Nu 22:1-20. Balak's First
Message for Balaam Refused.
1. Israel … pitched in the plains of
Moab—so called from having formerly belonged to that people,
though wrested from them by Sihon. It was a dry, sunken, desert region
on the east of the Jordan valley, opposite Jericho.
2. Balak—that is, "empty." Terrified
2:25; Ex 15:15) at the
approach of so vast a multitude and not daring to encounter them in the
field, he resolved to secure their destruction by other means.
4. elders of Midian—called kings (Nu 31:8) and princes (Jos 13:21). The Midianites, a distinct people on
the southern frontier of Moab, united with them as confederates against
Israel, their common enemy.
5. He sent messengers therefore unto
Balaam—that is, "lord" or "devourer" of people, a famous
soothsayer (Jos 13:22).
son of Beor—or, in the Chaldee form,
Bosor—that is, "destruction."
Pethor—a city of Mesopotamia, situated
on the Euphrates.
6. Come … curse me this
people—Among the heathen an opinion prevailed that prayers
for evil or curses would be heard by the unseen powers as well as
prayers for good, when offered by a prophet or priest and accompanied
by the use of certain rites. Many examples are found in the histories
of the Greeks and Romans of whole armies being devoted to destruction,
and they occur among the natives of India and other heathen countries
still. In the Burmese war, magicians were employed to curse the British
7. the elders of Moab and … of Midian
departed with the rewards of divination—like the fee of a
fortune teller, and being a royal present, it would be something
8-14. Lodge here this night, and I will bring you
word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me, &c.—God
usually revealed His will in visions and dreams; and Balaam's birth and
residence in Mesopotamia, where the remains of patriarchal religion
still lingered, account for his knowledge of the true God. His real
character has long been a subject of discussion. Some, judging from his
language, have thought him a saint; others, looking to his conduct,
have described him as an irreligious charlatan; and a third class
consider him a novice in the faith, who had a fear of God, but who had
not acquired power over his passions [Hengstenberg].
13-15. the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go
with you—This answer has an appearance of being good,
but it studiously concealed the reason of the divine prohibition [Nu 22:12], and it intimated his own
willingness and desire to go—if permitted. Balak despatched a
second mission, which held out flattering prospects, both to his
avarice and his ambition (Ge 31:30).
19, 20. tarry ye also here this night, that I may
know what the Lord will say unto me more—The divine will, as
formerly declared, not being according to his desires, he hoped by a
second request to bend it, as he had already bent his own conscience,
to his ruling passions of pride and covetousness. The permission
granted to Balaam is in accordance with the ordinary procedure of
Providence. God often gives up men to follow the impulse of their own
lusts; but there is no approval in thus leaving them to act at the
prompting of their own wicked hearts (Jos 13:27).
Nu 22:21-41. The
21. Balaam … saddled his
ass—probably one of the white sprightly animals which persons
of rank were accustomed to ride. The saddle, as usually in the East,
would be nothing more than a pad or his outer cloak.
22. God's anger was kindled because he
went—The displeasure arose partly from his neglecting the
condition on which leave was granted him—namely, to wait till the
princes of Moab "came to call him" [Nu 22:20], and because, through desire for "the
wages of unrighteousness" [2Pe 2:15], he
entertained the secret purpose of acting in opposition to the solemn
charge of God.
24. the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the
vineyards—The roads which lead through fields and vineyards
are so narrow that in most parts a man could not pass a beast without
care and caution. A stone or mud fence flanks each side of these roads,
to prevent the soil being washed off by the rains.
28. the Lord opened the mouth of the
ass—to utter, like a parrot, articulate sounds, without
understanding them. That this was a visionary scene is a notion which
seems inadmissible, because of the improbability of a vision being
described as an actual occurrence in the middle of a plain history.
Besides, the opening of the ass's mouth must have been an external act,
and that, with the manifest tenor of Peter's language, strongly favors
the literal view [2Pe 2:15, 16]. The absence of any surprise at such a
phenomenon on the part of Balaam may be accounted for by his mind being
wholly engrossed with the prospect of gain, which produced "the madness
of the prophet" [2Pe 2:16].
"It was a miracle, wrought to humble his proud heart, which had to be
first subjected in the school of an ass before he was brought to attend
to the voice of God speaking by the angel" [Calvin].
34, 35. I have sinned … if it displease
thee, I will get me back again—Notwithstanding this
confession, he evinced no spirit of penitence, as he speaks of
desisting only from the outward act. The words "go with the men" was a
mere withdrawal of further restraint, but the terms in which leave was
given are more absolute and peremptory than those in Nu 22:20.
36, 37. when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he
went out to meet him—Politeness requires that the higher the
rank of the expected guest, greater distance is to be gone to welcome
38. the word that God putteth in my mouth, that
shall I speak—This appears a pious answer. It was an
acknowledgment that he was restrained by a superior power.
39. Kirjath-huzoth—that is, "a city of
40. Balak offered oxen and sheep—made
preparations for a grand entertainment to Balaam and the princes of
41. high places of Baal—eminences
consecrated to the worship of Baal-peor (see on Nu
25:3) or Chemosh.