Numbers 22

Listen to Numbers 22

Balak Summons Balaam

1 Then 1the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho.
2 And 2Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3 And 3Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel.
4 And Moab said to 4the elders of Midian, "This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time,
5 5sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor 6at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw,[a] to call him, saying, "Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me.
6 7Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."
7 So the elders of Moab and 8the elders of Midian departed with 9the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak's message.
8 And he said to them, "Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the LORD speaks to me." So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.
9 10And God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?"
10 And Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying,
11 'Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.'"
12 God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for 11they are blessed."
13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you."
14 So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."
15 Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these.
16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: 'Let nothing hinder you from coming to me,
17 12for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. 13Come, curse this people for me.'"
18 But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, 14"Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, 15I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more.
19 So you, too, 16please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me."
20 17And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; 18but only do what I tell you."
21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

Balaam's Donkey and the Angel

22 But God's anger was kindled because he went, 19and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way 20as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him.
23 And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road.
24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side.
25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again.
26 Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left.
27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
28 Then the LORD 21opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?"
29 And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you."
30 And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?" And he said, "No."
31 Then the LORD 22opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face.
32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out 23to oppose you because your way is perverse[b] before me.
33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live."
34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, 24"I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back."
35 And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, 25but speak only the word that I tell you." So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.
36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, 26on the border formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the border.
37 And Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to 27honor you?"
38 Balaam said to Balak, "Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? 28The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak."
39 Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth.
40 And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent for Balaam and for the princes who were with him.
41 And in the morning Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw a fraction of the people.

Numbers 22 Commentary

Chapter 22

Balak's fear of Israel, He sends for Balaam. (1-14) Balaam goes to Balak. (15-21) The opposition to Balaam by the way. (22-35) Balaam and Balak meet. (36-41)

Verses 1-14 The king of Moab formed a plan to get the people of Israel cursed; that is, to set God against them, who had hitherto fought for them. He had a false notion, that if he could get some prophet to pray for evil upon them, and to pronounce a blessing upon himself and his forces, that then he should be able to deal with them. None had so great a reputation as Balaam; and Balak will employ him, though he send a great way for him. It is not known whether the Lord had ever spoken to Balaam, or by him, before this; though it is probable he had, and it is certain he did afterwards. Yet we have abundant proof that he lived and died a wicked man, an enemy to God and his people. And the curse shall not come upon us if there is not a cause, even though men utter it. To prevail with Balaam, they took the wages of unrighteousness, but God laid restraint upon Balaam, forbidding him to curse Israel. Balaam was no stranger to Israel's cause; so that he ought to have answered the messengers at once, that he would never curse a people whom God had blessed; but he takes a night's time to consider what he should do. When we parley with temptations, we are in great danger of being overcome. Balaam was not faithful in returning God's answer to the messengers. Those are a fair mark for Satan's temptation, who lessen Divine restraints; as if to go against God's law were only to go without his leave. The messengers also are not faithful in returning Balaam's answer to Balak. Thus many are abused by the flatteries of those about them, and are prevented from seeing their own faults and follies.

Verses 15-21 A second embassy was sent to Balaam. It were well for us, if we were as earnest and constant in prosecuting a good work, notwithstanding disappointments. Balak laid a bait, not only for Balaam's covetousness, but for his pride and ambition. How earnestly should we beg of God daily to mortify such desires in us! Thus sinners stick at no pains, spare no cost, and care not how low they stoop, to gratify their luxury, or their malice. Shall we then be unwilling to do what is right? God forbid! Balaam's convictions charged him to keep to the command of God; nor could any man have spoken better. But many call God theirs, who are not his, not truly because not only his. There is no judging men by their words; God knows the heart. Balaam's corruptions at the same time inclined him to go contrary to the command. He seemed to refuse the temptation; but he expressed no abhorrence of it. He had a strong desire to accept the offer, and hoped that God might give him leave to go. He had already been told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence of the ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. God gave Balaam up to his own heart's lusts. As God sometimes denies the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the desires of the wicked in wrath.

