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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 23

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-30

Balaam (continued)

1-10. First Utterance of Balaam.

1. On the meaning of these sacrifices see on Numbers 22:40. Balak may have intended these sacrifices for Baal, but Balaam at all events thinks of the God who spoke to him at Pethor and whose angel met him on the way (see Numbers 23:4).

3. I will go] to inspect the omens, to see what indications are visible of God’s will: cp. Numbers 24:1; Leviticus 19:31. To an high place] RV ’to a bare height’: see on Numbers 22:41.

7. Balaam is constrained to bless Israel as God has manifestly done. This is plain from three signs, (1) the separation of the people (Numbers 23:9), (2) their number (Numbers 23:10), and (3) their righteousness (Numbers 23:10). Aram] the ancient name of Mesopotamia.

9. The people shall dwell alone, etc.] rather, ’Behold a people that dwelleth alone and is not reckoned among the nations!’ Balaam singles out what was, and is still, a distinguishing characteristic of the Hebrew people, viz. their separateness from other nations. They were chosen of God in Abraham their ancestor, and throughout the long course of their history have been distinguished from other nations, both by their religion and manner of life. To this day, though they have no country, they are still a separate nation: see Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 33:16; Leviticus 20:24, Leviticus 20:26, and frequently in the prophets, e.g. Isaiah 43:21; Amos 3:2.

10. The righteous] The people of Israel are called ’the righteous’ because God, who is Himself righteous, has called them to be the same. The Heb word for ’righteous’ is Jashar, and Jeshurun is a poetical name given to Israel in Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26; Isaiah 44:2. It is possible that the title given to a collection of national poetry, the book of Jashar (see Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18: see on Numbers 21:14) contains the same idea. Balaam’s words mean that Israel’s fate will be enviable, and the opposite of what Balak desires it to be. His own fate was miserable: see Numbers 31:8. The death of the righteous is only attained by those who are willing to lead the life of the righteous.

12. Cp. 1 Kings 22:13, 1 Kings 22:14.

13-26. Balaam’s Second Utterance.

13. Seeing that Balaam had been impressed with the multitude of Israel (Numbers 23:10), Balak now restricts the prophet’s view of the host, in the hope that he may be prevailed upon to curse it: see on Numbers 22:41.

14. Zophim] ’watchers’ or ’lookers-out.’ It is from the same Heb. root as Mizpah (see Genesis 31:49). Pisgahis probably the general name for the mountain range lying to the NE. of the Dead Sea, of which Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1), Peor (Numbers 23:28), and Zophim are peaks. In Deuteronomy 32:49 this mountain range is called Abarim. Zophim may be so called simply as being a point of outlook, but it is possible to see in the name a reference to the practice of watching the omens from elevated situations.

18. Balaam declares that God’s purpose to bless Israel cannot be altered (Numbers 23:19-20). With them He is well pleased (Numbers 23:21). It is He who is bringing them out of Egypt, and with Him as Leader and Defender they are certain to be victorious (Numbers 23:22-24).

19. Balak is wrong in thinking to induce God by means of enchantments to alter His purpose: cp. 1 Samuel 15:29; Isaiah 54:10; Romans 11:29; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:13-18; James 1:17

21. The shout of a king] is not the shout raised by a king, but the shout raised at the presence of a king. Israel rejoices in having God as their king: see Exodus 15:18; Deuteronomy 33:5; Isaiah 33:22.

22. God brought] rather, ’It is God, and no other, that is bringing them out of Egypt.’ They are here under the divine direction: cp. Exodus 20:2; Exodus 29:46; Leviticus 19:36. Unicorn] RV ’the wild ox,’ or buffalo: cp. Deuteronomy 33:17.

23. The rendering of AV gives the sense ’it is useless to employ the powers of enchantment against this people; they are proof against all such weapons.’ But the right rendering is rather, ’there is no enchantment in Jacob,’ i.e. this people has no need to employ magical arts in its defence, as you, Balak, are doing now, for they have God for their protector. According to this time] better, ’at this time,’ ’now.’

24. A great lion] Heb. ’a lioness.’

25. What Balak means is, ’If you will not curse them, I forbid you to bless them.’

28. Peor] is a peak of the mountain range of Moab. See on Numbers 23:14. On Jeshimon see on Numbers 21:20.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Numbers 23". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/numbers-23.html. 1909.
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