Nu 23:1-30. Balak's
1. Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven
altars—Balak, being a heathen, would naturally suppose these
altars were erected in honor of Baal, the patron deity of his country.
It is evident, from Nu 23:4 that
they were prepared for the worship of the true God; although in
choosing the high places of Baal as their site and rearing a number of
altars (2Ki 18:22; Isa 17:8; Jer 11:13; Ho 8:11;
10:1), instead of one only,
as God had appointed, Balaam blended his own superstitions with the
divine worship. The heathen, both in ancient and modern times, attached
a mysterious virtue to the number seven; and Balaam, in ordering
the preparation of so many altars, designed to mystify and delude the
3. Stand by thy burnt offering—as one in
expectation of an important favor.
peradventure the Lord will come to meet me: and
whatsoever he showeth me—that is, makes known to me by word
he went to an high place—apart by
himself, where he might practise rites and ceremonies, with a view to
obtain a response of the oracle.
4-6. God met Balaam—not in compliance
with his incantations, but to frustrate his wicked designs and compel
him, contrary to his desires and interests, to pronounce the following
benediction [Nu 23:8-10].
7. took up his parable—that is, spoke
under the influence of inspiration, and in the highly poetical,
figurative, and oracular style of a prophet.
brought me from Aram—This word joined
with "the mountains of the East," denotes the upper portion of
Mesopotamia, lying on the east of Moab. The East enjoyed an infamous
notoriety for magicians and soothsayers (Isa 2:6).
8. How shall I curse, whom God hath not
cursed?—A divine blessing has been pronounced over the
posterity of Jacob; and therefore, whatever prodigies can be achieved
by my charms, all magical skill, all human power, is utterly impotent
to counteract the decree of God.
9. from the top—literally, "a bare
place" on the rocks, to which Balak had taken him, for it was deemed
necessary to see the people who were to be devoted to destruction. But
that commanding prospect could contribute nothing to the accomplishment
of the king's object, for the destiny of Israel was to be a distinct,
peculiar people, separated from the rest of the nations in government,
religion, customs, and divine protection (De 33:28). So that although I might be able to
gratify your wishes against other people, I can do nothing against them
19:5; Le 20:24).
10. Who can count the dust of Jacob?—an
Oriental hyperbole for a very populous nation, as Jacob's posterity was
promised to be (Ge 13:16; 28:14).
the number of the fourth part of
Israel—that is, the camp consisted of four divisions; every
one of these parts was formidable in numbers.
Let me die the death of the
righteous—Hebrew, "of Jeshurun"; or, the Israelites.
The meaning is: they are a people happy, above all others, not only in
life, but at death, from their knowledge of the true God, and their
hope through His grace. Balaam is a representative of a large class in
the world, who express a wish for the blessedness which Christ has
promised to His people but are averse to imitate the mind that was in
13-15. Come, … with me unto another place,
from whence thou mayest see them—Surprised and disappointed
at this unexpected eulogy on Israel, Balak hoped that, if seen from a
different point of observation, the prophet would give utterance to
different feelings; and so, having made the same solemn preparations,
Balaam retired, as before, to wait the divine afflatus.
14. he brought him into the field of Zophim
… top of Pisgah—a flat surface on the summit of the
mountain range, which was cultivated land. Others render it "the field
of sentinels," an eminence where some of Balak's guards were posted to
give signals [Calmet].
18, 19. Rise up—As Balak was already
standing (Nu 23:17),
this expression is equivalent to "now attend to me." The counsels and
promises of God respecting Israel are unchangeable; and no attempt to
prevail on Him to reverse them will succeed, as they may with a
21. He hath not beheld iniquity in
Jacob—Many sins were observed and punished in this people.
But no such universal and hopeless apostasy had as yet appeared, to
induce God to abandon or destroy them.
the Lord his God is with him—has a
favor for them.
and the shout of a king is among
them—such joyful acclamations as of a people rejoicing in the
presence of a victorious prince.
22. he hath as it were the strength of an
unicorn—Israel is not as they were at the Exodus, a horde of
poor, feeble, spiritless people, but powerful and invincible as a
reem—that is, a rhinoceros (Job 39:9; Ps 22:21;
23. Surely there is no enchantment against
Jacob—No art can ever prevail against a people who are under
the shield of Omnipotence, and for whom miracles have been and yet
shall be performed, which will be a theme of admiration in succeeding
26. All that the Lord speaketh, that I must
do—a remarkable confession that he was divinely constrained
to give utterances different from what it was his purpose and
inclination to do.
28. Balak brought Balaam unto the top of
Peor—or, Beth-peor (De 3:29), the eminence on which a temple of Baal
that looketh toward Jeshimon—the
desert tract in the south of Palestine, on both sides of the Dead