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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 22

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-41

Chapter 22

AND so the children of Israel sat forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab ( Numbers 22:1 )

Moving now south from this position.

on this side of the Jordan River [on the eastern side of the Jordan River] by the city of Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw that Israel all that he had done to the Amorites. And Moab was very afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was the king of the Moabites at that time. And so he sent messengers unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people that is come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that we may drive them out of the land: for I know that whom you bless is blessed, and whom you curse is cursed. And so the elders of Moab with the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hands; and they came to Balaam, and spake to him the words of Balak. And he said unto them, Stay here tonight, and I will bring you word again, and the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. And God came to Balaam, and said, Who are these men that are with you? And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, the king of Moab, has sent them unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people who has come out of Egypt, which covers the face of the earth: come and curse me then; that I might be able to overcome them, and drive them out. And God said unto Balaam, [Listen] Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed ( Numbers 22:1-12 ).

So that's God's direct command.

Now, this guy Balaam, interesting character. It would definitely appear that he was a prophet of God though he was not from Israel, that God did indeed speak to him. In fact, some of the most remarkable prophecies of the Old Testament came out of the mouth of Balaam. What was his background? How is it that he knew God and was able to relate to God in such a special way? I don't know. It would seem that he was used to creating enchantments or curses, and that's actually what the king wanted him to do is to create some kind of a curse against these people. Now he had a reputation for power and putting curses on people.

And so the king sent the rewards of divination. In other words, when you go to a prophet to seek advice from God, you'd always take some kind of a gift for the prophet. That was the custom of the day. Even in Israel that was the custom; going to the prophet you'd take a gift for the prophet and ask him to seek the Lord for you, but it was always customary to take a gift for the prophet. And so the king sent these messengers with a gift with the command that he would put a curse on these people that had come out of Egypt and were now bordering his land. "For I know whomever you curse is cursed, whoever you bless is blessed."

So Balaam sought the Lord and the Lord said to him, "Don't go to the king and don't curse these people". God's direct command to Balaam.

And so Balaam rose up in the morning, and he said to the princes of Balak, You better go home: for the LORD refuses to give me permission to come with you. So the princes of Moab, they went back to Balak, and they said, he won't come. He said the LORD won't let him come. And so Balak the king sent back more honourable princes ( Numbers 22:13-15 ),

Men of greater stature as far as the government was concerned. And the king said,

Don't let anything keep you from coming: For I will promote you to great honour, and I'll give you whatever you want: so come, and curse these people ( Numbers 22:16-17 ).

So, now more important princes, offers of, you know, you write the check or you name the price. I'll do wonderful things for you. I'll promote you to great honor and I'll do anything you ask, but don't let anything keep you from coming.

So Balaam answered the servants of Balak [and said], If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of God, to do any less or to do any more. So he said, Wait tonight, and I'll find out what the LORD will say unto me ( Numbers 22:18-19 ).

Now I can imagine that this night, Balaam was really laying it upon the Lord, "Lord please" because he was thinking about these great rewards that had been offered to him by the king, all this loot. Man, he was really drooling. "Lord, you know, I'll be good I promise. But let me go, Lord. Just let me go, Lord, please Lord let me go." I assume that this was the case because the Lord gave him permission to go but yet when he went it wasn't God's will for him to go.

And I do believe that it is possible for us to enter into a gray area of what is termed the permissive will of God. Yes, God will permit you to do it but he doesn't want you to do it. And I believe that a person can zero in right in the heart of God and the direct will of God for his life. You can be right on dead center with God's will for your life. And I think that there is a gray area that you can get over into which God will permit you to do it. But it isn't really His direct will. He isn't really pleased with it.

"But He is", but you've insisted, you're pressuring, you're forcing, you're whining, you're crying; "Ah, go on then." you know. Oftentimes your kids, you know, they've laid it on you like that and you think "Okay, go ahead and go." but you really don't want them to. You're so tired of hearing them griping, whining and complaining; "Get out of here. Go ahead; go on, tired of hearing your complaining. " And so I assume that this was the case because God said, "All right go".

And God said to Balaam at night, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but the word which I shall unto thee, that shalt thou do. So Balaam rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. And God's anger was kindled because he went ( Numbers 22:20-22 ):

God was angry with him for going.

Now, God expressed His direct will in the beginning, "Don't go with them. Don't curse these people". That was God's direct will for his life but he was going off into an area. God permitted him to go but God was angry with him for going. Leaving the place of the center of God's will; I think that it is possible for a person to do that.

But out of the center of God's will you can run into all kinds of problems, all kinds of adversities. And before he had gone very long, very far down the road an angel of the LORD stood in the path with a drawn sword ready to take off his head. But fortunately his donkey saw the angel, though he didn't. And so the donkey turned off the path and Balaam took his stick and hit the donkey and got it back on the path.

And they were going through a vineyard and in those vineyards they have rock walls along the pathway to keep people from going over and picking grapes. And so he's going between these rock walls, past these vineyards, and the angel of the Lord stood in the path again. Balaam didn't see him but the donkey did and the donkey sort of tried to edge over against the wall and got Balaam's leg pinned up against the rock. And he beat that poor, little donkey again.

And so again he got him going down the road and the third time stood in the path, but this time there was nowhere for the donkey to go. So he just sat down. And Balaam began to beat him again.

And God opened the mouth of the donkey ( Numbers 22:28 ),

Now to me it is an interesting thing, the great pride that some people have because God has spoken through them. God spoke through me. You know, like you're something super special because God spoke through you. It is true, God still speaks through donkeys today and that should deflate anybody who thinks they're something special and something really glorious. You know, people ought to bow to them because God speaks through them.

God opened the mouth of the donkey, and the donkey turned to Balaam and said, Hey man do you think it's right beating me these three times? ( Numbers 22:28 )

"Look, have I ever done anything to you like this before? Haven't I been a good little donkey?" And Balaam said, "You bet your life I'm doing right. If I had a club I'd kill you, you rotten beast". Boy, talk about being mad. That's really being mad when a donkey talks to you and you talk back to him instead of just being dumbfounded. You know, if a donkey talked to me I'd just, you know, uh. He was mad. He wished he could kill that donkey at this point.

It's amazing at how out of tune and out of sorts we get when we're out of God's will. You know, we're wanting to do our own thing and God puts a block in our way and boy, we become angry. We become upset because God is blocking this, which I've got in my mind to do. You get out of the will of God you can really get out of sorts in every area of your life; your whole life just gets out of sorts completely.

And so, at this point God opened the eyes of this prophet and he saw the angel of God standing there with a sword. And the angel spoke to Balaam and said, "You better be thankful for that dumb little donkey you got because had he not turned aside I would have taken off your head". Balaam said, "Oh, I'll go right home. I'll turn around and go right back home". And the angel said, "No, you've come this far. You know it's in your heart to go. You go ahead and go but you just make sure that you don't say any more than what God tells you to say". And so Balaam went on to the king.

And so the king brought Balak up into a high mountain where he might overlook all of Israel, camped down there in the valley. They came to Kirjathhuzoth, the city of the streets, literally. And so Balaam said to the king, "Build me seven altars here, and offer sacrifices unto God". So they built seven altars and he offered seven oxen and seven rams. And Balaam said to the king, "Now you stand here and I'm going to go up and maybe God'll speak to me and whatever God shows me I will tell you".

And so he went to a high place


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Numbers 22". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/numbers-22.html. 2014.
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