Who can count, the dust of Jacob
The people of Israel, their posterity so called, not because of their original, the dust of the earth, but because of their numbers, being as numerous as the dust of the earth, or sand of the sea, as it was promised they should be, ( Genesis 28:14 ) and which is here confirmed by the prophecy of Balaam:
and the number of the fourth part of Israel;
one of the four camps of Israel, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; for this people was divided into four camps, under so many standards, which were those of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan, see ( Numbers 2:1-34 ) , and one of them is represented by Balaam as so numerous, as not to be counted, or should be so, see ( Hosea 1:10 Hosea 1:11 ) . The spiritual Israel of God, though comparatively few, are in themselves, and will be when all together, a great number, which no man can number, ( Revelation 7:9 ) :
let me die the death of the righteous;
which are among them, as Jarchi, among the Israelites; for they were not all righteous, nor are any, of themselves, or by their own works, but by the righteousness of Christ: or the death of the upright ones F1; such as are upright in heart and life, who have right spirits renewed in them, and walk uprightly according to the rule of the divine word; such as are Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile; the word used is pretty near, in sound and signification, to Jeshurun, one of the names of Israel, ( Deuteronomy 32:15 ) ( 33:5 ) , the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem render it,
``the death of the true ones,''
who are truly righteous and upright, truly gracious persons; who have the truth of grace, and the root of the matter in them: these die as well as others, yet their death is different from others, not in the thing itself, but in the concomitants and consequences of it; they die in the Lord, in union to him, in faith of him, in hope of eternal life by him, and their death is precious to him; and in consequence of this they are carried by angels to glory at death are immediately in heaven with Christ, and it will be well with them to all eternity. Balaam had some notion of this; and though he did not care to live the life of such, he wished to die their death, or that he might be as happy at death as they; by which he bears a testimony to the immortality of the soul, to a future state after death, and to an eternal life and happiness to be enjoyed by good men:
and let my last end be like his;
which is a phrase expressive of much the same thing as before: death is the end of a man in this world; and the end of a righteous man in it is peace, rest, salvation, and eternal life, or is what follows upon it, and he then enters into: some render it, "my reward" F2, which comes to much the same sense, the above being the righteous man's reward, not in a way of debt, but grace; others render the word, "my posterity" F3; but it is not certain Balaam had any, and if he had, his concern seems to be more for himself than for them.
F1 (Myrvy) rectorum, Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator.
F2 (ytyrxa) see Prov. xxiv. 20.
F3 (to sperma mou) Sept.