1. And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.
1. Quum autem videret Balaam qued placeret Jehovae, ut benediceret Israeli, non abiit sicut semel et iterum in occursum auguriorum: sed posuit versus desertum faciem suam.
2. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
2. Ac quum elevasset oculos suos, vidit Israelem dispositum per tribus suas: fuitque super eum Spiritus Dei.
3. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beer hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:
3. Tunc assumpsit parabolam suam, et ait, Dicit Balaam filius Beor, dicit vir reconditus oculo.
4. He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
4, Dicit qui audivit eloquia Dei, qui visionem Omnipotentis vidit, qui cadit et aperiuntur oeuli ejus.
5. How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel!
5. Quam pulchra tabernacula tua Jacob, habitacula tua Israel!
6. As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign-aloes, which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar-trees beside the waters.
6. Sicut valles diffusae, sicut horti juxta flumen, sicut arbores aloes, quas plantavit Jehova, sicut cedri juxta aquas.
7. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.
7. Defluet aqua e situla ejus, et semen ejus in aquis multis, et elevabitur rex ejus super Agag, et extolletur regnum ejus.
8. God brought him forth out of Egypt: he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
8. Deus eduxit eum ex AEgypto: sicut vires unicornis ei. Consumet gentes hostes suos, et ossa eorum conteret, et sagittis suis confodiet (vel, sagittas suas tinget sanguine.)
9. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.
9. Incurvabit se ut accubet tanquam leo minor, et tanquam leo major: quis excitabit eum? Quisquis benedixerit tibi, erit benedictus: et quisquis maledixerit tibi; erit maledictus.
10. And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
10 Et excanduit furor Balac contra Balaam, et percussit manus suas, ac dixit ipsi Balaam, Ut maledicercs inimicis meis vocavi te, et ecce, benedixisti benedicendo jam tribus vicibus.
11. Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honor; but, lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from honor.
11. Nunc ergo fuge in locum tuum: dixeram, Honorando honorabo te, et ecce, privavit te Jehova gloria.
12. And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers, which thou sentest unto me, saying,
12. Cui respondit Balaam, Annon etiam nuntiis tuis quos miseras ad me loquutus sum, dicendo:
13. If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak?
13. Si dederit mihi Balac plenam domum suam argento et auro, non potero transgredi sermonem Jehovae, ut faciat bonum sive malum e corde meo: quod loquetur Jehova, illud loquar?
14. And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.
14. Nunc itaque ecce, ego discedo ad populum meum: age, consulam tibi quid facturus sit populus iste populo tuo in novissimis diebus.
15. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said;
15. Tunc assumpsit parabolam suam, et dixit, Dixit Balaam filius Beor, dixit, inquam, vir apertum habens oculum.
16. He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open.
16. Dixit audiens eloquia Dei, et sciens scientiam Excelsi, videns visionem Omnipotentis: cadens, et discoopertum habens oculum.
17. I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
17. Video eum: sed non modo: intueor illum: sed non prope: procedet stella ex Jacob, et surget sceptrum ex Israele: et confodiet principes (vel, angulos) Moab, et destruct omnes filios Seth.
18. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies: and Israel shall do valiantly.
18. Et erit Edom possessa et possidebitur Seir ab inimicis Seir, et Israel faciet virtutem.
19. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.
19. Et dominabitur ex Jacob, et perdet reliquias ex civitate.
20. And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.
20. Et quum vidisset Amalec, assumpsit parabolam suam, et dixit, Principium gentium Amalec, ideo novissimum ejus usque ad perditionem.
21. And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwelling-place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock:
21. Viso etiam Cenaeo, assumpsit parabolam suam, et dixit, Robustum habitaculum tuum, et ponis in petra nidum tuum.
22. Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive.
22. Certe expelletur Cain, usquequo Assur captivum te ducet.
23. And he took up his parable, and said, Alas! who shall live when God doeth this?
23. Assumpsit item parabolam, et dixit, Vae quis vivet quum statuerit istud?
24. And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever.
24. Et naves e littore Chitthim quae affligant Assur, affligent Heber, sed hoc quoque usque ad perditionem.
25. And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place; and Balak also went his way.
25. Surrexit itaque Balaam, et abiit, reversusque est in locum suum: atque etiam Balacabiit in viam suam.
When it is said that "the Spirit of God was upon him," 2 after he turned his eyes "toward the wilderness" and beheld the camp of Israel, how they were marshalled "according to their tribes," we must understand it thus: not that he was influenced by a sincere feeling of good-will, so that the sight itself suggested grounds for blessing; but that he was induced by the inspiration of the same Spirit, who afterwards put forth His influence in the prophecy itself. It is said, then, that the Spirit of God was upon him, not as if it had begun to inspire him at that particular moment when he cast his eyes upon the camp of Israel; but because it prompted him to look in that direction, in order that the impulse of prophecy might be stronger in him, as respecting a thing actually before his eyes. But after the Spirit had thus affected his senses, or at any rate had prepared them to be fit instruments for the execution of his office, it then also directed his tongue to prophesy; but in an extraordinary manner, so that a divine majesty shone forth in the sudden change, as if he were transformed into a new man. In a word, "the Spirit of God was upon him," shewing by manifest token that He was the author of his address, and that he did not speak of his own natural intelligence. To the same intent it is said that "he took up his parable," because 3 the character of his address was marked with unusual grandeur and magnificent brilliancy.
