Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 22

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-41

Numbers 22:5 . To Pethor, which is by the river. A Pethor was in Mesopotamia; the river is thought to be the Euphrates, or one of its branches, distant at least 500 miles from Moab. Deuteronomy 23:4.

Numbers 22:6 . Curse me this people. See note on Genesis 9:25.

Numbers 22:12 . Thou shalt not go with them. This indicates that Balaam had once been a good man; though now he ultimately disobeyed the Lord, being allured by the sin of covetousness, which in this awful journey proved to him “a sin unto death.” The fall of ministers has mostly proceeded from covetousness, liquor, or women.

Numbers 22:29 . Now would I kill thee. A fallen man is apt to be violent in passion, and furious like a hariolus, a diviner or prophet of the heathen. Let us not forget the proverb, Ira est furor; anger is madness.

Numbers 22:34 . I have sinned. Yea, when death is at the door the wicked confess.


Security and hardness of heart are naturally consequent on a long course of crimes; but when danger is at the door, alarms and fears have sevenfold force. The Amorites and the inhabitants of Bashan had fallen in battle before the arms of Israel. It was time for Moab and Midian to take the alarm. The hauspices of home were embarrassed and silent; and Balaam, the far famed prophet, or diviner of Mesopotamia, seemed the only character worthy of confidence in so great a crisis of danger; for this man had not been wanting to court fame, and to combine his ministry with his interest. His house was often crowded with embassied fools, who sought their help in man, instead of God. But for once he saw an embassy of Moabian princes, encumbered with presents, enter his house. He courteously invited them to repose for the night, that he might have time to teaze and importune heaven for revelations; for God seldom employs an unsanctified prophet, unless he willingly offers himself. And the Lord at once said, Thou shalt not go; thou shalt not curse the people, for they are blessed. The prophet obeyed, and declared that all the treasures of Moab would not induce him to violate the divine command. This disinterestedness imposed by divine fear, perfected the celebrity of his character. It was resolved to send again, and to double the embassy and the presents. The wavering prophet now began in his heart to importune the Lord for permission to go; and the Lord in anger permitted him to follow his inclination, provided he would speak his words. On the road he farther enforced obedience by an angel, whose brandishing sword menaced the prophet with death. What instruction does this character convey to certain ministers of religion, who seek popularity and gain from their profession, and whose reverence for God is extorted by fear. And what idea must Moab have formed of Balaam’s God, when a double present could make him change his mind!

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 22". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-22.html. 1835.
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