Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 22

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan [by] Jericho.

In the plains of Moab. — Once of Moab, then of the Amorites, now of the Israelites. Lands and lordships often change masters; Adeo nihil certi est in rebus humanis, … In the greatness of the Turkish empire is at this day swallowed up the name and empire of the Saracens, the most glorious empire of the Greeks, the renowned kingdoms of Macedonia, Peloponnesus, Epirus, Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, Armenia, Cyprus, Syria, Egypt, Judea, Tunis, Algiers, Media, Mesopotamia, with a great part of Hungary, as also of the Persian kingdom, and, besides all those famous Churches spoken of in Scripture, so much in Christendom, as far exceedeth that which is thereof at this day left; yet, no doubt, time shall triumph over this so great a monarchy, when it shall but then live by fame as others now do. Turk. Hist., Preface. It laboureth with nothing more already than with the weightiness of itself.

Verse 3

And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they [were] many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.

And Moab was distressed. — Or, Was irked, fretted, vexed. And yet Moab was allied to Israel, eased by them of a troublesome encroaching neighbour Sihon, and assured by them, that they would not meddle or molest them. But being of a different religion, they were carried with satanical malice against God’s people, and sought their ruin. This is the guise of graceless and absurd men, acted and agitated by the devil.

Verse 4

And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all [that are] round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor [was] king of the Moabites at that time.

Unto the elders of Midian. — Their neighbours and confederates. These are called the dukes of Sihon, as having been subdued by his tyranny, whereof Israel had now freed them, and meant them no hurt. Numbers 31:8 Joshua 13:21

And Balak the son of Zippor. — A politic and potent prince, Micah 6:5 not more valiant than vigilant, ingeniose nequam, wittily wicked.

Verse 5

He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which [is] by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me:

Balaam, the son of Beor. — The devil’s spelman, as one calls him, a soothsayer, or sorcerer, called a prophet, 2 Peter 2:16 as false prophets are called diviners Jeremiah 27:9

Verse 6

Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they [are] too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, [that] we may smite them, and [that] I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest [is] blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.

Peradventure I shall prevail. — Hence he is said to have warred against Israel. Joshua 24:9 He did not, because he durst not. Sed fieri dicitur, quod tentatur, aut intenditur, saith Ribera on Amos 9:5 .

Verse 7

And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.

With the rewards of divination. — Which Jude calls the wages of wickedness. Judges 1:11 2 Peter 2:15 The Athenians complained, that Philip by his gold had corrupted the oracle of Apollo, which now did φιλιππιζειν .

Verse 8

And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.

As the Lord shall speak unto me. — Good words and wishes may be found in hell’s mouth; as wholesome sugar may be found in a poisoned cane, and a stone of great virtue in the head of a toad. The French have a berry which they name Uve de spine, the grape of a thorn.

Verse 9

And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men [are] these with thee?

And God came to Balaam. — So he came to Abimelech, to Laban, … He never credited his word to these, as he did to the holy prophets, of whom it is said, "The word of the Lord came to them."

Verse 13

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.

For the Lord refuseth. — Like a mercenary, and one that had a month’s mind to the money, he hides from them that part of the answer that might have kept them off from coming again to him, viz., Thou shalt not curse the people, for they are blessed, Auri sacra fames, …

Verse 15

And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they.

And Balak sent yet again. — So unweariable are wicked men in pursuing and practising their evil designs. This is check to our dulness for the good of our souls. Oh, how soon said and sated are we! Felix trembles, and yet at the same instant covets and expects a bribe from Paul, who had some occasion to expect repentance of Felix.

Verse 17

For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.

For I will promote thee. — Thus Satan tempted our Saviour, Matthew 4:8-9 and the Pope Luther, offering him a Cardinalship to hold his tongue, and proposing unto him the example of Aeneas Sylvius, who casting away his opinions, became Pope; and of Bessarion of Nice, who of a poor Calover of Trebizond, became a great renowned Cardinal, and wanted not much of being Pope. Hist. of Coun. of Trent. But Luther answered the messenger, Contemptus est a me Romanus et favor et furor, I care not for the Pope’s proffers of any preferment. And when one counselled to try him with money, another more wise answered, Hem, Germana illa bestia non curat aurum, That Dutch beast cares not for gold. But Balaam was not a man of Luther’s make.

