Numbers 22:5

5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face[a] of the earth, and they abide over against me:

Numbers 22:5 Meaning and Commentary

Numbers 22:5

He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor
In consequence of the consultation held by the king of Moab with the elders of Midian; and very probably through a motion of theirs, and by advice they gave, Balak dispatched messengers of both people to the person here described by his name and parentage; but who he was is not easy to say: the Jews sometimes make him to be a magician in Pharaoh's court, at the time when Moses was born F26, which is not probable; and it is still more improbable that he should be Laban the Syrian, as the Targum of Jonathan here, and the Targum on ( 1 Chronicles 1:44 ) though others say


FOOTNOTES:

F1 he was the son of Beor, the son of Laban, and so was the grandson of Laban; and with as little probability is he said to be Elihu, that answered Job according to a tradition of the Jews, mentioned by Jerom {b}; nor is there any reason to believe that he was ever a good man, and a true prophet of the Lord; he is expressly said to be a diviner or a soothsayer, ( Joshua 13:22 ) , a sort of men abhorred of God, and not to be suffered to be among his people, ( Deuteronomy 18:10 ) but were of great credit and esteem among the Heathens, for their pretensions to foretell things to come, or to discover lost goods, and the like; and by their enchantments to drive away evils, or bring on curses, for which Balaam was famous: and therefore, by the advice of the Midianites, Balak sent for him

to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his
people;
the land of his people, of his birth or habitation, was Aram or Syria, ( Numbers 23:7 ) that is, Aram Naharaim, which lay between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates, or what is sometimes called Mesopotamia, as is clear from ( Deuteronomy 23:4 ) , and the river of that land, which was eminently so called, is the river Euphrates, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it here, and by that river was Pethor, where Balaam now lived; and is by some thought to be the same with the Pacoria of Ptolemy F3, which was by that river: the messengers were sent

to call him:
to invite him to Balak's court:

saying, behold, there is a people come out from Egypt;
Balak speaks of them, as if he knew not who they were, only that they were come from Egypt, and were seeking a new habitation to settle in, and so were in danger from them, lest they should invade his country, and settle there:

behold, they cover the face of the earth;
not the face of the whole earth, unless an hyperbolical expression is supposed, to set forth the greatness of their numbers; but a large part of the earth, all within sight almost, even the plains of Moab:

and they abide over against me;
were very near him, lay encamped before his country, and his metropolis, and so he thought himself in great danger, and threatened with an invasion, as the pitching of their tents so near made him surmise.


F26 Dibre Hayamim Shekmoaseh, fol. 3. 2.
F1 Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 7. 2.
F2 Quaest. "see Traditiones" in Gen. fol. 69. D.
F3 Geograph. l. 5. c. 18.

Numbers 22:5 In-Context

3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children 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 licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children 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 prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.
7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.

Footnotes 1