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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Numbers 24

 

 

Verses 1-25

BALAAM'S THIRD PROPHECY

(vs.1-13)

THE BEAUTY OF LIFE

At least Balaam had learned by now that the Lord had the unchangeable purpose of blessing Israel, so this time he knew it was useless to seek enchantments from evil spirits, but "set his face toward the wilderness, where the children of Israel were encamped as ordered by God" (v.1). Then the Spirit of God took possession of him to convey another wonderful prophecy.

He announced this as the oracle of Balaam, the man whose eyes were opened. He was sufficiently enlightened to know that Israel was unchangeably blessed by God, though his eyes were not by any means opened spiritually, as is the case in new birth. Yet he had heard the words of God and had seen the vision of the Almighty (v.4).

In seeing the visions of God, Balaam was compelled to fall down, as he did before the angel (ch.22:31), yet with his eyes so opened as to see Israel from God's viewpoint. How sad that this had no lasting effect on his heart!

We may not think of tents as being beautiful, but Israel's tents were lovely to God (v.5), for the tents speak of their pilgrims and strangers, not settling down in an ungodly world, for which cause God was not ashamed to be called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Hebrews 11:13-16). The expression "your dwellings" may be prophetic of Israel's future possession of their own land.

"Valleys," "gardens by the riverside," "aloes planted by the Lord," and "cedars beside the waters" (v.6) tell us of the vibrant beauty and fruitfulness of Israel as in the counsels of God, which will have its full display in the millennial age. In all of this is the expression of life with its energy of producing fruit. This is typical of the much greater blessing of eternal life given now to every child of God, and which produces lovely fruit.

"He shall pour out water from his buckets" (v.7) reminds us that "rivers of living water" flow from the inward parts of a believer (John 7:38) for the blessing of others also. So that Israel will be a source of refreshment for all the nations in the Millennium. "His seed shall be in many waters." The waters speak of the Gentile nations (Revelation 17:15). Thus the descendants of Israel will spread an influence of great blessing over the whole world.

"His King (the Lord Jesus) shall be higher than Agag," whose name means "I will overtop." He was the king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:20), and symbolizes the pride that thinks of everything as being under his domination. But the highest claims of men are reduced to nothing by Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, whose kingdom will be highly exalted.

Balak was reminded that God brought Israel out of Egypt by His superior strength (v.8), and that God would consume the nations that antagonized Israel, breaking their bones and piercing them with His arrows. What of the enemies of believers today? While we patiently pray for them instead of fighting, yet we know that in God's own time He will "repay with tribulation those who trouble you" (2 Thessalonians 1:6), "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs.7-8)

"He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion who shall rouse him up?" (v.9). After devouring the prey the lion lies down. So, when God brings rest to Israel after the defeat of all their enemies, He promises, "Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid" Jeremiah 30:10). No nations will be disposed to stir up Israel's anger all through the thousand years of peace. Even at the end of that time, when nations come in united hostility against Israel, there will be no need for Israel to fear, because God will destroy their enemies with fire from heaven (Revelation 20:7-10).

How appropriate therefore are Balaam's closing words, "Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you." This had been true through the ages. Nations that have shown kindness to Israel have been blessed, while those who have oppressed the Jews have suffered.

But Balaam's message greatly stirred Balak's anger (v.10). Why did he not bow to the Word of God? Just because of a stubborn will! He knew that it was the Lord who had kept Balaam back from being honored by Balak, but he had no intention of listening to the Lord, in spite of the three occasions of testimony to the blessing of Israel. He gave up all hope of having Israel cursed, and only wanted Balaam to get away, without payment for his services.

Balaam could only respond as before, that he must speak what he was given to speak. If an evil spirit had given him a message of cursing he would have been glad to speak that, but God intervened to give a message that He compelled Balaam to speak. A house full of gold and silver could not change that, as Balaam knew (v.13).

However, Balaam did not leave then, as Balak told him to. For God required Balaam to speak a further prophecy and Balak found himself powerless to resist listening, even though Balaam announced that the message would be that of Israel's conquest of Moab in the latter days. Since Balak had ignorantly challenged God when he determined to have God's people cursed, then God gave Balak four messages that he could not avoid hearing, much as he might have desired to suppress at least the fourth! Thus, God is not mocked, and Balak was given a testimony that ought to have persuaded him that when he stands before God at the Great White throne, God's Word will stand, and Balak will only listen!