Verses 22-35 We must not think, that because God does not always by his providence restrain men from sin, therefore he approves of it, or that it is not hateful to him. The holy angels oppose sin, and perhaps are employed in preventing it more than we are aware. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaam counted him his adversary; those are really our best friends, and we ought so to reckon them, who stop our progress in sinful ways. Balaam has notice of God's displeasure by the ass. It is common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil, to push on violently, through the difficulties Providence lays in their way. The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was a great miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made man speak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man's voice. The ass complained of Balaam's cruelty. The righteous God does not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but they shall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some way or other speak for them. Balaam at length has his eyes opened. God has many ways to bring down the hard and unhumbled heart. When our eyes are opened, we shall see the danger of sinful ways, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed. Balaam seemed to relent; I have sinned; but it does not appear that he was sensible of this wickedness of his heart, or willing to own it. If he finds he cannot go forward, he will be content, since there is no remedy, to go back. Thus many leave their sins, only because their sins have left them. The angel declared that he should not only be unable to curse Israel, but should be forced to bless them: this would be more for the glory of God, and to his own confusion, than if he had turned back.

Verses 36-41 Balak has now nothing to complain of, but that Balaam did not come sooner. Balaam bids Balak not depend too much upon him. He seems to speak with vexation; but is really as desirous to please Balak, as ever he had pretended to be to please God. See what need we have to pray every day, Our Father which art in heaven, lead us not into temptation. Let us be jealous over our own hearts, seeing how far men may go in the knowledge of God, and yet come short of Divine grace.

Cross References 28

  • 1. Numbers 26:3, 63; Numbers 31:12; Numbers 33:48, 50; Numbers 35:1; Numbers 36:13
  • 2. Judges 11:25
  • 3. Exodus 15:15
  • 4. Numbers 31:8; Joshua 13:21
  • 5. Deuteronomy 23:4; Joshua 24:9; Nehemiah 13:2; Micah 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14
  • 6. Deuteronomy 23:4; [Numbers 23:7]
  • 7. Numbers 23:7
  • 8. [See ver. 4 above]
  • 9. [1 Samuel 9:7, 8; Micah 3:11]
  • 10. [Genesis 20:3; Job 33:15, 16]
  • 11. See Numbers 23:20
  • 12. ver. 37; Numbers 24:11
  • 13. ver. 11
  • 14. Numbers 24:13
  • 15. ver. 38; Numbers 23:26; [1 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 18:13]
  • 16. ver. 8
  • 17. [See ver. 9 above]
  • 18. ver. 35; Numbers 23:12, 26; Numbers 24:13
  • 19. [Exodus 4:24; 1 Chronicles 21:16]
  • 20. ver. 32
  • 21. 2 Peter 2:16
  • 22. [Genesis 21:19; 2 Kings 6:17; Luke 24:16, 31]
  • 23. ver. 22
  • 24. [1 Samuel 15:24; 1 Samuel 26:21; 2 Samuel 12:13; Job 34:31, 32]
  • 25. ver. 20
  • 26. Numbers 21:13
  • 27. ver. 17; Numbers 24:11
  • 28. ver. 18

Footnotes 2

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 22

The children of Israel being come into the plains of Moab, put the king of Moab into a panic, who expressed his fears to the elders of Midian, Nu 22:1-4 and sent for Balaam the soothsayer to curse the people of Israel, but he, upon consulting the Lord refused to come, Nu 22:5-14, on which the king of Moab sent to him a second time, making large promises of preferment to him, and who at this time got leave from the Lord to go with the messengers, Nu 22:15-21, but was met with in the way by an angel of the Lord, who would have slain him had it not been for his ass, of which a very wonderful revelation is given, Nu 22:22-35, and the chapter is closed with the interview between Balak king of Moab and Balaam, and an account of what passed between them, and what was done by them, Nu 22:36-41.

Numbers 22 Commentaries