And when Balsam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel,
&c.] That it was good in his sight, what he approved of, and was well-pleasing to him, and that it was his determined mind that Israel should be blessed, and not cursed, from which there was no turning him, by offering sacrifices to him, and much less by his sorceries and divinations:
he went not as at other times;
or, "as at a time in a time" F17, at two times, of which see ( Numbers 23:3 Numbers 23:15 ) , he abode in the place where the sacrifices were offered, and did not depart to another at some distance, as he had twice before done:
to seek for enchantments;
which it seems he used before, for he not only offered sacrifices to the true God, which yet were attended with superstitious rites, but he made use of his divining art also; and not only went to meet with God, and hear what he would say to him, but consulted the devil also, being willing to have two strings to his bow, and that, if possible, he might carry his point, and get what his covetous and ambitious mind was desirous of: the words may be literally rendered, "to meet enchantments" F18; but what should be meant by the phrase is not easy to say; I should rather choose to render them, "to meet serpents", and make use of them in his divinations, make observations on them, and predictions from them: one sort of divination is called "ophiomancy", or divining by serpents; so Calchas, on seeing a serpent devour eight sparrows with their dam, foretold the duration of the siege of Troy F19:
but he set his face towards the wilderness:
where the people of Israel lay encamped, not with an intention to bless them, though he saw it pleased the Lord, but to take an opportunity, if he could, without his leave, to curse them; and therefore he did not go out as he did before, to know his will, but stood by the sacrifice, with his face to the wilderness, where the people were, to take any advantage that offered.