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1Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 2Balak did as Balaam had said; and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offerings while I go aside. Perhaps the L ord will come to meet me. Whatever he shows me I will tell you.” And he went to a bare height.

4 Then God met Balaam; and Balaam said to him, “I have arranged the seven altars, and have offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” 5The L ord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you must say.” 6So he returned to Balak, who was standing beside his burnt offerings with all the officials of Moab. 7Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:

“Balak has brought me from Aram,

the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:

‘Come, curse Jacob for me;

Come, denounce Israel!’


How can I curse whom God has not cursed?

How can I denounce those whom the L ord has not denounced?


For from the top of the crags I see him,

from the hills I behold him.

Here is a people living alone,

and not reckoning itself among the nations!


Who can count the dust of Jacob,

or number the dust-cloud of Israel?

Let me die the death of the upright,

and let my end be like his!”

11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but now you have done nothing but bless them.” 12He answered, “Must I not take care to say what the L ord puts into my mouth?”

Balaam’s Second Oracle

13 So Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only part of them, and shall not see them all; then curse them for me from there.” 14So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offerings, while I meet the L ord over there.” 16The L ord met Balaam, put a word into his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you shall say.” 17When he came to him, he was standing beside his burnt offerings with the officials of Moab. Balak said to him, “What has the L ord said?” 18Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:

“Rise, Balak, and hear;

listen to me, O son of Zippor:


God is not a human being, that he should lie,

or a mortal, that he should change his mind.

Has he promised, and will he not do it?

Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?


See, I received a command to bless;

he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.


He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob;

nor has he seen trouble in Israel.

The L ord their God is with them,

acclaimed as a king among them.


God, who brings them out of Egypt,

is like the horns of a wild ox for them.


Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob,

no divination against Israel;

now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,

‘See what God has done!’


Look, a people rising up like a lioness,

and rousing itself like a lion!

It does not lie down until it has eaten the prey

and drunk the blood of the slain.”

25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.” 26But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the L ord says, that is what I must do’?”

27 So Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” 28So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the wasteland. 29Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30So Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

20. Behold I have received commandment to bless. He signifies that a command to bless had been given him, antl a positive law laid down for him. For, as has been said, he was not free and independent in this matter; but God had bound him to exercise the prophetic office, even against his own will. Hence he declares that it is not in his power to alter the revelation, of which he is the minister and witness. But there is a remarkable expression introduced in the midst of his declaration, viz., that God himself had blessed; whereby he intimates that the lot of men, whether adverse or prosperous, depends on the authority of God alone; and that no other commission is given to the prophets, except to promulgate what God has appointed; as if he had said, It belongs to God alone to decree what the condition of men is to be; He has chosen me to proclaim His blessing; it is not in my power either to reverse or withdraw it. Now, since Balaam here sustains the character of a true Prophet, we may gather from his words that no other power of binding or loosing is given to the ministers of the Word, except that they should faithfully bring forward what they may have received from God.

21. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob. Some understand by און, aven, עמל, gnamal, idols, 161161     So the V., “Non est idolum in Jacob, nec videtur simulachrum in Israel.” which bring nothing but deadly labor and trouble to their worshippers; as if it were said that Israel was pure and untainted by such offenses, in that they duly served the one true God. But how will it be correct to say that God saw not idolatry in the people, when they had so openly fallen into it? For, although the golden calf was only made on one occasion, still their manifold and almost constant rebellions were such as to forbid these wicked and perverse men from being thus absolved. Since, however, these two words in connection signify all sorts of iniquities, which tend to men’s hurt, or to the infliction of harm and loss, a more proper meaning will be, that such iniquity is not seen in Jacob as to include him with the nations that are given to violence and crime. Nevertheless, even if we take it thus, the former question still arises; for we know that the Israelites were scarcely better than the worst of mankind. Some reply feebly, that it was not seen, because God did not impute it; but, in my opinion, nothing else is meant by these words but that the people were pleasing to God, because He had sanctified them. If any object, that they were not therefore any the more just or innocent, the answer is easy — that it is not here declared what they were, but only God’s grace is magnified, who deigned to exalt them as a holy nation. In this way Jerusalem was the holy city and the royal abode of God, though it was a den of thieves. On this ground Paul says that the children of Abraham were “holy branches,” (Romans 11:16,) because they sprang from a holy root. In the same sense they are everywhere called God’s Children, however degenerate they might be. God, therefore, is said to have seen no iniquity in them, with reference to His adoption; not that they were worthy of such exalted praise, as if a distinction were drawn between them and the other nations — not on account of their deserts, but from the mere good pleasure of God. Thus Paul elsewhere, after he has compared them with the Gentiles, and has shewn that they are their superiors in no respect, at length adds, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much (he says) every way; “and adduces a mark of distinction which does not proceed from themselves, 162162     i.e., “That unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:1.) In a word, because it had pleased God to choose that people, He rather manifested His love towards Himself and His own grace, than towards their life and conduct.

Others take this passage otherwise, viz., that God did not behold iniquity, nor see perverseness in Jacob, because He was not willing that he should be unrighteously grieved or afflicted; as if it were said, If any one should wish unjustly to injure this people, God will permit no violence or injustice to be done to them, but will rather defend them as their shield. But if this sense be preferred, I should rather be disposed to take the vero indefinitely, as if it were said, Perverseness shall not be seen in Jacob; for when the Hebrews use the verb without a nominative, they extend the matter in question into a general proposition, and then the verb in the active voice may be suitably resolved into the passive. And thus the context will run better, since it is added immediately afterwards, “The Lord his God is with him,” whereby the reason seems to be given why perverseness (molestia) should not be seen against Jacob, viz., because God would be at hand to render him aid. For we know that His infinite power suffices to defend the safety of His Church, so that not even the gates of hell should prevail against it.

What follows directly afterwards, “The shout or the rejoicing of a king is among them,” I understand to be that God will always give them cause for triumph; for the word which the old interpreter elsewhere renders rejoicing (jubilationem,) seems here to be used for songs of rejoicing; but, since it also signifies the sound of a trumpet, it will not be inappropriate to take it as that the people shall be terrible to their enemies, because they shall boldly rush forward, or go down to the battle, as if God sounded the trumpet.

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