"Thou hast manifested to me the hidden things 6 of wisdom." (Psalm 51:6.)
Unless, perhaps, we may prefer that he was called the man with hidden eyes, as despising all human things, and as one with whom there is no respect of persons; the former interpretation, however, is the more suitable. And assuredly, when he adds immediately afterwards, the hearer of "the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty," it must be taken expositively. To the same effect is what is added in conclusion: "He who falls 7 and his eyes are opened;" for the exposition which some give, that his mind was awake whilst he was asleep as regarded his body, is far-fetched; and there is a tameness in the opinion of those who refer it to the previous history, where it is recorded that, after Balaam had fallen under the ass, his eyes were opened to see the angel (chap. 22:31.) Comparing himself, therefore, to the prophets, he says that he fell down in order to receive his visions; for we often read that the prophets were prostrated, or lost their strength, and lay almost lifeless, when God revealed Himself to them; for thus did it please God to cast down His servants as to the flesh, in order to lift them up above the world, and to empty them of their own strength, in order to replenish them with heavenly virtue.
In the concluding similitude the interpreters have erred, in nay opinion. Some translate it, "His seed (is) many waters;" others, "on many waters;" but 8 the literal translation which I have given runs far better, viz., that he is like a rich and fertile field, whose seed is steeped in much water.
Thus far Balaam has been speaking of God's blessing, which shall enrich the people with an abundance of all good things.
Although for a long time afterwards, there was no king in Israel, still there is no absurdity in the fact that the commonwealth should be designated by the name of "king," and "kingdom;" especially since God had postponed the full accomplishment of His grace until the time of the establishment of the kingdom. Hence, in this prophecy, Balaam, however little he might have been aware of it, embraced the time of David; and consequently he predicted things which were only accomplished in Christ, on whom the adoption was founded.
What follows has been already expounded, viz, that God, in delivering His people, had made it plain that He would have them remain in safety and perpetuity; and that He was able to bring this to pass.
The reason why Balaam postpones his prophecies to a distant period, is in order to afford consolation to Balak, for, as much as he possibly can, he seeks to avoid his ill-will, and therefore assures him that, although he denounces evil, it was not to be feared at an early period, since he treats of things which were as yet far off.
The second clause must be unquestionably restricted to the head of the people, called metaphorically "a Star," and then expressly referred to without a figure; for this repetition is common with the Hebrews, by which they particularize the same thing twice over. Assuredly he means nothing else by "the Sceptre," except what he had indicated by the "Star;" and thus he connects the prosperity of the people with the kingdom. Hence we gather that its state was not perfect until it began to be governed by the hand of a king. For, inasmuch as the adoption of the family of Abraham was founded on Christ, only sparks of God's blessing shone forth until its completed brightness was manifested in Christ. It must be observed, therefore, that when Balaam begins to prophesy of God's grace towards the people of Israel, he directs us at once to the scepter, as if it were the true and certain mirror of God's favor. And, in fact, God never manifested Himself as the Father of this people except by Christ. I admit, indeed, that some beginnings existed in the person of David, but they were very far from exhibiting the fullness of the reality: for the glory of his kingdom was not lasting, nay, its chief dignity was speedily impaired by the rebellion of the ten tribes, and was finally altogether extinguished; and when David's power was at its height, his dominion never extended beyond the neighboring nations. The coming forth of the Star and the Sceptre, therefore, of which Balaam speaks explicitly, refers to Christ; and what we read in the Psalm corresponds with this prophecy;
"The Lord shall send the sceptre 14 of thy strength out of Sion." (Psalm 110:2.)
Hence it follows that the blessing, of which Balaam speaks, descends even to us; for, if the prosperity of the ancient people, their rest, their well-ordered government, their dignity, safety, and glory, proceeded from the scepter as its unmixed source, there is no doubt but that Christ by His coming accomplished all these things more fully for us.
