Parshat Balak Summary

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

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

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

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

Many people have trouble remembering who’s who in Parshat 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 Parshat Chukat. He is concerned that the Children of Israel are about to also conquer his country.

Balaam is hired by Balak to curse the Jewish people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three times the angel blocked Balaam’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 Balaam to see the angel.

Balaam 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: Numbers 22:39 – 23:12, 15 verses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balak orders Balaam to return to his home.

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

But Balaam 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 parsha 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 Parshat Pinchus.

Haftarah Summary

The haftarah for Parshat 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 Parshat Balak in verse 6:5:

Micah Chapter 6

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

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

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

Micah Chapter 6

8 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 Parshat Balak

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


A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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