The theology of the balaam oracles: a pagan diviner and the word of god



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THE THEOLOGY OF THE BALAAM ORACLES:

A PAGAN DIVINER AND THE WORD OF GOD

A Dissertation

Presented to

the Faculty of the Graduate School

Dallas Theological Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree

Doctor of Theology

by

Ronald Barclay Allen



© 1973; Ronald Allen

report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at thildebrandt@gordon.edu

Cited with permission.

Accepted by the Faculty of the Dallas Theological Seminary

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of

Theology.

Examining Committee
Bruce K. Waltke

Kenneth Barker


Charles C. Ryrie

THE THEOLOGY OF THE BALAAM ORACLES:

A PAGAN DIVINER AND THE WORD OF GOD
Ronald Barclay Allen, Th. D.

The aim of this thesis is to explore, exegete and display the

riches of the oracles of Balaam (Numbers 22-24) as they related to the broad

history of Old Testament studies, and more particularly to Old Testament

theology. The oracles of Balaam are a fitting corpus for such a task as they

have long been regarded as both a test case for literary criticism and as the

quintessence of Pentateuchal theology.

The study begins with a survey of the employment of the oracles

of Balaam as used at Qumran, and by Bar Kochba, the Church Fathers, and the

Talmud. Possible references to Balaam in the Quran are also discussed.

Since the oracles of Balaam have long been regarded as the test

case for literary criticism, a rather thorough study is made of the reconstructions

of the Balaam materials by a number of leading scholars, including Wellhausen,

Lohr, Mowinckel, Burrows, Albright, von Pakozdy, and Eissfeldt. Next, a

thorough study is undertaken relative to the critical issues concerning Balaam

from a positive, harmonistic viewpoint. Balaam is seen to be from North

Syria (Pitru/Amau, near the Euphrates). He is best viewed not as a "true" or

"false" prophet, but rather outside of biblical prophetism altogether. He was it

a pagan diviner of the class baru (cf. apilu), who was used by Yahweh in a

sovereign manner for His own glory. All passages relative to the oracles and

person of Balaam are discussed.

iii
Since the Balaam oracles have been regarded to be the quin--

tessence of Pentateuchal theology, the next task in the present thesis is

to exegete and display the theological contributions of this pericope. Each

of the oracles is exegeted in the context of the curse motif and the masal

Gattung. Then, within the context of sound methodology in theological

research, including the proper use of Heilsgeschichte, the oracles of Balaam

are seen to be an outstanding medium for the revelation of the center of

theology: Yahweh, the God of Israel. Yahweh is revealed in these materials

by appellation, attribute, and mighty act.

Finally, the oracles of Balaam are related to the current crisis

in inerrancy and the ongoing conflict of ministry.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Readers of dissertations perhaps grow weary by expressions of

gratitude; writers of dissertations know that these expressions are necessary

as they are genuinely deserved.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Lord for

having guided me to Dallas Theological Seminary for my theological training

which culminates in the present paper. Moreover, I would like to single out

two professors who were most influential in my life in the six years of study

at Dallas Seminary, Dr. Bruce K. Waltke and Dr. Haddon W. Robinson. I

find that there is scarcely a class that I teach in which I do not feel my keen

indebtedness to you men for your profound influence in my ministry.

I also wish to thank in a public way Mrs. Betty Lu Johnstone

and her staff at the Library of the Western Conservative Baptist Seminary

for being most gracious in helping me receive scores of items on inter-library

loans. I also wish to thank Mrs. Paul K. Jewett of Fuller Theological Sem-

inary Library for her kind assistance to me in the summer of 1971. There

must also be a special "nod of the hat" to my colleagues and students who

paced the father's waiting room with me during this project.

Finally, I would like to express my deepest thanks to the mem-

bers of my family for their help to me while writing this paper. I wish to thank

v

my mother, Mrs. Vantoria Norwood, who typed the bibliography for me.



Most especially I wish to thank my children and my wife--only they know

how much encouragement I needed--and they gave it.1

A word may be said at this point concerning Bible quotations

in the present paper. If no source is given, the translation is my own.

Where I have used the New American Standard Bible, I have taken the liberty

to substitute Yahweh for LORD, despite the disclaimer of the editor of that

edition on p. ix.

