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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 24

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-25

Balaam (continued)

1-9. Balaam’s Third Utterance.

1. To seek for enchantments] lit. ’to meet omens’: see on Numbers 23:3. Toward the wilderness] i.e. towards the plain where the Israelites were encamped: see Numbers 21:20; Numbers 22:1.

2. The spirit of God came upon him] cp. 1 Samuel 19:20. The following utterances are introduced in a more solemn manner (see Numbers 24:3-4, Numbers 24:15-16), and are prophetic of the future.

3. Hath said] The English here is too commonplace to represent the original, which is in a very lofty and impassioned strain. ’Oracle of Balaam, son of Beor; oracle of the man whose eyes are opened; oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling upon his face with his eyes open.’ The first word rendered ’opened’ is of uncertain meaning. It may mean ’closed,’ in which case it implies that Balaam’s eyes are closed to earthly sights but open to the heavenly. Or it may refer to his previous condition. Hitherto scales have been upon his eyes, but now he sees the vision of the Almighty.

4. Falling into a trance] rather, ’falling upon his face.’ There is no word in the original corresponding to the words ’into a trance.’ He falls to the ground, overpowered by the Spirit of God that comes upon him: cp. 1 Samuel 19:24; Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 8:17-18; Acts 9:4; Revelation 1:17.

6. The images in this and the next v. are those of fruitfulness and vigour. The lign (i.e. the wood) aloe is a large spreading tree much prized for its aromatic qualities (Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 4:14), and the cedar is the king of trees (1 Kings 4:33; Psalms 104:16): cp. Psalms 1:3; Ezekiel 31:3 to Ezekiel 5:7 He shall pour the water] better, ’water shall flow from his (i.e. Israel’s) buckets, and his seed (i.e. his posterity) shall be in abundance of water.’ Israel will always flourish. The literal and the metaphorical are here combined: cp. Genesis 49:22, Genesis 49:25; Deuteronomy 33:13, and see on Leviticus 26:4; Agag] the dynastic name of the Amalekite kings: cp. 1 Samuel 15:32. The kingdom of Israel will surpass that of Amalek.

8. See on Numbers 23:2. The subject of the second half of the v. is Israel, who is compared to a ravening lion, the king of beasts.

9. Blessed is he, etc.] cp. Genesis 12:8; Genesis 27:29.

10-14. Balak in anger dismisses Balaam, who before departing predicts the destruction of Moab and other nations by Israel.

15-24. Balaam’s Fourth Utterance: a prediction of the dominion of Israel and the downfall of Moab, Edom, Amalek, and Asshur.

17. I shall see him, etc.] This should be rendered ’I see him’ (i.e. the Israel of the future, and specially the Star who is to rise among them) ’.. I behold him.. A Star is risen out of Jacob..’ To the eye of Balaam, in his spiritual ecstasy, the future stands out as the present. A Star] A common symbol of a brilliant ruler: cp. Isaiah 14:12; Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 24:29; Revelation 22:16 and the expression ’hosts of heaven.’ For the sceptre as the symbol of authority see Genesis 49:10; Psalms 110:2. This prediction refers in the first place to David, who ’smote Moab and Edom’ (2 Samuel 8:2, 2 Samuel 8:14, cp. Psalms 60:8.), but applies also to ’David’s greater Son.’ From early times the Jewish commentators have interpreted the prophecy as Messianic. The name Barcochba (i.e. ’Son of a star’) was assumed by one who claimed to be the Messiah, not long after the time of our Lord, taking the title no doubt from this prophecy of Balaam. Christians will see in the words of Balaam a prophecy of Jesus, the true Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He Himself, and not the star which was seen at His birth (Matthew 2:2), is the fulfilment of the prediction. Children of Sheth] RV ’the children of tumult,’ as in the parallel passage Jeremiah 48:45, where another word from the same root is used.

18. Seir] the name given to the land of the Edomites: see Genesis 36:8-9; Deuteronomy 2:4. His enemies] the enemies of Israel, or rather of the Buler here spoken of. The fulfilment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Samuel 8:14. Cp. also Isaiah 63:1-4, and see on Numbers 20:8, Numbers 20:9.

20. First of the nations] probably in rank; but see on Exodus 17:8. The next clause reads ’but his end (shall come) to destruction’: cp. Exodus 17:14, Exodus 17:16, and for the fulfilment of the prediction see 1 Samuel 14:48; 1 Samuel 15:7-8; 1 Samuel 30:17; 2 Samuel 8:12; 1 Chronicles 4:43.

21. The Kenites] Unlike the tribes previously mentioned the Kenites were always friendly to the Israelites, and consequently the words of Balaam foretelling their destruction are more of sympathy than of threatening. Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, was a Kenite, and his descendants settled alongside the tribe of Judah in the S. of Canaan (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11): see also 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 30:26, 1 Samuel 30:29; 1 Chronicles 2:55. Of their subsequent history nothing is known. See on Numbers 24:22. Thy nest] The Heb. word for nest is ken, so that there is here a play upon the name of this tribe.

22. The rendering is doubtful. We may translate, ’Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted. How long? Asshur (i.e. Assyria) shall carry thee away captive.’ Or, ’But the Kenite shall not be wasted until Asshur shall carry thee (i.e. Israel) away captive.’

24. Chittim] the dwellers in Cyprus or in the islands of the Mediterranean generally. They are said to have emigrated from Phœnicia. In Genesis 10:4 the Chittim are said to be descended from Javan, the ancestor of the Ionian (i.e. the Greek) races. In Daniel 11:30 the ’ships of Kittim ’are those of the Romans, so that Chittim may be a general designation of the Western races, and Balaam’s words a prediction of the overthrow of the Eastern monarchies (Asshur = the Assyrians or Persians, and Eber = the Hebrews or Syrians) by the empires of the West. He also] most probably the conquering nation, the Chittim. It may, however, refer to Asshur or Eber.

These last prophecies of Balaam, on Amalek, the Kenites, the Chittim, Asshur, and Eber, have all the appearance of being an appendix, and are supposed by many to be a later addition to the original prophecies regarding Israel.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Numbers 24". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/numbers-24.html. 1909.
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