a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

24. Balaam's Oracles

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. 2And 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. 3And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: 4He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: 5How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! 6As 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. 7He 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. 8God 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. 9He 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.

10And 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. 11Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from honour. 12And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, 13If 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? 14And 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.

15And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: 16He 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: 17I 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. 18And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. 19Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.

20And 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. 21And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. 22Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive. 23And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this! 24And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever. 25And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way.

5. How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! The internal condition of prosperity enjoyed by the people is described by various similitudes akin to each other, and expressive of the same thing. He compares them to valleys and well-watered gardens, and then to trees which were rendered succulent by abundance of moisture, and finally to fields whose seeds imbibe fatness from the waters. The word we translate “valleys spread forth,” some prefer to render “streams;” and the Hebrew word signifies both; but the course of the metaphors requires that valleys should be rather understood. For the same reason I have given the translation “aloe-trees;” for, although the word אהלים ohelim, often means “tabernacles,” I have no doubt but that it here refers to trees, so as to correspond with what follows as to the cedars. They are called trees “which the Lord hath planted,” as surpassing the ordinary growth of nature in their peculiar excellency, and exhibiting something more noble than the effect of human labor and skill.

In the concluding similitude the interpreters have erred, in nay opinion. Some translate it, “His seed (is) many waters;” others, “on many waters;” but 170170     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. 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.

VIEWNAME is study