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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 22

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4


Verses 1-4:

The exact time of this move may have been during the northern campaign, the conflict with Og in Bashan.

The "plains of Moab" or the steppes of Moab, that portion of the Jordan valley across from Jericho and extending as far north as the Jabbok. This was rich and fertile river-bottom land, well-suited to pastoral life.

Balak the son of Zippor was not the king whose territory Sihon had appropriated, Nu 21:26. He likely assumed the throne after the Amorite conquest.

The Moabites had sold supplies to Israel as they moved along their eastern border, De 2:29. But when they saw Israel’s sudden and dramatic conquest of their Amorite conquerors, they began to be afraid.

"Distressed," guts, "weary, vexed," translated "loatheth," Nu 21:5, q.v.

"Elders of Midian." Midian was a descendant of Abraham and Keturah, more kin to Israel than to Moab. They were semi-nomadic people, mainly merchants who traded with the caravans crossing that land. Part of their territory was the steppes of Moab and Ammon.

Balak feared that Israel would swallow up his people, and devastate his land.

Verses 5-7

Verses 5-7:

The text implies that Balak acted on behalf of the Midianites, as well as for himself.

"Balsam," meaning "destroyer of the people," from bala and am. This name was not unusual in the ancient world, as magicians often gave themselves designed to strike fear into their devotees.

"Pethor," a city on the Euphrates whose location is unknown.

Forty years had passed since Israel’s exodus from Egypt. But the memory of this event was fresh in the minds of the Moabites.

The text confirms that Balak believed in the power of curses and spells, brought about by those involved with the occult. This is more than mere superstition. Scripture affirms the power of demon spirits, who operate through those who yield themselves to demonic direction.

"I wot," literally, "I know." Balak sought to gain his purpose by flattery, and by avarice.

"Rewards of divination," or "wages of soothsaying." Magicians and soothsayers operated on the profit basis, collecting huge fees for their performances.

Verses 8-14

Verses 8-14:

Balaam invited the ambassage from Balak to spend the night with him. This implies that he expected to receive a vision or a dream, informing him what to answer their request.

During the night, God inquired of Balaam the identity of his visitors. Balaam replied truthfully. God forbade Balaam to accompany them or to place a curse upon Israel, because this was a people already blessed.

Balaam reported the vision to Balak’s messengers, and they returned to Moab and reported to the king.

There is no hint of trickery in this episode. Balaam fully expected a supernatural revelation. And God gave him instruction as to what to do. This demonstrates the reality of supernatural revelations, both from God and from demon spirits.

Verses 15-21

Verses 15-21:

Balaam’s initial reply to Balak indicated that he was not unwilling to grant his request and come to Moab, but that God prohibited him from doing so. Balak reasoned that he could persuade Balaam to do his bidding, by conferring additional wealth and honor upon him. He appealed to the soothsayer’s greed.

Balaam’s statement, "The Lord my God," does not necessarily mean that he was saved. It merely means that he recognized the power of Jehovah God. His faith was from the head, not from the heart. He obeyed because he feared, not because he loved.

Balak offered what Balaam wanted: money and fame. Balsam returned to God with Balak’s message, and the Lord granted him permission to accompany the Moabite delegation. There was one absolute reservation: Balaam could speak only what God allowed.

Verses 22-27

Verses 22-27:

This event illustrates the two aspects of the will of God: (1) direct, and (2) permissive. He may allow what He does not endorse. He allowed Balsam to accompany Balak’s emissaries; He did not endorse this act.

This principle applies in today’s life. God may allow His child to follow a course of action that He disapproves, but He uses this as a means of judgment upon the disobedient spirit.

The "angel of the Lord," likely the same as the one to whom Moses referred, Nu 20:16. This messenger from Jehovah resisted Balaam’s willful course of disobedience, for two reasons:

(1) Balaam’s own good, in that what he proposed to do was not in his own best interests; and

(2) Balaam’s purpose was to oppose God’s people Israel by pronouncing curses upon them, see 2 Kings 6:17; Ps 34:7.

A miracle is involved in this event: God allowed Balaam’s donkey to see His messenger of judgment, and to warn his master of his folly.

At the first sight of the angel, the donkey bolted from the path into the field. Balsam struck her, and forced her to return to the road.

As they traveled on their way, the road ran between two stone fences. The donkey saw the angel the second time, standing with drawn sword in the way. She lurched to the side, and smashed Balaam’s foot into the wall. Once more Balaam beat his faithful donkey, and continued his journey.

The road ran through a narrow pass, with embankments on either side. Once more the donkey saw the angel of the Lord in the path. This time, she fell down. Balaam was infuriated, and once more began to beat the hapless animal with his staff.

These events illustrate how God in His grace seeks to turn the, erring one from his way. They also show how sin and greed can

blind the eyes to spiritual realities.

Verses 28-35

Verses 28-35:

Jehovah enabled Balaam’s donkey to speak and rebuke the rebellious prophet, see 2Pe 2:15, 16. Some contend that it is physically impossible for a donkey to utter words with a human voice. They offer various explanations to account for this phenomenon. However, the only explanation acceptable to the fundamental Bible student is: this was a miracle wrought by Divine power. The God who made the ass was capable of causing her to speak.

The text implies that Balaam was not surprised by this conversation with his faithful donkey. His greed and anger had so blinded his eyes that even this remarkable occurrence did not shock him. This illustrates the power of sin to blind men to spiritual realities.

The Lord then opened Balaam’s eyes so he could see the danger so narrowly avoided by the timely intervention of his faithful ass. Balaam was afraid, and offered to give up his mission and return home. God permitted him to continue on his way to the meeting with Balak.

Verses 36-41

Verses 36-41:

"A city of Moab," literally "Ir-Moab" or "Ar-Moab," likely the "Ar" mentioned in Nu 21:15 on the boundary of Moab.

Balak petulantly rebuked Balaam for not answering his initial summons. Balaam replied by affirming that he was unable to go beyond what God permitted.

"Kirjath-huzoth," the "city of streets," possibly Shihan, near the site of Ar.

Balak’s offering was likely not to Chemosh, but to Jehovah. there is no inference that God accepted it, however. Meat from this offering was given to the dignitaries in the party, for their food. This may have been a part of Balak’s payment to them.

Balak took Balaam to a mountain peak, where he could overlook Israel’s encampment, a high place which was dedicated to Baal.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 22". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-22.html. 1985.
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