Verse 18

And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.

I cannot go beyond.Intus Nero, foris Cato; loquitur hic ut Piso, vivit ut Gallonius: Audi, nemo melius; specta, nemo peius. A preacher, as Quintilian saith of an orator, should be Vir bonus dicendi peritus, A well-spoken and well-deeded person.

Verse 19

Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more.

Tarry also now this night, … — Very loath he was to forego so fat a morsel. His mouth even watered, his fingers itched to be dealing with Balak. He therefore detains the messengers, and will try again what may be done for them.

Verse 20

And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, [and] go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.

Rise up and go. — God answers him according to the idols of his heart; bids him go, since he was set upon it, but at his utmost peril; like as Solomon bids the young man "walk in the ways of his own heart"; Ecclesiastes 11:9 but then follows that stinging but.

Verse 21

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

And saddled his ass. — Which never runs fast enough after preferment, till horse and man and all to the devil.

Verse 22

And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants [were] with him.

And God’s anger.Deus saepe dat iratus quod negat propitius.

And his two servants were with him. — This false prophet rides not without two men. God’s Levite had one man. Judges 19:11 Oh let not ministers of the gospel be slaves to others, servants to themselves!

Verse 23

And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.

And the ass saw the angel. — Which Balaam saw not; his eyes were put out with the dust of covetousness, or dazzled at least with the glittering of the promised promotions.

Verse 24

But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall [being] on this side, and a wall on that side.

But the angel — If an angel stand in the way of a sorcerer’s sin, how much more ready are all those heavenly spirits to stop the miscarriages of God’s dear children! Surely as our good endeavours are oft hindered by Satan, so are our evil by good angels; else were not our protection equal to our danger, and we could neither stand nor rise.

Verse 27

And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

She fell down under Balaam. — And so "condemned" her master’s "madness." 2 Peter 2:16 Polybius in his history saith, Whereas man is held the wisest of all sublunary creatures, to me he seemeth the most foolish of all. For whereas other creatures, when they have once smarted, will come no more there, - as the fox returns not rashly to the snare, the wolf to the pitfall, the dog to the club, the horse to the hole where he hath been stalked, …, - solus homo ab aevo ad aevum peccat fere in iisdem; man only falls into the same offence and mischief from day to day, and will not be warned till he be utterly ruined, as it befell Balaam.

Verse 28

And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass. — Fear not, therefore, thine own inability and rudeness to reply in a good cause. There is no mouth into which God cannot put words; and how oft doth he choose the weak to confound the wise

And she said unto Balaam. — The angel, some think, did speak in the ass, as the devil had done to Eve in the serpent.

Verse 29

And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

I would there were a sword. — Pity but a madman should have a sword! How much fitter for him were that rod that Solomon speaks of. Proverbs 26:3

Verse 32

And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because [thy] way is perverse before me:

Because thy way is perverse. — Thou art resolved to curse howsoever, and not to lose so fair a preferment, which he must needs buy at a dear rate that pays his honesty for it. Better a great deal lie in the dust, than rise by such ill principles. I shall shut up with that excellent prayer of Zuinglius: Zuing., Epist., lib. tertio. Deum Opt. Max. precor, ut vias nostras dirigat: ac sicubi simus Bileami in morem, veritati pertinaciter obluctaturi, angelum suum opponat, qui machaerae suae minis hunc asinum, inscitiam et audaciam dico nostram sic ad maceriam affigat, ut fractum pedem, hoc est, impurum illicitumque carnis sensum auferamus, nec ultra blasphememus nomen Domini Dei nostri.

Verse 33

And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.

I had slain thee. — As thou wouldst have slain thine ass, for a less fault.

Verse 37

And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?

To promote thee to honour. — But what is such honour more than a magnum nihil, nay a great mischief? Like the wings of a butterfly curiously painted; but they foul the fingers of those that catch it.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 22". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/numbers-22.html. 1865-1868.
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