Was Balaam and Lavan the same person?

  1. Question: [Sunday, 13th Tamuz, 5783]

I have heard various conflicting things of the relationship between Balaam and Lavan with some saying that they were the same person and others saying that they were relatives and others saying that there is no connection. Can you clarify this matter?


Indeed, in the teaching of our sages there is a clear connection between the two personalities of Balam and Lavan, however, the degree of connection is disputed.

  • Father and son: According to the Talmud[1], Balaam was the son of Lavan, who was otherwise known as Beor.
  • Grandson: According to the Zohar[2], Balaam was the grandson of Lavan, being the son of Beor who was the son of Lavan.
  • The same person: According to the Targum[3], Balaam and Lavan were one and the same person. Some, however, explicitly negate this.[4]
  • The incarnation of Lavan: According to the teachings of the Arizal[5], Balaam was the incarnation of Lavan.

Similarities in Scripture: Throughout Scripture we find a number of similarities between Balaam was and Lavan, including:

  • They both lived in Aram Naharayim.[6]
  • They both had prophecy from G-d and both had it at night.[7]
  • They both wanted to curse and harm the Jewish people and were stopped by G-d.[8]


[1] Sanhedrin 105a; See also Bava Basra 15b that Balaam and his father were one of the seven prophets of the Gentile nations, and we must say that Lavan was one of them as explicitly stated in Scripture, and hence we must conclude that Beor was none other than Lavan.

[2] Zohar Vayishlach 33; 22:23

[3] Targum Yonason Ben Uziel on Bamidbar 22:5 and 31:8

[4] Even Ezra Bereishis 36:32

[5] Shaar Hagilgulim Hakdama 22 p. 62 and p. 116;

[6] Bereishis 24:10 [Lavan]; Bamidbar 22:5 and Devarim 23:5 [Balam]

[7] Bereishis 31:24 [Lavan]; Bamidbar 22:20 [Balam]

[8] Bereishis 31:24 [Lavan]; Bamidbar 22:20 [Balam]

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