Numbers 22



Numbers 22:21-41 . THE JOURNEY.

21. Balaam . . . saddled his ass--probably one of the white sprightly animals which persons of rank were accustomed to ride. The saddle, as usually in the East, would be nothing more than a pad or his outer cloak.

22. God's anger was kindled because he went--The displeasure arose partly from his neglecting the condition on which leave was granted him--namely, to wait till the princes of Moab "came to call him" [ Numbers 22:20 ], and because, through desire for "the wages of unrighteousness" [ 2 Peter 2:15 ], he entertained the secret purpose of acting in opposition to the solemn charge of God.

24. the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards--The roads which lead through fields and vineyards are so narrow that in most parts a man could not pass a beast without care and caution. A stone or mud fence flanks each side of these roads, to prevent the soil being washed off by the rains.

28. the Lord opened the mouth of the ass--to utter, like a parrot, articulate sounds, without understanding them. That this was a visionary scene is a notion which seems inadmissible, because of the improbability of a vision being described as an actual occurrence in the middle of a plain history. Besides, the opening of the ass's mouth must have been an external act, and that, with the manifest tenor of Peter's language, strongly favors the literal view [ 2 Peter 2:15 2 Peter 2:16 ]. The absence of any surprise at such a phenomenon on the part of Balaam may be accounted for by his mind being wholly engrossed with the prospect of gain, which produced "the madness of the prophet" [ 2 Peter 2:16 ]. "It was a miracle, wrought to humble his proud heart, which had to be first subjected in the school of an ass before he was brought to attend to the voice of God speaking by the angel" [CALVIN].

34, 35. I have sinned . . . if it displease thee, I will get me back again--Notwithstanding this confession, he evinced no spirit of penitence, as he speaks of desisting only from the outward act. The words "go with the men" was a mere withdrawal of further restraint, but the terms in which leave was given are more absolute and peremptory than those in Numbers 22:20 .

36, 37. when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him--Politeness requires that the higher the rank of the expected guest, greater distance is to be gone to welcome his arrival.

38. the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak--This appears a pious answer. It was an acknowledgment that he was restrained by a superior power.

39. Kirjath-huzoth--that is, "a city of streets."

40. Balak offered oxen and sheep--made preparations for a grand entertainment to Balaam and the princes of Midian.

41. high places of Baal--eminences consecrated to the worship of