BALAAM'S FOURTH PROPHECY

(vs.15-25)

Balaam begins this in much the same strain as in his third prophecy, as the man whose eyes were opened, and who hears the words of God and has knowledge of the Most High. How sad that that knowledge was only an evidential knowledge, not the vital knowledge of a believer. Yet it was accurate, for he actually saw the vision of the Almighty, subdued before God, to fall down with his eyes open. Therefore, what he prophesied is absolute truth which he could only know by God's revelation.

But at the outset he is made to speak of his own tragic position, saying, "I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not near" (v.17). The following verses make clear that he is speaking of the Lord Jesus, the Star and the Scepter. Balaam's fate will be that of all unbelievers. Believers see the Lord Jesus now by faith (Hebrews 2:9), but Balaam had no intention of bowing his heart to Him at the time, and therefore in the future he will see Him, but not near, for it will be only in awesome judgment when he sees Him on the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). Terrible prospect!

As the Star the Lord Jesus is the one of heavenly character and heavenly light, thus a star gave testimony of His birth to the wise men of the east (Matthew 2:1-2). As the Scepter He is the expression of God's authority, for the scepter signifies kingly authority. This compares with Psalms 45:6 : "A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom."

He will "batter the brow of Moab" or "shall crush through the forehead of Moab" (NASB). The forehead speaks of intelligence manifested either as, in the unbeliever, strongly opposed to God, or in a believer, firmly obedient to God (Ezekiel 3:7-9). but as David killed Goliath with a stone striking his forehead, so will the Lord Jesus crush the defiance of Moab, with its proud mind set against God. Also He will destroy all the sons of tumult. Who are the sons of tumult? Those who engage in noisy protest against anything and everything.

But Balaam speaks of more than Moab. Edom adjoined Moab, and Edom will become a possession of Israel (v.18). Edom speaks of the flesh, and the flesh then will be put in the place of nothingness. For Israel in the Millennium will not be in the perfect state: the flesh will still be in them, but put under control. Seir also will be a possession. Esau had adopted Seir as his home (Genesis 33:16), so that it is in close proximity to Edom and to Moab. These will be fully subjugated to Israel.

"Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, and destroy the remains of the city" (v.19). Whatever city this means, the large fellowship that it implies will be destroyed. People want their cities in order to find strength in unity, but it is in men's cities that corruption thrives, and the Lord Jesus will destroy all this.

However, while Moab and Edom are to be subjugated to Israel, Amalek will suffer a more solemn judgment. Though Amalek was first among the nations, he will totally perish, as Exodus 17:14 affirms, "I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven". For Amalek symbolizes the lusts of the flesh, which God will not spare.

The Kenites are then spoken of as having an enduring dwelling place, established in the rock (v.21), but "Kain (the Kenites) shall be burned and Asshur carry him away captive." The Kenites had shown kindness to Israel when they came out of Egypt (1 Samuel 15:6), but evidently at the last their character of disobedience to God will call for their judgment too. What appears to be good, if it does not have Christ as its Object, will be proven at the last only "enmity against God" (Romans 8:7) Asshur (Assyria) will take them captive at the time of the end.

Again it is said Balaam "took up his oracle" (v.23), for the subject here goes deeper. He is so awe-inspired as to say, "Alas, who shall live when God does this?" Ships will come from the coasts of Kittim (v.24). This name was at the time applied to Cyprus, but later was widened to involve Greece and Italy. thus there seems no doubt that this refers to the coming of the "Beast" of the revived Roman Empire in opposition to the king of Assyria (Asshur) when that king, called "the king of the north," will come like a whirlwind to invade Israel (Daniel 11:40-41). This will occur immediately following the setting up of "the abomination of desolation" by the Antichrist at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week (Daniel 9:27). Asshur and Eber will also "come to destruction" (v.24 -- NASB). The destruction spoken of here is only of those nations in the middle east of which Balak had knowledge. The Beast of Rome too will suffer utter destruction (Revelation 19:20), but this is not mentioned here.

Balaam then went home, his heart unchanged by the truth he was forced to announce, and Balak left also, a much sadder man, though we might wish we could say a wiser man too. But we fear the knowledge he gained did not make him wiser.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Numbers 24:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/numbers-24.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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