Numbers 22 Why was God angry with Balaam?
Is there a contradiction? It depends on which Bible you read.
There are many sites that ridicule the Holy Bible and claim there are contradictions and errors. One such example is found in Numbers 22 where God apparently tells Balaam to go with the men sent from king Balak to curse Israel, and then God gets angry with Balaam for going.
A well known atheistic site called Skeptics Annotated Bible has pictures of a mocking face and unbalanced scales along side the comment: "God tells Balaam to go with the men. Balaam goes with them. God gets angry because he went."
One of the "Christian" apologetic sites that consistently blows it big time in their explanations of apparent contradictions is called Tektonics. They use the modern versions, and this may be one of the reasons for their perpetual blindness.
On this "apologetic" site, they discard the correct explanation that can be seen if they were using the right Bible (the King James Holy Bible), and instead give an absurdly confusing "answer" to this apparent contradiction.
This Christian apologist says: "This is a story that has caused perplexity for quite some time. Let's have a look at the verses in question: (He uses a bogus bible version, so he off to a bad start from the get go) That night God came to Balaam and said, "Since these men have come to summon you, go with them,... But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him."
He then says: "I've seen this one cited by skeptics and critics any number of times. What's the problem, basically? The question is always asked: If God gave permission for Balaam to go, why was He angry with him when he did go?"
His "explanation" is this: "we have a quite intentional contradiction made for the purpose of poking fun at a very popular diviner who was no match for the true God. In other words, the narrative is interrupted for a few moments of satire -- and it's only because we are on the wrong channel that we don't realize this. Actually, to make the analogy correct: we've lost the remote behind the cushions on this one... The purpose of the story is to "debunk the false notions of the age and to poke fun at the pretenses of self-serving men who deceitfully claim to have the power" to hear God."
I think this is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo by somebody who spent way too much time at a seminary where he had his faith in an inerrant Bible stolen from him and his mind turned to mush. If he saw the truth of how to reconcile this apparent contradiction, he would then have to admit that his favorite modern bible version is in error. Anyway, if you use the right Bible and look closely at the text as it stands in the King James Holy Bible, there is an obvious and easy way to explain this alleged contradiction.
King James Holy Bible
"And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, IF THE MEN COME to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
And God's anger was kindled BECAUSE he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him."
Agreeing with the King James Bible reading of "IF THE MEN COME TO CALL THEE...And God's anger was kindled BECAUSE HE WENT..." are Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1534, the Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, The Thomson Bible 1808, Webster's Bible 1833, The Longman Version 1841, The Boothroyd Bible 1853, The Jewish Family Bible 1864, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the Hebrew Publishing Company's 1936 translation, the NKJV 1982, The Word of Yah 1993, Green's Modern KJV, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Koster Scriptures 1999, God's First Truth 1999 - "IF the men come to fetch you...", Bond Slave Version 2009, the Jubilee Bible 2010, The Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011 - "IF THESE MEN DO COME TO CALL YOU, arise and go with them", The Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011 and The Modern English Version 2014.
The International Standard Version 2014 also got it right, saying: “God came to visit Balaam that same night and told him, “IF THE MEN COME to call on you, get up and go with them, but be sure to do only what I tell you to do.”
And this online Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament - "IF to call come the men"
The Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, Cipriano de Valera 1602 and Spanish Reina Valera got it right too. "Si vinieren a llamarte estos varones, levántate y ve con ellos; pero harás lo que yo te dijere." - "IF these men come to call you, rise up and go with them..."
However many modern versions have altered the English text and have created a real rather than an apparent contradiction. Among these are the NASB, NIV, ESV, NET, Jehovah Witness NWT, Catholic St. Joseph NAB, New Jerusalem bible and Holman CSB.
NASB, RSV, ESV, St. Joseph NAB, Jehovah Witness NWT
"God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "IF THE MEN HAVE COME to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do." So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. But God was angry BECAUSE he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him."
These versions say: "If the men HAVE COME TO CALL YOU...go with them." This is a nonsensical reading. Think about it. The messengers from Balaak had already spoken with Balaam and were now spending the night. So according to the NASB, what possible sense does it make for God to say "If the men HAVE COME to call you...go"? They HAD already come for this purpose. This is the reading that causes the contradiction.
Holman Christian Standard Bible
"God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "SINCE THESE MEN HAVE COME to summon you, get up and go with them, but you must only do what I tell you. When he got up in the morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the officials of Moab. But God was incensed THAT Balaam was going, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand on the path to oppose him."
That night God came to Balaam and said, "SINCE THESE MEN HAVE COME to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you. Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry WHEN he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him."
"God came to Balaam that night and said, "SINCE these men HAVE COME all this way to see you, go ahead and go with them."
In contrast to these modern versions that create the contradiction, in the King James Bible we read: "IF the men come to call thee...go. And God's anger was kindled because he went..." God is referring to IF the men come again to you in the morning with this same request, then go with them.
John Gill comments: "...this permission to go seems to be on this condition, IF the princes first called him, and were urgent on him to go with them: this was a trial of Balaam, whether he would be eager and forward to go, or patiently wait until he should be called."
