Numbers 24

Listen to Numbers 24

Balaam's Third Oracle

1 When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go, as at 1other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness.
2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel 2camping tribe by tribe. And 3the Spirit of God came upon him,
3 and he 4took up his discourse and said, "The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,[a]
4 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, 5falling down with his eyes uncovered:
5 How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel!
6 Like palm groves[b] that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, 6like aloes 7that the LORD has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters.
7 Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be 8in many waters; his king shall be higher than 9Agag, and 10his kingdom shall be exalted.
8 God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the 11horns of the wild ox; he shall 12eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall 13break their bones in pieces and 14pierce them through with his arrows.
9 He crouched, he lay down like a lion and 15like a lioness; who will rouse him up? 16Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you."
10 And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he 17struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, 18"I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times.
11 Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, 19'I will certainly honor you,' but the LORD has held you back from honor."
12 And Balaam said to Balak, "Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me,
13 20'If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad 21of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak'?
14 And now, behold, I am going to my people. Come, 22I will let you know what this people will do to your people 23in the latter days."

Balaam's Final Oracle

15 24And he took up his discourse and said, "The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of 25the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, 26falling down with his eyes uncovered:
17 27I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: 28a star shall come out of Jacob, and 29a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall 30crush the forehead[c] of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.
18 31Edom shall be dispossessed; 32Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. Israel is doing valiantly.
19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!"
20 Then he looked on Amalek and 33took up his discourse and said, "Amalek was the first among the nations, 34but its end is utter destruction."
21 And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, "Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock.
22 Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned when Asshur takes you away captive."
23 And he took up his discourse and said, "Alas, who shall live when God does this?
24 But ships shall come from 35Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and 36Eber; and he too 37shall come to utter destruction."
25 Then Balaam rose and 38went back to his place. And Balak also went his way.

Numbers 24 Commentary

Chapter 24

Balaam, leaving divinations, prophesies the happiness of Israel. (1-9) Balak dismisses Balaam in anger. (10-14) Balaam's prophecies. (15-25)

Verses 1-9 Now Balaam spake not his own sense, but the language of the Spirit that came upon him. Many have their eyes open who have not their hearts open; are enlightened, but not sanctified. That knowledge which puffs men up with pride, will but serve to light them to hell, whither many go with their eyes open. The blessing is nearly the same as those given before. He admires in Israel, their beauty. The righteous, doubtless, is more excellent than his neighbour. Their fruitfulness and increase. Their honour and advancement. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their courage and security. The righteous are bold as a lion, not when assaulting others, but when at rest, because God maketh them to dwell in safety. Their influence upon their neighbours. God takes what is done to them, whether good or evil, as done to himself.

Verses 10-14 This vain attempt to curse Israel is ended. Balak broke out into a rage against Balaam, and expressed great vexation. Balaam has a very full excuse; God restrained him from saying what he would have said, and constrained him to say what he would not have uttered.