The destruction of the nation of Moab is added as an adjunct of the kingdom. And first, indeed, Balaam declares that "its princes shall be transfixed." If any prefer to read its "corners," 15 the expression is metaphorical, implying that the Sceptre will break through its munitions, or destroy what may seem to be strongest. I do not doubt but that the same thing is confirmed in what is said of the children of Sheth;" for those who take it generally for the whole human race, 16 violently wrest the text by their gloss. Balaam is speaking of the neighboring nations; and, when in the next verse he goes on to specify Edom, he adds Mount Seir by way of explanation. Since the form of the two sentences is identical, it is probable that none others than the Moabites are meant by the children of Sheth. Still the question arises why Balaam attributes to a single nation what was common to all, for all who were of the descendants of Sheth equally derived their origin from Noah. Some think that they boasted of this descent in order to conceal their shame, for we know that the founder of this nation sprang from an incestuous connection. But another more satisfactory reason occurs to me, viz., that they boasted, like the Amalekites, of the extreme antiquity of their race; since, therefore, they desired to be reckoned amongst the most ancient nations, it will not be improbable that by this ironical appellation their vain-glory was reproved. It may, however, have been the case that some one amongst the descendants of Moab was distinguished by this name. Still, as I have lately said, the Moabites as well as the Edomites were subdued by David, for David thus justly celebrates his triumphs over them,
"Moab is my wash-pot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe,"
but then was merely typified, what Christ at length fulfilled, in that He reduced under His sway all adverse and hostile nations. Therefore it is said, he "shall destroy him that remaineth of the cities," i.e., all enemies whom He shall find to be incorrigible.
By the Kenites I understand the Midianites, who were contiguous to the Amalekites; for it is altogether unreasonable to refer the name to the descendants of Jethro. Forty years had not yet elapsed since Jethro had left his son with Moses; and his was only one small family in the wilderness of Midian, whereas mention is here made of a people already celebrated. Balaam, therefore, designates by synecdoche the Midianites, and devotes them also to the punishment they well deserved. Of this Gideon was in some measure the minister and executioner, when he routed their immense army with three hundred men; and his victory is celebrated in Psalm 83:11, and Isaiah 9:4. It is probable that their power was broken at that time.
What Moses adds in conclusion, viz., that Balaam returned to his people, and Balak also went to his place, tends to the commendation of God's grace, since He dissipates the evil counsels of the wicked like clouds, and overthrows their machinations; even as Moses commemorates elsewhere this peculiar blessing of God. 20 Micah, too, celebrates this amongst other Divine mercies:
"O my people, (he says,) remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him," etc. (Micah 6:5.)
The sum is, that the enemies of the chosen people departed in dishonor without accomplishing their purpose, since God put them to confusion.
1 "Inhiare fallaci oraculo." -- Lat. "Q'uil fust comme a la chasse, pour obtenir quelque fausse revelation;" to be, as it were, in chase of some false revelation. -- Fr.
2 A. V., "came upon him."
3 "Sa facon de parler a eu une gravite authentique, pour toucher plus au vif ceux qui l'orroyent;" his manner of speaking possessed a genuine grandeur, in order to touch more closely to the quick those that might hear it. -- Fr.
4 "Reconditus oculo;" covered in the eye.-- Lat. "Qui a l'oeil couvert;" who has the eye covered. -- Fr.
5 This word has occasioned much discussion among the commentators. A. V. subjoins in the margin: "Heb. who had his eyes shut, but now opened." Ainsworth says: "Shethum, the original word, is of contrary significance to Sethum, that is, closed or shut up; however, some take it to be of the same meaning, which may then be explained thus, The man who had his eye shut, but now open. And eye is put for eyes, understanding the eyes of his mind opened by the spirit of prophecy; though some of the Hebrews (as Jarchi here observeth) have from hence conjectured that Balaam was blind of one eye!" Dathe, in accordance with the most ancient interpreters, (LXX. Onkelos, and the Syriac,) agrees with the text of A. V.
6 A. V. "And in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom." C.'s exposition in loco appears rather to agree with. A. V. than with his citation in this place. "Some interpret
7 A. V., "falling into a trance, but having his eyes open."
8 Ainsworth says: "This seed may be understood, as before, of children; and many waters, of many peoples, as in Revelation 17:15; Isaiah 57:19; Psalm 144:7. Or seed may mean corn sown in watery, moist, and fruitful places, to bring forth much increase; as Isaiah 32:20." C.'s own translation is, after all, equivocal; however, his opinion may incline to the literal meaning of the word seed.
9 "II fait le chien couchant." -- Fr.
10 "The commandment of the Lord." -- A. V.
11 "Of mine own mind." -- A. V.
12 C. translates
13 "I see him," etc. -- Lat.
14 A. V., "The rod."
15 Dr. Boothroyd has a curious conjecture on this passage. he says, "Most of the ancients, after LXX., give to
16 "The children of Seth, i.e., all men; so the Chaldee." -- Corn. a Lapide in loco.
17 "So all the paraphrasts," says Drusius, in Poole's Syn. See margin A. V., and the gloss in the Geneva Bible.
18 It will be seen that the A. V. renders the clause interrogatively in the margin, though with a slight difference from the sense of C.
19 See C. on Daniel, (C. Soc. Edit.,) vol. 2, pp. 316, 317, 318. "Writers on the geography of the Bible entertain remarkably different ideas as to the country or countries intended by this denomination. The most probable opinion seems to us to be that which considers that the Hebrews used it to express, in a general sense, all the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean Sea, so far as known to them." -- Illustr. Corn. in loco.