Now in the words of Horace, to my dissertation--these words:

Well, Book, how well I see

You want to look like a book

And be liber, be free of me:

Portland, Oregon. February, 1973


1 With apologies to Carol Christ and Judith M. Plaskow Bolden-

berg; I am not sure how they would classify this Gattung. "For the Advance-

ment of My Career: A Form Critical Study in the Art of Acknowledgement,

Council on the Study of Religion Bulletin, III (June, 1972), 10-14.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABBREVIATIONS ix

Chapter


I. INTRODUCTION 1

The Importance of the Study

In the Context of Old Testament Studies

The Subject Itself

The Limits of the Study

IL AN HISTORICAL SURVEY: BACKGROUND, SUMMARY, AND

EARLY TRADITION 18

Introduction

The Background of the Narrative

A Summary of the Narrative

The Balaam Oracles at Qumran

4 Q Testimonia

The Damascus Document

The Order of Warfare

Summary

The Balaam Oracles and Bar Kochba



The Balaam Oracles and the Church Fathers

Balaam in the Talmud

Balaam in the Qur'an

Summary


III. A CRITICAL STUDY: BALAAM IN MODERN SCHOLARSHIP 55

Introduction

The Reconstruction of Wellhausen

The Reconstruction of Lohr

The Reconstruction of Mcwinckel

The Reconstruction of Burrows

The Reconstruction of Albright

The Reconstruction of von Pakozdy

The Reconstruction of Eissfeldt

Summary


vii

IV. A CRITICAL STUDY: A POSITIVE PRESENTATION OF CRITICAL

ISSUES 135

Introduction

The Meaning of the Naine of Balaam

Names in Israel and the Ancient Near East

Balaam and Bela

The Name Balaam

The Name Beor

The Name Balak

Summary

The Homeland of Balaam



Introduction

The Identity of "The River"

The Location of "Pethor"

The Meaning of the Phrase "The Land of the Sons

of His People"

Summary


The Character and Role of Balaam

Introduction

An Approach of Mediation: Hengstenberg

An Interpretation of His Character: Butler

An Understanding of His Role: Daiches

A Synthesis: Balaam the Diviner

A Recent Development: Prophetis m at Mari

A Comparison and a Contrast

Balaam in the Old Testament

The Sequel--Numbers 25

Other Old Testament Passages

Summary


New Testament Citations of Balaam

The Source of the Balaam Narrative

Conclusion
V. AN EXEGETICAL STUDY: THE ORACLES OF BALAAM 235

Introduction

The Role of the Curse

The Term Masal

The Unity and Structure of the Oracles

An Exegesis of the Oracles

Conclusion

viii


VI. A THEOLOGICAL STUDY: THE THEOLOGY OF THE BALAAM

PERICOPE 333

Introduction

The Basis for Sound Theology

The Existence of God

The Revelation of God

Contrast with the Ancient Near East

The Role of Presuppositions

Summary

The Mitte of Theology is God



God is the center of the Old Testament as a Whole

God is the center of the Balaam Narrative

Balaam's Employment of the Appellatives of God

Yahweh


Elohim

El

Shaddai



Elyon

Melek


Summary

The Role of Heilsgeschichte

The Heilsgeschichte of the Balaam Oracles

The Blessing of Yahweh

The Attributes of Yahweh

The Incomparability of Yahweh

The Sovereignty of Yahweh

The Immutability of Yahweh

The Love of Yahweh

The Righteous Acts of Yahweh

His Acts and the Spoken Word

His Acts and the Donkey Story

His Acts as the Deliverer

Summary


Conclusion
VII. CONCLUSION: AN APOLOGETIC AND AN APPLICATION 462

Introduction

An Apologetic: Balaam and the Word

An Application: Balaam and the Ministry


APPENDIX: "Donkey's Delight, " by C. S. Lewis 469

BIBLIOGRAPHY 471

ABBREVIATIONS
AGL W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of

the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature

AH W. von Soden, ed. , Akkadische Handworterbuch

AJSLL The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature

AJT American Journal of Theology

ANEP J. B. Pritchard, ed. , The Ancient Near East in Pictures

ANES Idem, ed. , The Ancient Near East: Supplementary Texts and Pictures Relating to the Old Testament

ANET Idem , ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts.

