Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 24

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-9


Verses 1-9:

This third parable of Balaam was in different circumstances than the first two. This time Balaam did not seek for "enchantments," nachash, for a message regarding Israel. The "enchantments" (auguries) were in the nature of omens and signs in the natural world, which the seer observed and interpreted to determine God’s purpose.

This time, the "word of the Lord" did not come unto Balaam. Instead, the "Spirit of God came upon him," in much the same way that He came upon Saul, 1Sa 19:23. Balaam was in an ecstatic state, semi-conscious and powerless. His outward eyes were closed, and he fell as though struck on seeing the "vision of the Almighty," while his "inner eyes" (sub-conscious perception) were opened to the vision from God.

Balaam’s "parable" describes the greatness of the people of God. The "valleys" are the watercourses which empty into the river, in this case the Euphrates. Balaam likens the blessings of God upon Israel to the pleasant, fertile fields of Mesopotamia.

"Lignaloes," ahalim, a large, spreading tree also known as eagle wood. The inner wood of this tree is fragrant, when partially decayed, Ps 45:8.

"He shall pour the water," literally, "the water shall overflow."

"Out of his buckets," the noun is dual, denoting two. The imagery is familiar to those living in an irrigated land. It pictures one who carries two buckets on a pole, buckets so full as to overflow. It is a symbol of plenty.

"Agag," the official title of the kings of Amalek, as Pharoah was the official title of the Egyptian rulers.

Verses 8, 9 picture the invincible military might of Israel, crushing every foe. This mighty power is tempered with mercy, as there is "blessing" for all who bless the Israel of God.

Verses 10-14

Verses 10-14:

Balak was infuriated with Balaam’s performance. He had hired him to place a curse upon Israel. Instead, Balaam had pronounced a blessing upon them.

Balak’s attitude toward Israel is that of the world toward God’s people today. He regarded them as his enemies. But God’s people are the enemies of no one except those who are enemies of God. Had Balak blessed Israel and honored Israel’s God, he in turn would have been blessed.

Balak demanded that Balaam leave quickly. He had offered the seer the wealth and honor of his kingdom, but he charged that Jehovah had prevented his enjoyment of this.

Balaam reminded Balak of his initial acceptance of his offer, that he would do only what God permitted. He agreed to return to his home, but he must first deliver a parting message. He must show what would happen to Moab in the days to come.

"Advertise," yaats, "counsel," also "give counsel, advise."

Like Pharaoh of old, Balak hardened his heart against every revelation of God’s word and power. This led to his ultimate downfall.

Verses 15-19

Verses 15-19:

Balaam had received the certain knowledge from the Most High God, likely when the Spirit of God came upon him, see comments on verse 2. Balaam’s "parable" is a prophecy of judgment upon Israel’s adversaries:

1. Judgment Upon Moab.

"I shall see him ...l shall behold him" (verse 17) the same expression found in Nu 23:9, q.v.

"Star," a poetic allusion to an illustrious person.

"Sceptre," explanation of the Star as a ruler, used in this sense by Jacob in his prophecy regarding Judah, Ge 49:10.

"The comers of Moab," the destruction of Moab on both sides of his borders.

This appears to be a two-fold prophecy: the destruction of Moab by the rulers of Israel; and the ultimate destruction of "Sheth" (all heathen nations) by Messiah.

2. Judgment Upon Edom.

"Edom," descendants of Esau, who refused Israel passage through their land, Nu 20:14-21.

"Seir," a mountain often used as alternate to Edom.

The Edomites were perpetually hostile toward Israel but were doomed to become possessions of others.

"Valiantly," chayil, "force, strength," also translated "valor."

Verse 19 appears to be a Messianic prophecy, of the ultimate universal rule of the One who is to come from Jacob.

3. Judgment Upon Amalek.

Amalek was not a powerful nation, and their territory was far removed from Balaam’s line of vision. But this people was the first to attack Israel on their journey to the Land of Promise, and God pronounced a special curse upon them, of total extermination, Ex 17:8-16; Nu 14:45.

4. Judgment Upon the Kenites.

"Kenites," a term meaning "belonging to Ken or Qem." One of the ten tribes of the Land of Palestine during the time of Abraham, Ge 15:19. They were apparently destroyed by the Amorites, and dispersed among the Amalekites and the Canaanites. This bribe was among those whom God ordered exterminated in the conquest of Canaan. Balaam’s parable spoke of this. They apparently lived in remote strong holds, but they were doomed to destruction.

This name also identifies the descendants of Hobab, brother-in-law of Moses, Jg 4:11. Some of these people accompanied Judah from Jericho, Jg 1:16, and later lived in Judah’s territory. One family of Kenites, Heber, moved to Kedesh near Galilee, and made peace with Jabin, king of Hazor. Other references to this people are: Jg 4; 1Sa 15:6; 27:10.

5. Judgment Upon Assyria, Other World Kingdoms.

"Chittim" (Kittim), descendants of Javan, Ge 10:4; 1Ch 1:7. The term "Kittim" came to apply to all the inhabitants of the Mediterranean coast and islands. See also Isa 23:1, 12; Jer 2:10; Eze 27:6; Da 11:30.

"Asshur," the god of the Assyrians, reputed to be their human founder. Ge 10:11 describes Asshur as the builder of Nineveh and nearby cities. He came from Nimrod’s kingdom, but was apparently not a descendant of Ham, Ge 10:22; 1Ch 1:17. Balaam’s prophecy speaks of the ultimate destruction of Asshur (Assyria).

"Eber," a term meaning "a region across or beyond." It apparently refers to the Hebrews, a people who came from a region beyond the Euphrates. Eber was the son of Shelah, and a grandson of Shem, Ge 10:24; 11:14; 1Ch 1:18. He was the father of Joktan and Peleg, Ge 10:25; 11:16.

Following the delivery of this "parable," Balaam set off toward his home. Scripture infers that he stopped among the Midianites, for he was shortly thereafter slain among them, Nu 31:8.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 24". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-24.html. 1985.
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