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

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-14

A Third Blessing

v. 1. And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, this conviction having rather been forced upon him by his double experience, he went not, as at other times, as upon the two previous occasions, to seek for enchantments, to look for auguries or omens after the manner of heathen soothsayers, but he set his face toward the wilderness, toward the fields where the children of Israel were encamped, for he could overlook the entire host.

v. 2. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes, he was near enough to distinguish the various groups as they were arranged in camps about the Tabernacle; and the Spirit of God came upon him, for the Lord now threw him into a state of ecstasy and used him as His instrument of prophecy. And Balaam also, feeling the uselessness of restraint, yielded the more readily, although it cannot be said that his heart was in his task.

v. 3. And he took up his parable, his prophetic utterance, and said, Balaam, the son of Beor, hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said;

v. 4. he hath said which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open. It was a Revelation of God which came to Balaam by the Spirit of God. His mind was closed to all external influences, and he sank to the ground, overwhelmed with the ecstasy of the manner of communication which came to him.

v. 5. How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!

v. 6. As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lignaloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar-trees beside the waters. The seer beholds not only the habitations of Israel as desirable places to live, but also the land as being most pleasant, for the conception of the aloe-trees breathing out their fragrance, and of the cedar-trees standing in their strength by the watercourses, leads us away from the ordinary beauties of nature to a conception which properly pictures the delights of the spiritual Israel of all ages.

v. 7. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, for they would overflow with moisture, and his seed shall be in many waters, his descendants would find their homes along fruitful streams; and his king shall be higher than Agag, which was the hereditary title of the Amalekite kings, and his kingdom shall be exalted. Above all the enmity of the world as represented by the kingdoms of the heathen, the people of the Lord would be secure in their relation to Jehovah, blessed with prosperity and glory.

v. 8. God brought him (Israel) forth out of Egypt; he hath, as it were, the strength of an unicorn, of the wild ox, which was noted for its fierceness ; he shall eat up the nations, his enemies, devour them in his great wrath and power, and shall break their bones, utterly crush them, and pierce them through with his arrows, or, break their arrows, their weapons of warfare, to pieces.

v. 9. He couched, he lay down as a lion and as a great lion; who shall stir him up? Cf Genesis 49:9. Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee. This last contained a warning to Balak, for it intimated that the blessing of Abraham and Isaac, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 27:29, had been laid upon the entire nation of Israel, and there was danger in being the enemy of such a people.

v. 10. And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together, as an expression of his disappointment and disgust; and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them. these three times.

v. 11. Therefore now flee thou to thy place, go back home as quickly as possible; I thought to promote thee unto great honor; but, lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from honor. Here the irony with which Balak derided the dependence of Balaam. upon Jehovah is plainly shown. Since Balaam's power of divination was not strong enough to overcome the opposition of Jehovah, he must take the consequences.

v. 12. And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying,

v. 13. If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go-beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak? Cf Numbers 22:18.

v. 14. And now, behold, I go unto my people, the breach between him and? Balak was made; come, therefore, and I will advertise, teach, thee what this people-shall do to thy people in the latter days. All restraint was now removed from Balaam; he wanted to teach and at the same time advise Balak as to his conduct toward the invaders and their overwhelming strength.

Verses 15-25

Of The Star of Jacob.

v. 15. And he took up his parable and said, Balaam, the son of Beor, hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said;

v. 16. he hath said which heard the words of God, and. knew the knowledge of the Most High, who had been given this wonderful knowledge in a Revelation which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open, v. 4:

v. 17. I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not nigh. What Balaam saw here in a vision would not happen in the near future, as men count time, but at a far distant period. There shall come a Star out of Jacob, as the symbol of the power and majesty of a great ruler, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, Genesis 49:10, also a picture of a future mighty king in Israel, namely, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Lord; and shall smite the corners of Moab, strike down its people on both sides, and destroy all the children of Sheth, of confusion, for the Moabites were noted as men of wild and unrestrained warfare. Although this prophecy, in type, was fulfilled when Israel gained dominion over this and other heathen nations, its ideal fulfillment came in Jesus Christ, whose spiritual power has been extended to include also heathen nations everywhere, for men from all nations have bowed their heads under His scepter.

v. 18. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly, shall gain strength and dominion. The fulfillment of this prophecy began with the conquest of Edom at the time of David, 2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Kings 11:15-16, but was not fully completed until the coming of the most majestic Ruler, at whose footstool God has laid all His enemies, Psalms 110.

v. 19. Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion, for out of that people, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, Romans 9:5, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city; no matter where the remnant of the people might be in hiding, the spirit of this mighty King would find them; they must yield to Him or face everlasting punishment. In accordance with the peculiarity of prophecy, which combines visions of far-distant events with those that are comparatively near at hand, the prophet now reveals the future of other heathen nations.

v. 20. And when he, Balaam, in his condition of ecstasy, looked on Amaiek, he took up his parable and said, Amaiek -was the first of the nations, namely, to take up weapons of warfare against Israel; but his latter end shall be that he perish forever, he should be utterly destroyed, 1 Samuel 15:7-8.

v. 21. And he looked on the Kenites, a nation which had shown itself friendly to Israel, Numbers 10:29-32; Genesis 15:19, and took up his parable and said, Strong is thy dwelling-place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock; their habitations were chiefly in the mountainous regions of the Sinaitic Peninsula.

v. 22. Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive; or: Should the Kenite be destroyed, until Asshur shall lead thee away captive? The answer is an emphatic "No. " The outward association of this people with the children of Israel gained security for them even when the Kenites were led away into the Assyrian captivity.

v. 23. And he took up his parable and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this! The judgment of God upon the disobedient and idolatrous enemies of His people would be so terrible that men would despair of their lives in seeing its severity.

v. 24. And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish forever. Both the Semitic nations of the East, which included the inhabitants of Assyria, and those of the West, which occupied the country between Assyria and Palestine, Genesis 10:21, would be overthrown by a powerful nation coming from the Northwest, with ships coming from Greece, by way of Cyprus. The historic relations are not yet definitely shown, but the prophecy of doom stands out with great distinctness; for the gist of the utterance is that God will destroy all the enemies that oppose His will, and give victory to His people.

v. 25. And Balaam rose up and went and returned to his place, not to Mesopotamia, as history shows, but to the land of the Midianites. Far from being overcome by the power of the Lord, he apparently hardened his heart and gave the Midianites the advice to effect the overthrow of the Israelites by means of idolatry, Numbers 31:8-16. And Balak also went his way.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 24". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/numbers-24.html. 1921-23.
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