AOF Archiv fur Orient-Forschund

ASTI Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute

ATR Anglican Theological Review

BA The Biblical Archaeologist

BAG C. Bezold, Babylonisch-Assyrisches Glossar

BASOR Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research

BDB F. Brown, , S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, ed. , A Hebrew and

English Lexicon of the Old Testament

BETS Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society

BHis. Buried History

BJRL Bulletin of the John Rylands Library

x

BK Bibel and Kirche



BS Bibliotheca Sacra

BZAW Beiheft zur Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

CAD A. L. Oppenheim, ed., The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental

Institute of the University of Chicago

CBQ The Catholic Biblical Quarterly

CHAL W. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of

the Old Testament

CJT Canadian Journal of Theology

CQR Church Quarterly Review

CS Cahiers Sioniens

CT Christianity Today

CTS Calvin Theological Journal

CTM The Concordia Theological Monthly

CUL R. Whittaker, A Concordance of the Ugaritic Literature

CV Communio Viatorum

DISO C. -F. Jean and J. Hoftizjer, Dictionnaire des Inscriptions

Semitiaues de 1'Ouest

DP Deutsches Pfarrerblatt

EI Eretz Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical

Studies

EQ The Evangelical Quartet

ET The Expository Times

xi

Expos. The Expositor



GKC E. Kautzsch, ed. , Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, trans. and ed.

by A. E. Cowley.



HAED J. G. Hava, Al-Faraid: Arabic-English Dictionary

HR The Homiletic Review

HSN B. Waltke, "Hebrew Syntax Notes."

HTR Harvard Theological Review

HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual

ICC S. R Driver and Alfred Plummer, ed., The International Critical

Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments

Int. Interpretation

Jastrow, Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud



Dictionary Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature

JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society

JBC R. Brown, J. Fitzmyer and R. Murphy, ed., The Jerome Bible

Commentary

JBL Journal of Biblical Literature

BR Journal of Bible and Religion

JETS Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

JJS The Journal of Jewish Studies

Jouon, P. Jouon, Grammaire de 1'Hebreu Biblique



Grammaire

JQR The Jewish Quarterly Review

JSS Journal of Semitic Studies

xii


JTC Journal of Theology and Church

KBL L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti

Libros

KBL. Supp. Idem, Supplementum ad Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros

KBL3 Idem, Hebraisches and Aramaisches Lexikon zum Alten Testament,

3d ed.


KHAT G. Lisowsky, Konkordanz zum Hebraischen Alten Testament

KHAW E. Konig, Hebraisches and Aramaisches Worterbuch zum Alten

Testament

Lane E. W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, Book I in 8 Parts.



LQ Lutheran Quarterly

NBD J. D. Douglas, ed., The New Bible Dictionary

OL Orientalistche Literaturzeitung

OS Oudtestamentische Studien

OTS The Old Testament Student

PEQ Palestine Exploration Quarterly

RE The Review and Expositor

RYIDEL J. Stein, ed. , The Random House Dictionary of the English

Language: The Unabridged Edition

RS Revue Semitique

RSP, I Ras Shamra Parallels, Vol. I.

RSR Recherces de Science Religion

RTR Reformed Theological Review

xiii


Scr. Scripture

SJT Scottish Journal of Theology

SVT Supplements to Vetus Testamentum

SWT Southwestern Journal of Theology

TB Tyndale Bulletin

TDNT G. Kittel and G. Friedrich, ed., Theological Dictionary of the

New Testament, trans. by G. W. Bromiley

THAT E. Jenni and C. Westermann, ed., Theologisches Handworter-

buch zum Alten Testament, Vol. I.

TS Theological Studies

TSFB Tyndale Student Fellowship Bulletin

TT Theology Today

TWAT G. Botterweck and H. Ringgren, Theologisches Worterbuch

zum Alten Testament, Vol. I.

TZ Theologische Zeitschrift

UF Ugarit Forschungen

UT C. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook

VT Vetus Testamentum

WB M. Avi Yonah and A Malamat, The World of the Bible

WBC C., F. Pfeiffer and E. F. Harrison, ed., The Wycliffe Bible

Commentary

WHS R. Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline

WTJ Westminster Theological Journal

xiv


WUS J. Aistleitner, Worterbuch der Ugaritischen Sprache

ZAW Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
Texts and Versions

BHK R Kittel, ed. Biblica Hebraica

BHS G. Elliger, ed., Biblica Hebraica (Stuttgartensia)

LXX Septuagint

MT Mas(s)oretic Text

SP Samaritan Pentateuch

Syr. Syriac

Vulg. Vulgate


English Translations of the Bible

A. 0. T. The Amplified Old Testament

A. S. V. The American Standard Version

A. T. Das Alte Testament

B. V. M. E. The Berkeley Version in Modern English

K.J.-II King James II Version

J. B. The Jerusalem Bible

L. B. The Living Bible, Paraphrased

N. A. S. B. The Now American Standard Bible

N. E. B. The New English Bible

N. S. R. B. The New Scofield Reference Bible

xv

R. S. V. Revised Standard Version.



S. B. J. La Sainte Bible . . . de Jerusalem

S. B. S. La Sainte Bible . Seyond

Torah The Torah, Jewish Publication Society (1962).

