Balaam Son Of Beor -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 08:4 (Autumn 1995)
Article: Balaam Son Of Beor
Author: Bryant G. Wood


Balaam Son Of Beor

Bryant G. Wood

In an unprecedented discovery, an ancient text found at Deir Alla, Jordan, in 1967 tells about the activities of a prophet named Balaam. Could this be the Balaam of the Old Testament? The text makes it clear that it is. Three times in the first four lines he is referred to as “Balaam son of Beor,” exactly as in the Bible. This represents the first Old Testament prophet to be dug up in Bible lands — not his tomb or his skeleton, but a text about him. The text also represents the first prophecy of any scope from the ancient West Semitic world to be found outside the Old Testament, and the first extra-Biblical example of a prophet proclaiming doom to his own people.

Balaam was not an Israelite. He was hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites. They were camped on the east side of the Jordan river, about to make their historic entry into the promised land. Through God’s intervention Balaam was obliged to bless the Israelites rather than curse them (Nm 22–24). Afterwards, Balaam seems to have been the cause of the Israelites’ sin in Numbers 25 when they took Moabite and Midianite women and worshipped the Moabite god Baal-Peor (Nm 31:16). Balaam was eventually killed when Moses sent the Israelites against the Midianites (Nm 31). He is further condemned in Scripture in 2 Peter 2:15 (he loved the wages of unrighteousness), Jude 11 (ungodly men ran greedily after the

error of Balaam for reward) and Revelation 2:14 (he taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication).

The remarkable text found at Deir Alla consists of 119 fragments of plaster inscribed with black and red ink. It was among the rubble of a building destroyed in an earthquake. It seems to have been one long column with at least 50 lines, displayed on a plastered wall. According to the excavators’ dating, the disaster was most likely the severe earthquake which occurred in the time of King Uzziah (Azariah) and the prophet Amos in about 760 BC (Am 1:1; Zec 14:5). The lower part of the text shows signs of wear, indicating that it had been on the wall for some time prior to the earthquake.

Written in Aramaic, the text begins with the title “Warnings from the Book...

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