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For other uses, see Balak (disambiguation).

Balak was a king of Moab described in the Book of Numbers in the Hebrew Bible, where his dealings with the prophet Balaam are recounted. Balak tried to engage Balaam for the purpose of cursing the migrating Israelite community (Numbers 22:1-5). A famous but enigmatic scene when Balaam talk with a speaking donkey ensues (Numbers 22:21-35). According to Numbers 22:2, and Joshua 24:9, Balak was the son of Zippor.

In the preceding chapter of Numbers,[1] the Israelites, seeking the Promised Land following their Exodus from Egypt, had defeated the Canaanites at a place named Hormah, the Amorites and the people of Bashan, and next approached Moab. The biblical narrative stresses the fears of the people of Moab, who were 'exceedingly afraid' and 'sick with dread' (NKJV) or 'terrified (GNT) (Numbers 22:3). Their fears appear to relate to the size of the Israelite population and the consequent resource depletion which could be expected if they were permitted to occupy Moabite land.

Balak initially conferred with his Midianite allies [2] in order to block Israelite settlement, before sending his elders to seek Balaam's curse on them. The Midianites appear to have been co-located with the Moabites - according to the Targum of Jonathan, they were one alliance of people at this time [3] and therefore had a common interest in preventing Israelite settlement of the area.

After his mission with Balaam to curse Israelites was vain, Balak decided to ally with Midianite to gather their maid in order to lead Israelites men astray in adultery.

Other sources detailing the story of Balak:

According to the Pulpit Commentary, Balak seems to be mentioned by name on a papyrus in the British Museum.[4]

New Testament[edit]

Revelation 2:12 - 2:14 also refers to Balak:

12 `And to the messenger of the assembly in Pergamos write: These things saith he who is having the sharp two-edged sword:
13 I have known thy works, and where thou dost dwell—where the throne of the Adversary [is] -- and thou dost hold fast my name, and thou didst not deny my faith, even in the days in which Antipas [was] my faithful witness, who was put to death beside you, where the Adversary doth dwell.
14 `But I have against thee a few things: That thou hast there those holding the teaching of Balaam, who did teach Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat idol-sacrifices, and to commit whoredom. (Young's Literal Translation)[1]

Weekly Torah Portion[edit]

Balak is also the name of the weekly parshah or portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading, constituting Numbers 22:2–25:9 which tells the story of Balak.


There are various proposed etymologies for the name Balak, all having to do with "waste" - The name Balak comes from the sparsely used Hebrew verb (balaq), waste or lay waste (Isaiah 24:1,3; Jeremiah 51:2). There are no derivations of this verb besides this name. Other proposals are: Devastator (BDB Theological Dictionary), Empty (NOBS Study Bible Name List), or Wasting (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names).


  1. ^ Numbers 21
  2. ^ Numbers 22:4
  3. ^ Gill's Exposition of the Bible accessed 24 June 2015
  4. ^ accessed 21 June 2015