Verses 15-25 Under the powerful influence of the Spirit of prophecy, Balaam foretold the future prosperity and extensive dominion of Israel. Balaam boasts that his eyes are open. The prophets were in old times called seers. He had heard the words of God, which many do who neither heed them, nor hear God in them. He knew the knowledge of the Most High. A man may be full of the knowledge of God, yet utterly destitute of the grace of God. He calls God the Most High and the Almighty. No man could seem to express a greater respect to God; yet he had no true fear of him, love to him, nor faith in him; so far a man may go toward heaven, and yet come short of it at last. Here is Balaam's prophecy concerning Him who should be the crown and glory of his people Israel; who is David in the type; but our Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah, is chiefly pointed at, and of him it is an illustrious prophecy. Balaam, a wicked man, shall see Christ, but shall not see him nigh; not see him as Job, who saw him as his Redeemer, and saw him for himself. When he comes in the clouds, every eye shall see him; but many will see him, as the rich man in hell saw Abraham, afar off. He shall come out of Jacob, and Israel, as a Star and a Sceptre; the former denoting his glory and lustre; the latter his power and authority. Christ shall be King, not only of Jacob and Israel, but of all the world; so that all shall be either governed by his golden sceptre, or dashed in pieces by his iron rod. Balaam prophesied concerning the Amalekites and Kenites, part of whose country he had now in view. Even a nest in a rock will not be a lasting security. Here is a prophecy that looks as far forward as to the Greeks and Romans. He acknowledges all the revolutions of states and kingdoms to be the Lord's doing. These events will make such desolations, that scarcely any will escape. They that live then, will be as brands plucked out of the fire. May God fit us for the worst of times! Thus Balaam, instead of cursing the church, curses Amalek the first, and Rome the last enemy of the church. Not Rome pagan only, but Rome papal also; antichrist and all the antichristian powers. Let us ask ourselves, Do we in knowledge, experience, or profession, excel Balaam? No readiness of speech, even in preaching or prayer, no gifts of knowledge or prophecy, are in themselves different from, or superior to the boasted gifts of him who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and died the enemy of God. Simple dependence on the Redeemer's atoning blood and sanctifying grace, cheerful submission to the Divine will, constant endeavours to glorify God and benefit his people, these are less splendid, but far more excellent gifts, and always accompany salvation. No boasting hypocrite ever possessed these; yet the feeblest believer has something of them, and is daily praying for more of them.

Cross References 38

  • 1. Numbers 23:3, 15
  • 2. See Numbers 2:22-31
  • 3. Judges 3:10; 1 Samuel 19:20, 23; 2 Chronicles 15:1; 2 Chronicles 20:14
  • 4. See Numbers 23:7
  • 5. [Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:23; Revelation 1:10, 17]
  • 6. [Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8]
  • 7. Psalms 104:16; Isaiah 61:3
  • 8. [Jeremiah 51:13; Revelation 17:1]
  • 9. 1 Samuel 15:8
  • 10. 2 Samuel 5:12; 1 Chronicles 14:2
  • 11. See Numbers 23:22
  • 12. [Numbers 14:9; Numbers 23:24]
  • 13. Isaiah 38:13; Jeremiah 50:17
  • 14. Psalms 45:5; Jeremiah 50:9
  • 15. Numbers 23:24; Genesis 49:9
  • 16. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 27:29
  • 17. [Job 27:23; Lamentations 2:15; Ezekiel 21:14, 17; Ezekiel 22:13]
  • 18. See Numbers 23:11
  • 19. Numbers 22:17, 37
  • 20. Numbers 22:18
  • 21. See Numbers 16:28
  • 22. [Micah 6:5; Revelation 2:14]
  • 23. See Genesis 49:1
  • 24. [Numbers 21:27]; See Numbers 23:7
  • 25. Acts 7:48
  • 26. See ver. 4
  • 27. [Numbers 23:9]
  • 28. Matthew 2:2; Revelation 22:16
  • 29. Genesis 49:10
  • 30. Jeremiah 48:45; [2 Samuel 8:2]
  • 31. [2 Samuel 8:14; Psalms 60:8, 9; Amos 9:12]
  • 32. Genesis 32:3; Genesis 36:8
  • 33. See Numbers 23:7
  • 34. [Exodus 17:14; 1 Samuel 15:3, 8]
  • 35. Genesis 10:4; Daniel 11:30
  • 36. Genesis 10:21, 25
  • 37. ver. 20
  • 38. [Numbers 31:8]

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or closed, or perfect; also verse 15
  • [b]. Or valleys
  • [c]. Hebrew corners [of the head]

Chapter Summary


In this chapter we are told, that Balaam leaving his enchantments, the Spirit of God came on him, and he spake of the happiness of Israel, and prophesied of their future greatness and glory, Nu 24:1-9 which so exasperated Balak, that he ordered him at once to depart from him, Nu 24:10,11. Balaam justified himself in what he said and did, and suggested that before they parted, he had something to say in a prophetic manner, concerning what Israel should do to Moab in "future" times, Nu 24:12-14 and then prophesies concerning the Messiah, and the destruction of Moab, and of some neighbouring nations, and even of some at a greater distance, as the Assyrians and Romans, Nu 24:15-25.

Numbers 24 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.