Some translations say [Israel], while majority of the others say [you].

[New International Version] Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness--who dares to rouse them? "May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!"

[New Living Translation] Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel , and cursed is everyone who curses you.”

Other translations https://biblehub.com/numbers/24-9.htm

A previous verse (24:5) speaks of Jacob in most translations, but atleast two translations omit Jacob,

[New International Version] "How beautiful are your tents, Jacob , your dwelling places, Israel!

[New Living Translation] How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob ; how lovely are your homes, O Israel!

[Contemporary English Version] [no Jacob] "People of Israel, your camp is lovely.

[Good News Translation] [no Jacob] The tents of Israel are beautiful

Other translations https://biblehub.com/numbers/24-5.htm

[Genesis 27:29] shows a similar verse to [Numbers 24:9], but the former is of Isaac speaking of Jacob,

[New International Version] May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed ."

Other translations seem identical, https://biblehub.com/genesis/27-29.htm

Who is being referred to in Numbers 24:9, and what is the reason for the differences (if any)?

2 Answers 2


The word "Israel" is not found in Numbers 24:9 in the Masoretic Text (Hebrew), the Septuagint (Greek), or the Vulgate (Latin), which is why most translations do not include it in this verse. But, as you noted, the beginning of the chapter makes it clear that the prophecy/message is about the people of Israel. Jacob is another name for Israel, and both names are used in verse 5.

Balaam is delivering this message in the presence of Balak, king of Moab. If you only look at the second half of verse 9 and you read "May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!", you might think that he is blessing Balak. However, it is clear from the entire message that "you" refers to the people of Israel, not to Balak. Balak understood this, because he gets angry with Balaam in verse 10.

Presumably to avoid confusion, the New Living Translation decided to explicitly clarify that "you" in verse 9 still refers to Israel.

  • So is Numbers 24:9 referring to, Jacob the person or to Israel the nation ?
    – Samid
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 21:29
  • The entire message, from verse 3 to verse 9, is about the people of the nation of Israel, who are the descendants of Jacob/Israel the person, despite the fact that Balaam is speaking this in the presence of Balak, king of Moab. Balak understood this, because he gets angry at Balaam in verse 10.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 21:36

Jacob IS Israel (Genesis 35:10), so Jacob and Israel is often used interchangeably, meaning the descendants (or people) of Israel. As for "you" in Numbers 24:9, this is also referring to the people of Israel who are addressed here. The whole people is referred to as one person "Israel/Jacob" who is their forefather.

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