Numbers 22

1 And the sons of Israel set forward and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan in front of Jericho.
2 And Balak, the son of Zippor, saw all that Israel had done to the Amorite.
3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people because they were many; and Moab was distressed because of the sons of Israel.
4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licks up the herbs of the field. And Balak, the son of Zippor, was king of the Moabites at that time.
5 Therefore he sent messengers unto Balaam, the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the river Eufrates in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt; behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me.
6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people, for they are too mighty for me; peradventure I shall be able to smite them and drive them out of the land; for I know that he whom thou blessest shall be blessed, and he whom thou cursest shall be cursed.
7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the incantations in their hand; and they came unto Balaam and spoke unto him the words of Balak.
8 And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will recite the words unto you when the LORD shall speak unto me. So the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.
9 And God came unto Balaam and said, Who are these men with thee?
10 And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent unto me, saying,
11 Behold, this people that has come out of Egypt, covers the face of the earth; come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them and drive them out.
12 Then God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; neither shalt thou curse the people; for they are blessed.
13 So Balaam rose up in the morning and said unto the princes of Balak, Go back to your land; for the LORD refuses to give me leave to go with you.
14 And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak and said, Balaam refused to come with us.
15 And Balak sent yet again princes, more and more honourable than those.
16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, Thus saith Balak, the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me;
17 for I will without a doubt honour thee greatly, and I will do whatever thou sayest unto me; come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.
18 And Balaam answered and said unto the slaves of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do anything small or great.
19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night that I may know what the LORD will say unto me again.
20 And God came unto Balaam at night and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
21 So Balaam rose up in the morning and saddled his female ass and went with the princes of Moab.
22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the way and went into the field. Then Balaam smote the ass to turn her into the way.
24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side and a wall on that side.
25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; and he smote her again.
26 And the angel of the LORD went further and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee that thou hast smitten me these three times?
29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now would I kill thee.
30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am I not thine ass upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so unto thee? And he said, No.
31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way and his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed down his head and fell flat on his face.
32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold, I went out as thine adversary, because thy way is perverse before me.
33 The ass saw me and turned from me these three times; and if she had not turned from me, I also now would slay thee and leave her alive.
34 Then Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I did not know that thou didst stand in the way against me; now therefore, if it displease thee, I will return.
35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men; but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is next to the border of Arnon, which is at the limit of his territory.
37 And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? Why hast thou not come unto me? Am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?
38 And Balaam said unto Balak, Behold, I am come unto thee; may I now say something? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak.
39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjathhuzoth.
40 And Balak killed oxen and sheep and sent to Balaam and to the princes that were with him.
41 And on the next day, Balak took Balaam and brought him up into the high places of Baal, and from there he saw the utmost part 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.

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

The Jubilee Bible

(from the Scriptures of the Reformation)

edited by Russell M. Stendal

Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2010