Victory over the Canaanites
1 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that the Israelites were approaching on the road through Atharim. So he attacked the Israelites and took some of them as prisoners. 2 Then the people of Israel made this vow to the Lord: “If you will hand these people over to us, we will completely destroy all their towns.” 3 The Lord heard the Israelites’ request and gave them victory over the Canaanites. The Israelites completely destroyed them and their towns, and the place has been called Hormah ever since.
The Bronze Snake
4 Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Seato go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, 5 and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”
6 So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. 7 Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” 9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!
Israel’s Journey to Moab
10 The Israelites traveled next to Oboth and camped there. 11 Then they went on to Iye-abarim, in the wilderness on the eastern border of Moab. 12 From there they traveled to the valley of Zered Brook and set up camp. 13 Then they moved out and camped on the far side of the Arnon River, in the wilderness adjacent to the territory of the Amorites. The Arnon is the boundary line between the Moabites and the Amorites. 14 For this reason The Book of the Wars of the Lord speaks of “the town of Waheb in the area of Suphah, and the ravines of the Arnon River,15 and the ravines that extend as far as the settlement of Ar on the border of Moab.”
16 From there the Israelites traveled to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Assemble the people, and I will give them water.” 17 There the Israelites sang this song:
“Spring up, O well!
Yes, sing its praises!
18 Sing of this well,
which princes dug,
which great leaders hollowed out
with their scepters and staffs.”
Then the Israelites left the wilderness and proceeded on through Mattanah,19 Nahaliel, and Bamoth. 20 After that they went to the valley in Moab where Pisgah Peak overlooks the wasteland.
Victory over Sihon and Og
21 The Israelites sent ambassadors to King Sihon of the Amorites with this message:
22 “Let us travel through your land. We will be careful not to go through your fields and vineyards. We won’t even drink water from your wells. We will stay on the king’s road until we have passed through your territory.”
23 But King Sihon refused to let them cross his territory. Instead, he mobilized his entire army and attacked Israel in the wilderness, engaging them in battle at Jahaz. 24 But the Israelites slaughtered them with their swords and occupied their land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River. They went only as far as the Ammonite border because the boundary of the Ammonites was fortified.
25 So Israel captured all the towns of the Amorites and settled in them, including the city of Heshbon and its surrounding villages. 26 Heshbon had been the capital of King Sihon of the Amorites. He had defeated a former Moabite king and seized all his land as far as the Arnon River. 27 Therefore, the ancient poets wrote this about him:
“Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt!
Let the city of Sihon be restored.
28 A fire flamed forth from Heshbon,
a blaze from the city of Sihon.
It burned the city of Ar in Moab;
it destroyed the rulers of the Arnon heights.
29 What sorrow awaits you, O people of Moab!
You are finished, O worshipers of Chemosh!
Chemosh has left his sons as refugees,
his daughters as captives of Sihon, the Amorite king.
30 We have utterly destroyed them,
from Heshbon to Dibon.
We have completely wiped them out
as far away as Nophah and Medeba.”
31 So the people of Israel occupied the territory of the Amorites. 32 After Moses sent men to explore the Jazer area, they captured all the towns in the region and drove out the Amorites who lived there. 33 Then they turned and marched up the road to Bashan, but King Og of Bashan and all his people attacked them at Edrei.34 The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, along with all his people and his land. Do the same to him as you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon.” 35 And Israel killed King Og, his sons, and all his subjects; not a single survivor remained. Then Israel occupied their land.
Balak Sends for Balaam
1 Then the people of Israel traveled to the plains of Moab and camped east of the Jordan River, across from Jericho. 2 Balak son of Zippor, the Moabite king, had seen everything the Israelites did to the Amorites. 3 And when the people of Moab saw how many Israelites there were, they were terrified. 4 The king of Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This mob will devour everything in sight, like an ox devours grass in the field!”
So Balak, king of Moab, 5 sent messengers to call Balaam son of Beor, who was living in his native land of Pethor near the Euphrates River. His message said:
“Look, a vast horde of people has arrived from Egypt. They cover the face of the earth and are threatening me. 6 Please come and curse these people for me because they are too powerful for me. Then perhaps I will be able to conquer them and drive them from the land. I know that blessings fall on any people you bless, and curses fall on people you curse.”
7 Balak’s messengers, who were elders of Moab and Midian, set out with money to pay Balaam to place a curse upon Israel. They went to Balaam and delivered Balak’s message to him. 8 “Stay here overnight,” Balaam said. “In the morning I will tell you whatever the Lord directs me to say.” So the officials from Moab stayed there with Balaam.
9 That night God came to Balaam and asked him, “Who are these men visiting you?”
10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent me this message: 11 ‘Look, a vast horde of people has arrived from Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come and curse these people for me. Then perhaps I will be able to stand up to them and drive them from the land.’”
12 But God told Balaam, “Do not go with them. You are not to curse these people, for they have been blessed!”
13 The next morning Balaam got up and told Balak’s officials, “Go on home! The Lord will not let me go with you.”
14 So the Moabite officials returned to King Balak and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.” 15 Then Balak tried again. This time he sent a larger number of even more distinguished officials than those he had sent the first time. 16 They went to Balaam and delivered this message to him:
“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Please don’t let anything stop you from coming to help me. 17 I will pay you very well and do whatever you tell me. Just come and curse these people for me!”
18 But Balaam responded to Balak’s messengers, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the Lord my God. 19 But stay here one more night, and I will see if the Lord has anything else to say to me.”
20 That night God came to Balaam and told him, “Since these men have come for you, get up and go with them. But do only what I tell you to do.”
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time he fled from Saul and went into the cave. To be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy!”
1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!
I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings
until the danger passes by.
2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.
3 He will send help from heaven to rescue me,
disgracing those who hound me. Interlude
My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.
4 I am surrounded by fierce lions
who greedily devour human prey—
whose teeth pierce like spears and arrows,
and whose tongues cut like swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens!
May your glory shine over all the earth.
6 My enemies have set a trap for me.
I am weary from distress.
They have dug a deep pit in my path,
but they themselves have fallen into it. Interlude
7 My heart is confident in you, O God;
my heart is confident.
No wonder I can sing your praises!
8 Wake up, my heart!
Wake up, O lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn with my song.
9 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations.
10 For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
May your glory shine over all the earth.
9 With their words, the godless destroy their friends,
but knowledge will rescue the righteous.
10 The whole city celebrates when the godly succeed;
they shout for joy when the wicked die.
11 Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper,
but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.