidbar 22:2 – 22:12, 11 verses

Many people have trouble remembering who’s who in Parashat Balak. So let’s introduce them.

Balak is the king of Moab. He saw what the Israelites did to Sihon and Og at the end of Parashat Chukat. He is concerned that the Children of Israel are about to also conquer his country.

Bilam is hired by Balak to curse the Jewish people.

In this aliyah, God tells Bilam not to accept Balak’s offer.

Aliyah 2: Bamidbar 22:13 – 22:20, 8 verses

After Bilam’s refusal in the previous aliyah, Balak tries again. Balak sends another delegation to Bilam.

This time God tells Bilam he may go to Balak. However, he must only do what God tells him he may do.

Aliyah 3: Bamidbar 22:21 – 22:38, 18 verses

Bilam gets up the next morning, saddles his donkey, and starts his journey to Balak.

Bilam’s action provoked God’s anger and He sent an angel to block his way. Bilam did not see the angel, but his donkey did.

Three times the angel blocked Bilam’s path and three times the donkey tried to avoid the angel.

After the third blockage, God opened the donkey’s mouth and let her defend her actions. Only then did God allow Bilam to see the angel.

Bilam is permitted to continue his journey. But when he finally meets Balak, he admits that he can only say the words God permits him to say. In other words, he will not be able to curse Israel.

Aliyah 4: Bamidbar 22:39 – 23:12, 15 verses

This is Bilam’s first attempt to curse the Jewish people.

Balak takes Bilam to a lookout where they can see the edge of the Jewish camp.

Bilam tells Balak to build seven altars and offer on them seven bulls and seven rams.

God gives Bilam a message of blessing which Bilam then tells to Barak. Barak is outraged that Bilam has not cursed the Children of Israel.

Aliyah 5: Bamidbar 23:13 – 23:26, 14 verses

This is Bilam’s second attempt to curse the Jewish people.

Balak takes Bilam to a different lookout where they can see another edge of the Jewish camp.

Balak built seven altars and offered on them seven bulls and seven rams.

God gives Bilam a different message of blessing which Bilam then tells to Barak. Not surprising, but Barak is again outraged that Bilam has not cursed the Children of Israel.

Aliyah 6: Bamidbar 23:27 – 24:13, 17 verses

This is Bilam’s third attempt to curse the Jewish people.

Balak takes Bilam to yet another lookout point. From here they look out over a wasteland.

Bilam tells Balak to build seven altars and offer on them seven bulls and seven rams.

Bilam tries to deliver a curse on his own. However, the spirit of God came over him and Bilam blesses the Jewish people. Barak hears the blessing is again outraged.

Balak orders Bilam to return to his home.

Aliyah 7: Bamidbar 24:14 – 25:9, 21 verses

But Bilam doesn’t go straight home. He first decides to share with Balak some advice and what is going to happen to Moab at the “end of days.”

He then shares short visions concerning Moab, Edom, Seir, Amalek, Kenites, and Assyria.

The last nine verses of the parasha describe the Children of Israel sinning with the women of Moab. They committed idolatry and sexual immorality.

God sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites. It ended when Pinchus killed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman. Their identities will be revealed in Parashat Pinchus.

Haftarah Summary

The haftarah for Parashat Balak is Micah 5:6 – 6:8, 17 verses.

Micah is the sixth of the so-called “minor prophets.” In Jewish tradition they are referred to as the Trei Asar since they are 12 prophets.

There is a direct connection to Parashat Balak in verse 6:5:

My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Bilam son of Beor answered him; from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of God.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106a) teaches that Bilam suggested to Balak that the Jewish people would lose God’s favor if they committed sexual immorality. (Moshe hints at this in Bamidbar 31:16. See Rashi on that verse.) The result was the tragic events recorded at the end of the parasha.

Also, the last verse of the haftarah could be a reference to Pinchus:

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what God requires of you: only to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Pinchus’ swift action to kill the man and woman who were sinning was an act of justice that halted the plague.

Further Reading on Parashat Balak

Many people think that Bilam was a prophet. So why didn’t I ever refer to Bilam the prophet? You can find out in this article.

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