The Case of the Non-Jewish Prophet

With his fatal weakness for the lure of fame and fortune, the prophet-for-hire Balaam seems completely our contemporary.

From Balaam and His Ass by Rembrandt, 1626. Wikipedia.

From Balaam and His Ass by Rembrandt, 1626. Wikipedia.

Atar Hadari
Observation
July 6 2017
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


This week’s Torah reading of Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9) is named after the king of Moab, who sets its plot in motion. Its true protagonist, however, is the prophetic hit man Balaam, who fatally accepts Balak’s commission and proceeds to listen to his royal client rather than to the source of his genuine prophecies—who is of course the Lord.

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