on Numbers 22 :6
Come now, therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people - Balaam, once a prophet of the true God, appears to have been one of the Moshelim, (see Numbers 21:27), who had added to his poetic gift that of sorcery or divination. It was supposed that prophets and sorcerers had a power to curse persons and places so as to confound all their designs, frustrate their counsels, enervate their strength, and fill them with fear, terror, and dismay. See Genesis 9:25; Psalm 109:6, Psalm 109:20; Joshua 6:26; Jeremiah 17:5, Jeremiah 17:6.
Macrobius has a whole chapter De carmine quo evocari solebant dii tutelares, et aut urbes, aut exercitus devoveri. "Of the incantations which were used to induce the tutelary gods to forsake the cities, etc., over which they presided, and to devote cities and whole armies to destruction." See Saturnal., lib. iii., cap. ix. He gives us two of the ancient forms used in reference to the destruction of Carthage; the first, to call over the protecting deities, was pronounced by the dictator or general, and none other, when they began the siege. It is as follows, literatim et punctatim: -
Si. Deus. si. Dea. est. cui. popolus. civitas. que. Karthaginiensis. est in. tutela. te. que. maxime, ille. qui. urbis. hujus. popoli. que. tutelam. recepisti. precor. veneror, que. veniam. que. a. vobis. peto. ut. vos. popolum. civitatem. que. Karthaginiensem. deseratis. loca. templa. sacra. urbem. que. eorum. relinquatis. absque. his. abeatis. ei. que. popolo. civitati. que. metum. formidinem. oblivionem. injiciatis. proditi. que. Romam. ad. me. meos. que. veniatis. nostra. que. vobis. loca. templa. sacra. urbs. acceptior. probatior. que. sit. mihi. que. popolo. que. Romano. militibus. que. meis. praepositi. sitis. ut. sciamus. intelligamus. que. Si. ita. feceritis. voveo. vobis. templa. ludos. que. facturum.
"Whether it be god or goddess, under whose protection the people and city of Carthage are placed; and thee, especially, who hast undertaken to defend this city and people; I pray, beseech, and earnestly entreat that you would forsake the people and city of Carthage, and leave their places, temples, sacred things, and city, and depart from them: and that you would inspire this people and city with fear, terror, and forgetfulness: and that, coming out from them, you would pass over to Rome, to me, and to mine: and that our places, temples, sacred things, and city may be more agreeable and more acceptable to you: and that you would preside over me, the Roman people, and my soldiers; that we may know and perceive it. If ye will do this, I promise to consecrate to your honor both temples and games."
The second, to devote the city to destruction, which it was supposed the tutelary gods had abandoned, is the following:
Dis. Pater. Vejovis. Manes. sive. vos. quo. allo. nomine. fas. est. nominare. ut. omnes. iliam. urbem. Karthaginem. exercitum. que. quem. ego. me. sentio. dicere. fuga. formidine. terrore. que. compleatis. qui. que. adversum. legiones. exercitum. que. nostrum. arma. tela. que. ferent. Uti. vos. eum. exercitum. eos. hostes. eos. que. homines. urbes. agros. que. eorum. et. qui. in. his. locis. regionibus. que. agris. urbibus. ve. habitant. abducatis. lumine. supero. privetis. exercitum. que. hostium. urbes. agros. que. eorum. quos. me. sentio. dicere. uti. vos. eas. urbes. agros. que. capita. aetates. que. eorum. devotas. consecratas. que. habeatis. illis. legibus. quibus. quando. que. sunt. maxime. hostes. devoti. eos. que. ego. vicarios. pro. me. fide. magistratu. que. meo. pro. popolo. Romano. exercitibus. legionibus. que. nostris. do. devoveo. ut. me. meam. que. fidem. imperium. que. legiones. exercitum. que. nostrum. qui. in. his. rebus. gerundis. sunt. bene. salvos. siritis. esse. Si. haec. ita. faxitis. ut. ego. sciam. sentiam. intelligam. que. tune. quisquis. hoc. votum. faxit. ubi. ubi. faxit. recte. factum. esto. ovibus. atris. tribus. Tellus. mater. te. que. Juppiter. obtestor.
"Dis. Pater. Vejosis. Manes., or by whatsoever name you wish to be invoked, I pray you to fill this city of Carthage with fear and terror; and to put that army to flight which I mention, and which bears arms or darts against Our legions and armies: and that ye may take away this army, those enemies, those men, their cities and their country, and all who dwell in those places, regions, countries, or cities; and deprive them of the light above: and let all their armies, cities, country, chiefs, and people be held by you consecrated and devoted, according to those laws by which, and at what time, enemies can be most effectually devoted. I also give and devote them as vicarious sacrifices for myself and my magistracy; for the Roman people, and for all our armies and legions; and for the whole empire, and that all the armies and legions which are employed in these countries may be preserved in safety. If therefore ye will do these things, as I know, conceive, and intend, then he who makes this vow wheresoever and whensoever he shall make it, I engage shall sacrifice three black sheep to thee, O mother Earth, and to thee. O Jupiter." "When the execrator mentions the earth, he stoops down and places both his hands on it; and when he names Jupiter, he lifts up both his hands to heaven; and when he mentions his vow, he places his hands upon his breast." Among the ancient records, Macrobius says he found many cities and people devoted in this way. The Romans held that no city could be taken till its tutelary god had forsaken it; or if it could be taken, it would be unlawful, as it would be sacrilegious to have the gods in captivity. They therefore endeavored to persuade the gods of their enemies to come over to their party. Virgil intimates that Troy was destroyed, only because the tutelary gods had forsaken it: -
Excessere omnes, adytis arisque relictis,
Dii, quibus imperium hoc steterat.
Aen., lib. ii., ver. 351.
"All the gods, by whose assistance the empire had hitherto been preserved, forsook their altars and their temples."
And it was on this account that the Greeks employed all their artifice to steal away the Palladium, on which they believed the safety of Troy depended.
Tacitus observes that when Suetonius Paulinus prepared his army to cross over into Mona, (Anglesea), where the Britons and Druids made their last stand, the priestesses, with dishevelled hair, white vestments, and torches in their hands, ran about like furies, devoting their enemies to destruction; and he farther adds that the sight, the attitude, and horrible imprecations of these priestesses had such effect on the Roman soldiers, that for a while they stood still and suffered themselves to be pierced with the darts of the Britons, without making any resistance. Tacit. Ann., l. xiv., c. 29. Many accounts are related in the Hindoo Pooran of kings employing sages to curse their enemies when too powerful for them - Ward's Customs.
The Jews also had a most horrible form of execration, as may be seen in Buxtorf's Talmudical Lexicon under the word תדם. These observations and authorities, drawn out in so much detail, are necessary to cast light on the strange and curious history related in this and the two following chapters.
on Numbers 22 :6
on Numbers 22 :6
22:6 Curse them for my sake and benefit; use thy utmost power, which thou hast with thy Gods, to blast and ruin them. We may smite them - Thou by thy imprecations, and I by my sword.