Numbers 23:8 as translated by Sefaria:

כִּֽי־מֵרֹ֤אשׁ צֻרִים֙ אֶרְאֶ֔נּוּ וּמִגְּבָע֖וֹת אֲשׁוּרֶ֑נּוּ הֶן־עָם֙ לְבָדָ֣ד יִשְׁכֹּ֔ן וּבַגּוֹיִ֖ם לֹ֥א יִתְחַשָּֽׁב׃

As I see them from the mountain tops, Gaze on them from the heights, There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations.

What does "לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב" mean? That we don't take interest in them or that they don't take interest in us?

2 Answers 2


Philo of Alexandria was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria in the Roman province of Egypt during the First Century. The following paraphrase of this passage in the Book of Genesis comes from his Life of Moses, which reflects his understanding of the oral Jewish interpretation of this passage during the First Century.

Life of Moses § 50

“Balak has sent for me from Mesopotamia, having caused me to take a long journey from the east, that he might chastise the Hebrews by means of curses. But in what manner shall I be able to curse those who have not been cursed by God? For I shall behold them with my eyes from the loftiest mountains, and I shall see them with my mind; and I shall never be able to injure the people which shall dwell alone, not being numbered among the other nations, not in accordance with the inheritance of any particular places, or any apportionment of lands, but by reason of the peculiar nature of their remarkable customs, as they will never mingle with any other nation so as to depart from their national and ancestral ways. Who has ever discovered with accuracy the first origin of the birth of these people? Their bodies, indeed, may have been fashioned according to human means of propagation; but their souls have been brought forth by divine agency, wherefore they are nearly related to God. May my soul die as to the death of the body, that it may be remembered among the souls of the righteous, such as the souls of these men are.” (Emphasis added)

SOURCE: Yonge, C. D. with Philo of Alexandria (1855). The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged. London: Henry G. Bohn, 61.


RaSh”I provides the following interpretations:

ובגוים לא יתחשב: כתרגומו, לא יהיו נעשין כלה עם שאר האומות, שנאמר (ירמיה ל, יא) כי אעשה כלה בכל הגוים וגו' אינן נמנין עם השאר. דבר אחר כשהן שמחין אין אומה שמחה עמהם, שנאמר (דברים לב, יב) ה' בדד ינחנו. וכשהאומות בטובה, הם אוכלין עם כל אחד ואחד ואין עולה להם מן החשבון, וזהו, ובגוים לא יתחשב:

and will not be reckoned among the nations: As Targum [Onkelos] paraphrases, they will not perish along with the other nations, for it says, “for I shall make an end of all the nations…” (Jer. 30:11); they will not be reckoned with the rest. Another interpretation: When they rejoice, no other nation rejoices with them, as it says, “God alone will guide them [to future happiness]” (Deut. 32:12). And when the nations prosper, they will receive a share with each one of them, but it will not be deducted from their account, and this is the meaning of, “and will not reckoned among the nations.” - [Mid. Tanchuma Balak 12, Num. Rabbah 20:19]

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