Numbers 22:5 (MT) reads:
וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח מַלְאָכִ֜ים אֶל־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּעֹ֗ר פְּ֠ת֠וֹרָה אֲשֶׁ֧ר עַל־הַנָּהָ֛ר אֶ֥רֶץ בְּנֵי־עַמּ֖וֹ לִקְרֹא־ל֑וֹ לֵאמֹ֗ר הִ֠נֵּ֠ה עַ֣ם יָצָ֤א מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם֙ הִנֵּ֤ה כִסָּה֙ אֶת־עֵ֣ין הָאָ֔רֶץ וְה֥וּא יֹשֵׁ֖ב מִמֻּלִֽי
sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said: "A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. (NIV)
Specifically, the phrase אֶ֥רֶץ בְּנֵי־עַמּ֖וֹ is interpreted in one of two ways:
- It means a native land (either of Balak or Balaam)
- It refers to the land of the people of Amaw
As noted by the Cambridge Bible Commentary here, some versions (e.g. the SP here) have an alternate text, which reads ארץ בני עמון, the land of the Ammonites (Wiki entry with a map can be found here).
...The Sam. , Syr., Lucianic LXX. , Vulg. and some Heb. MSS. read ‘Ammon, for ‘ammô ‘his people.’
While reading does have various merits (including the shortened/easier journey, less-awkward phrasing), how could this possibly be correct in light of the fact that the previous words describe it being near "the river", which most assume refer to the Euphrates?
Would it be plausible to suggest that this is referring to a different river (the only one that could make remote geographical sense would be the Jordan, as Arnon and Jabbok are referred to as נחל, not נהר)?
This is further complicated by Balaam's declaration that he came from "Aram" and the "Mountains of the East", as well as Deuteronomy 23:4, which also places this city elsewhere along the Euphrates, both of which cannot refer to Ammon.
Note: I do not consider the resolution of the Cambridge Commentary that "near the river" was written by E and "in the land of Ammon" was written by J to be satisfactory to resolve this, since a second author would not introduce clearly contradictory statements into the same sentence without at the very least erasing the other option.