“Balak” probably comes from a root that means to lay waste. Isaiah utilises this root b-l-k, when he begins his 24th chapter with the powerful rhetoric of the phrase, HaShem bokek ha’aretz uvol’kah – “The Lord makes the earth empty and lays it waste”.
Balak was no friend of the Israelites and thought he could lay them waste in a moral and national sense by sending Moabite girls to tempt and seduce the young men of Israel.
Balak’s father was Tzippor (Num. 22:2) – a strange name which means “bird”. The root is tz-p-r, to chirp. In Aramaic tz’far and tzafra mean “morning”, presumably because that is when the birds begin to chirp.
But how can a human being be named “Bird”?
In rabbinical literature Tzippor was not himself a king but a minor prince. When the sages tell the story they apply the characteristics of a bird to Balak himself, not his father, and say he flew as swiftly as a bird to do harm to Israel.