John Wesley hits the nail right on the head when he tersely comments: "IF the men come - ON THIS CONDITION HE WAS TO GO. Because he went - Because he went of his own accord, with the princes of Moab, AND DID NOT WAIT TILL THEY CAME TO CALL HIM, WHICH WAS THE SIGN AND CONDITION OF GOD'S PERMISSION, BUT RATHER HIMSELF ROSE AND CALLED THEM."
Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary is right on when he says: “ I beg the Reader not to overlook in those verses, that Balaam's PERMISSION TO GO, WAS ON CONDITION THAT THE MEN CALLED UPON HIM AGAIN. WHEREAS IT DOTH NOT APPEAR, THAT HE WAS AGAIN INVITED, BUT THAT HE HASTENED IN THE MORNING TO DEPART WITH THEM.”
Adam Clark also remarks: "IF they came in the morning to call him; because he was more hasty than he ought to have been, and went to them instead of staying till they should come to him."
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown - "God's anger was kindled because he went--The displeasure arose partly from his neglecting the condition on which leave was granted him--namely, TO WAIT till the princes of Moab "came to call him" [Nu 22:20]
The King James Bible is right, as always, and there is no contradiction. However such versions as the NIV, NASB, RSV, ESV, NET, Catholic Versions, Jehovah Witness NWT, and Holman CSB do create a contradiction that is scoffed at by atheists, Muslims and other Bible critics.
The NKJV in Numbers 22 - 24
Just because the NKJV gets this particular portion of Scripture right in Numbers 22:20 does not mean I endorse the NKJV. It has plenty of other problems. The NKJV frequently changes words for the mere sake of change so they can get their copyright and make money. Most of these changes are for the worse and they often pervert the correct meaning of the passage. Here are just a few examples of where it changes the meaning found in the King James Bible in this section of Numbers.
King James Bible - In Numbers 21:1 we read: "And when KING ARAD the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by THE WAY OF THE SPIES; then he fought against Israel, and took some of the prisoners."
The king's name was Arad according to Tyndale 1530, Coverdale, Bishops' Bible, Geneva Bible, Webster's, Young's, Douay, Spanish Reina Valera 1909, Green's MKJV, the KJV 21 and the Third Millennium Bible. Even if there were a city named Arad, cities often got their names from a king who founded or ruled it.
Likewise the reading that Israel "came by way of the spies" is found in Wycliffe, Coverdale, Bishops', Geneva, Darby, Spanish Reina Valera 1909, Lamsa, Webster's, KJV 21, and the Third Millennium Bible.
However, instead of the king's name being ARAD, and the Israelites coming "BY WAY OF THE SPIES" the NKJV joins the NASB, NIV, RSV and reads: "When the KING OF ARAD, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was comning on THE ROAD TO ATHARIM, then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners."
In Numbers 21:14 we read: "Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, WHAT HE DID IN THE RED SEA, and in the brooks of Arnon."
"What He did in the Red Sea" is the reading found in Wycliffe, Bishops' Bible, Geneva, The Spanish Reina Valera (Lo que hizó en el Mar Rojo) Webster's, KJV21 and Third Millennium Bible.
However again the NKJV joins the NASB, NIV, RSV and says: "Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD: "WAHEB IN SUPHAH", the brooks of the Arnon." Then in a footnote tells us "Waheb in Suphah" are "unknown places".
In Numbers 22:29 Balaam's ass asks him why he has smitten her three times, to which Balaam says: "Because thou hast MOCKED me." This is the reading of the Jewish translations and the RV, ASV, and Geneva. Even the NASB says: "Because you have made a mockery of me" and the NIV has: "you have made a fool of me." But the NKJV says: "Because you have ABUSED me."
A clear blunder is found in the NKJV in Numbers 22:41 when compared to Numbers 23:13. In Numbers 22:41 Balak takes Balaam up to the high places of Baal, "that thence he might see THE UTMOST PART of the people."
The "utmost part of the people" is the last group of stragglers in the camp. These would be among the weakest of the people of Israel who were having a hard time keeping up with the rest of the multitude. Compare Deuteronomy 25:17-18 - "Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt. How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou was faint and weary; and he feared not God."
"The utmost part" is the reading of most Bible versions in Numbers 22:41 including the RV, ASV, Geneva, Webster, TMB and an host of others. Even the NASB says "that he might see A PORTION OF the people" and the NIV has "that he might see PART OF the people".
This agrees with what we read in Numbers 23:13 where the exact same Hebrew word is used. There Balak again calls Balaam to another place and says: "from whence thou shalt see BUT THE UTMOST PART of them, AND SHALT NOT SEE THEM ALL: and curse me them from thence."
However, instead of saying in Numbers 22:41 "that thence he might see THE UTMOST PART of the people" the NKJV says: "that from there he might observe THE EXTENT OF the people."
Now "the extent" of something is the whole amount. When we speak of seeing the extent of the damage done, or the extent of one's finances, we are talking about the whole deal all at once. Yet in Numbers 23:13 the NKJV translates the same Hebrew word as "you shall see only THE OUTER PART of them, and shall not see them all..." The NKJV is in error in Numbers 22:41.
