Parashat Balaq indirectly references "Tzippor" five times (by introducing Balaq as "ben Tzippor"). I don't believe Rashi brings down any background regarding Tzippor. If the Torah refers to Balaq as "ben Tzippor" so often, who was this mysterious figure?

  • Here is something very interesting. Balak as we know was from midyan not moab. The zohar says he was from yisro. Now yisro had a daughter married to moshe called zipporah. Maybe his son was therefore called zippor. I made that up. – user2800 Jun 19 '13 at 12:03
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    Balaq's father? – Shmuel Jul 1 '14 at 20:17
  • Where is this zohar?! Even if we would say he is tziporah's son, whichi like, its still a far road to put him as Moshe's son. Consider Eldad and Meidad who are taken to be Moshe's half brothers, either from when Amram divorced Yocheved in Mitzrayim or at mattan torah. Now we have no knowledge of Tziporah before she met Moshe, or what she was up to when he left to go back to MMitzrayim, possibly giving her a get, and we don't know what happened after mattan torah when Moshe was parush from her. So she may very well have other children from other men. Or maybe Yisro had a son Tzipor. – user6591 Jul 11 '14 at 16:44

The Zohar HaQadosh (3:184) writes:

בן צפור כמו שאמרו. אבל בן צפור ממש שהרי כשפיו היו בכמה מינים של אותה צפור

[Balaq was called] "son of Tzippor" as was already stated; but, [he was] truly a son of birds for his sorcery was conducted with a few species of the same bird!

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  • Or HaHayim makes reference to this Zohar here. – Lee Jul 1 '14 at 21:45

The Ohr Hachayim has a cool explanation of the phrase בן ציפור - that Balak, who (he says) was a greater magician than Bilaam, was an expert ornithomancer, and had a magical bird that told him everything that he needed to know. In context of the first pasuk in the parsha, "Balak saw, through his bird, everything that the Jewish people did...", and via that same magic bird, he saw that Midian was next.

Perhaps, therefore, Balak is often referred to in this manner as a way of mocking him or the like, pointing out his reliance on a bird (while the Jewish people were relying on Hashem). There are many other reasons I could think of to explain why the Torah would want to emphasize this feature of Balak.

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    Ornithomancer is a great word :D – MTL Jul 11 '14 at 14:42

We know that G-d changed Avram's name to AvrAHam. This "AH" was a status change, it may be possible that Balaq was the son of TzipporAH with a diminish of her status change. It wouldn't have been the first time that a man was named from the son of his mother instead of his father.

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  • why did her status changed? – Shmuel Brin Jul 1 '14 at 19:18
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    This is interesting speculation, but do you have any reason to assume it is true? – Double AA Jul 1 '14 at 20:01
  • @ShmuelBrin Either becoming a Giyoret. Alternatively (and nicer fit in text) her being sent away from Moshe. – Double AA Jul 2 '14 at 1:28

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