Y. L. T. R Young, Young's Literal Translation


Other Sigla

Symbols used in putative source analysis:

J The Jawhist (Yahwist) (s)

E The Elohist(s)

D The Deuteronomist(s)

P The Priestly Writer(s)

R The Redactor(s)

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

The Importance of the Study
In the Context of Old Testament Studies

The writer is occasionally asked by a person to whom he is newly

introduced, "Whatever led you to study the Old Testament?" Sometimes this

question is stated with such incredulity, that the writer has had to pause a

moment to frame an answer that would be in keeping with the niceties of social-

introduction Gattungen. It is perhaps a good thing that such awakenings

sometimes grip one, for they serve as reminders that for many in our age, even

among believers, the Old Testament is regarded as a rather quaint field of

study.

One does not have to search long for reasons for such views



about the Old Testament as a discipline. The average Christian has a shocking

lack of insight into the worth of the Hebrew Scriptures. In part, at least, this

is due to the neglect of the Old Testament in the pulpits of the churches of our

Gleason L. Archer, Jr., recently expressed his chagrin over this lamen-

table fact:

Curious to observe and hard to understand is the relative neglect of

the Old Testament by Christians in our day as Sunday after Sunday the

2

average church attendant in the average evangelical, Bible-believing



church hears no message at all from the Hebrew Scriptures. Such

Scriptures may be referred to with respect, or cited as proof in confir-

mation of New Testament teaching; but nearly all the expository messages

are taken from the Greek Scriptures.1

We have indeed "gone a long way since Ezra Stiles, president of

Yale University, himself taught the freshmen and other classes Hebrew, and

In 1781 delivered his commencement address in Hebrew."2 It, is not going too

far, moreover, to compare the present lack of emphasis on the Old Testament

with a nascent return to Marcionism. As a matter of fact, John Bright insists

that there has always been a Marcionist strain in our churches:

This Marcionist strain, so clearly evident in the centuries that

preceded us, has never died out but has continued on down to the

present day. And always it has voiced the complaint that there is so

much in the Old Testament that is alien and unedifying to the Christian,

and that cannot be normative for him, that he would probably be better

off without it.3

At another point he clarifies:

Let us not magnify the dangers. But let us not minimize them

either, for there is--if I know the situation at all--not a little neo-

Marcionism in our churches. It has no official standing--indeed, under

that name it scarcely exists at all--but it is unofficially present none-

theless: call it a practical Marcionism, an implicit Marcionism, an

inconsequent Marcionism, or what you will. That is to say, there are
1Gleason L. Archer, Jr. , "A New Look at the Old Testament, "

Decision XIII (August, 1972), 5.

2 Harry M. Orlinsky, "The Textual Criticism of the Old Testament, "

Bible and the Ancient Near East: Essays in Honor of William Foxwell

Albright, ed. G. Ernest Wright, Anchor Books (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday

1965), p. 141.



3 John Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament (Nashville and

Abingdon Press, 1967), p. 64.

3

many of our people who never heard of Marcion and who would be



horrified to learn of the company they are in but who nevertheless

use the Old Testament in a distinctly Marcionist manner. Formally,

and no doubt sincerely, they hail it as canonical Scripture; but in

practice they relegate it to a subordinate position, if they do not

effectively exclude it from use altogether.1

It is the impression of the present writer that this is also the case

in many churches of a more evangelical and fundamental nature than the churches

its the purview of Professor Bright of Union Seminary, Richmond, Virginia.

Church members--and pastors--who would shrink from any designation con-

taining the preformative "neo-" [with its connotations of "Neo-Orthodox, "

"Neo-Liberal, " or even "Neo-Evangelical"] are nonetheless rightly to be

identified as "Neo-Marcionite. "

The relative neglect of the Old Testament by the Christian pub-

lic in general, and by evangelical pastors in particular, seems to the present

writer to be a disgrace, and certainly must be considered as dishonoring to

God. But beyond these factors, the writer cannot help but to call attention

to the loss the individual suffers who neglects the delights of the Hebrew

Scriptures, which are indeed sweeter than honey from the comb and more

precious than refined gold. The writer can understand with sympathy the senti-

ment noted by W. B. Riley as he described a visitor of the grandfather of

Charles Haddon Spurgeon. "He found the old man of eighty-eight summers so

intent upon reading the Holy Book that he only welcomed the stranger with a



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