Numbers 23:7 "And he took up his PARABLE, and said..." Even the NASB admits in the footnote that the Hebrew word here is "parable", and parable is the reading of the Jewish translations of 1917, 1936, the RV, ASV, Geneva and many others.
But the NKJV joins the NIV and says "he took up his ORACLE". The word can mean either a parable or a proverb. The NKJV also changes "parable" to "oracle" in Numbers 23:18; 24: 3, 15, 20, 21, and 23. However the NKJV still translates this same Hebrew word as "parable" in Psalm 78:2; Ezekiel 17:2; 20:49 and 24:3.
In Numbers 24:17 another serious change in meaning is found in the NKJV. In the King James Bible we read: "I SHALL see him, but not now: I SHALL behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite THE CORNERS of Moab, and destroy all the children of SHETH."
Many modern versions really mess this verse up and disagree with each other.
The future tense of "I SHALL SEE Him, but not now" is the same in the Geneva, 1936, Darby, Spanish, Douay and others, but the NKJV joins the NASB, NIV in the present tense saying: "I see him, but not now".
"and shall smite THE CORNERS of Moab" is the reading of the KJB, RV, ASV, 1917, 1936 Jewish translations, Geneva, Young's, Spanish 1909, Webster's and the Third Millennium Bible.
The word used here is # 6285 peh-ah and means "corners, part, or side." It is used in "the corners of thy field" Lev. 19:9; "the corners of thy beard" Lev. 19:27; "put the rings in the four corners" Exodus 25:26; "in the corner of a bed" Amos 3:12; and "from the east SIDE to the west SIDE" Eze. 48:3.
However the NKJV says: "A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And BATTER THE BROW of Moab, and destroy all the sons OF TUMULT."
This is similar to the NIV which says: "crush the FOREHEADS of Moab, the SKULLS of all the sons of Sheth." The NIV says the word "skulls" here comes from the Samaritan Pentateuch and that the Hebrew is uncertain (which it isn't). The NIV is the only version to follow the Samaritan Pentateuch here and reject the Hebrew reading.
The NASB also is similar with: "a Scepter shall rise out of Israel and crush THE FOREHEAD of Moab, and tear down (No "skulls" like the NIV) all the sons of Sheth."
The Hebrew word is NOT "forehead" or "brow"; it is "corners". The RSV, NRSV and ESV are interesting. The RSV was the first major version to substitute "forehead" for "corners". Then the NRSV went back to the reading of "the borderlands of Moab", and then the ESV again changed this back to "the forehead of Moab". This is modern scholarship in action.
Also did you notice that instead of "destroy all the sons OF SHETH" as the RV, ASV, NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV, and Jewish translations have it, the NKJV is the only one to read: "and destroy all the sons OF TUMULT."? Then in a footnote the NKJV informs us the Hebrew literally reads "Sheth".
The NKJV again is the only version to mangle so badly the meaning of Numbers 24:20.
There we read: "Amalek was the first of the nations; BUT HIS LATTER END SHALL BE THAT HE PERISH FOR EVER." This is the meaning found in the Geneva, Young's, RV, ASV and so many others. The NASB says: "Amalek was the first of the nations but his latter end shall be destruction". The NIV has: "but he will come to ruin at last."
However the NKJV alone says: "Amalek was first among the nations, BUT SHALL BE LAST UNTIL HE PERISHES." Say What?
In Numbers 24:24 we read: "And ships shall come from the coast of CHITTIM, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and HE ALSO SHALL PERISH FOR EVER."
First, the word Chittim or the spelling of Kittim is found in the RV, ASV, NASB, NIV, Geneva, Young's, Darby, RSV, ESV and Holman. However ONLY the NKJV says: "ships shall come from the coasts of CYPRUS" and then footnotes that the literal Hebrew word is Kittim (also spelled Chittim).
Secondly in this verse, instead of reading: "and shall afflict Eber, and HE also shall perish for ever", the NKJV ALONE reads: "and shall afflict Eber, And so SHALL AMALEK, until he perishes." Then in a footnote the NKJV tells us the word is literally "he" and not Amalek. In fact, the one spoken about in this passage who will perish forever is Chittim, not Amalek at all. The NKJV is totally wrong here.
One last example here before I close this little study. In Numbers 25:1 we read: "And Israel abode in SHITTIM, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab."
"abode in Shittim" is the reading of the Jewish translations, the RV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NIV, ESV and many others.
But, the NKJV says: "Then Israel remained in ACACIA GROVE, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab."
Then in a footnote, again the NKJV tells us that the Hebrew word is literally "Shittim". These are just a few examples of the type of silly and unecessary changes the NKJV editors have made chapter after chapter in order to get their copyright and make money. A person can come to faith in Christ using the NKJV, but it is not the preserved, inerrant, infallible word of God. You will only find this in the old fashioned but true King James Bible.
The King James Bible is always right, all the time. It is God's inerrant, preserved words in the English language.
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