I've noticed that most translations render the gentile prophet's name Balaam, while the Hebrew is Bilaam (difference in first vowel). JPS does this in its translation, and people even do it here on Mi Yodeya. I understand that names sometimes get transformed on their way into English-language discourse (like Yitzchak to Isaac) and I don't know why, but Bilaam to Balaam seems a particularly minor transformation -- but a transformation nonetheless. Why does that one vowel get changed so much? Is there some place where the Hebrew is Balaam?

  • Maybe he gets conflated with Balaq.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 4:46

1 Answer 1


Like many Anglicized versions of biblical names, the name Balaam comes through the Greek language of the Septuagint, which renders בלעם as βαλααμ.

The reason the Septuagint spells it so differently from the Hebrew MT may either be due to limitations of the Greek language to accurately represent Hebrew, changes in the way Greek and/or Hebrew vowels were pronounced, or the grammatical requirements of Greek (such as declension). It might also be that the writers of the Septuagint followed a different masorah as to how בלעם is read.


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