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And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams.
Build seven altars — To the true God, otherwise he would not have mentioned it to God, as an argument why he should grant his requests, as he doth, Numbers 23:4. And though Balak was averse from God and his worship, yet he would be easily overruled by Balaam, who doubtless told him that it was in vain to make an address to any other than the God of Israel, who alone was able either to bless or curse them as he pleased.
Seven — This being the solemn and usual number in sacrifices.
And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he sheweth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.
Stand by thy burnt-offering — As in God's presence, as one that offers thyself as well as thy sacrifices to obtain his favour.
I will go — To some solitary and convenient place, where I may prevail with God to appear to me.
Sheweth me — Reveals to me, either by word or sign.
An high place — Or, into the plain, as that word properly signifies.
And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.
His parable — That is, his oracular and prophetical speech; which he calls a parable, because of the weightiness of the matter, and the liveliness of the expressions which is usual in parables.
Jacob — The posterity of Jacob.
For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
The rocks — Upon which I now stand.
I see him — I see the people, according to thy desire, Numbers 22:41, but cannot improve that sight to the end for which thou didst design it, to curse them.
The people shall dwell alone — This people are of a distinct kind from others, God's peculiar people, separated from all other nations, as in religion and laws, so also in divine protection; and therefore enchantments cannot have that power against them which they have against other persons and people.
Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!
The dust — The numberless people of Jacob or Israel, who according to God's promise, are now become as the dust of the earth.
Of the righteous — Of this righteous and holy people. The sense is, they are not only happy above other nations in this life, and therefore in vain should I curse them, but they have this peculiar privilege, that they are happy after death: their happiness begins where the happiness of other people ends; and therefore I heartily wish that my soul may have its portion with theirs when I die. Was not God now again striving with him, not only for the sake of Israel, but of his own soul?
And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?
Must I not — Ought I not? Is it not my duty? Canst thou blame me for it?
And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence.
Thou shalt not see them all — Perhaps he thought the sight of all them might discourage him, or as it did before, raise his fancy to an admiration of the multitude and felicity of the people.
And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder.
While I meet the Lord — To consult him, and to receive an answer from him.
And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:
Rise up — This word implies the diligent attention required; rouse up thyself and carefully mind what I say.
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
That he should lie — Break his promises made to his people for their preservation and benediction.
Repent — Change his counsels or purposes; unless he see iniquity in Jacob.
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.
Iniquity — Not such as in the Canaanites: Such as he will punish with a curse, with utter destruction.
The Lord is with him — He hath a favour for this people, and will defend and save them.
The shout of a king — That is, such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith a people congratulate the approach and presence of their King: when he appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle with victory. This expression implies God's being their King and ruler, and their abundant security and confidence in him.
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
Out of Egypt — Namely, by a strong hand, and in spite of all their enemies, and therefore it is in vain to seek or hope to overcome them.
He — Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt, such change of numbers being very common in the Hebrew language. The sense is, Israel is not now what he was in Egypt, a poor, weak, dispirited, unarmed people, but high and strong and invincible.
An unicorn — The word may mean either a rhinoceros, or a strong and fierce kind of wild goat. But such a creature as an unicorn, as commonly painted, has no existence in nature.
Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!
Against Jacob — Nor against any that truly believe in Christ.
What hath God wrought — How wonderful and glorious are those works which God is now about to do for Israel! These things will be a matter of discourse and admiration to all ages.
Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.
As a great Lion — As a lion rouseth up himself to fight, or to go out to the prey, so shall Israel stir up themselves to warlike attempts against their enemies.
He shall not lie down — Not rest or cease from fighting and pursuing.
And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon.
Peor — An high place called Beth-peor, Deuteronomy 3:29. That is, the house or temple of Peor, because there they worshipped Baal-peor.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 23". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26