Numbers 24

1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness.
2 When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him
3 and he spoke his message: “The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor, the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
4 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty,[a]who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
5 “How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel!
6 “Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters.
7 Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. “Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.
8 “God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them.
9 Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse them? “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”
10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times.
11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”
12 Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me,
13 ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD—and I must say only what the LORD says’?
14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.”

Balaam’s Fourth Message

15 Then he spoke his message: “The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor, the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
16 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls[b] of[c] all the people of Sheth.[d]
18 Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”

Balaam’s Fifth Message

20 Then Balaam saw Amalek and spoke his message: “Amalek was first among the nations, but their end will be utter destruction.”

Balaam’s Sixth Message

21 Then he saw the Kenites and spoke his message: “Your dwelling place is secure, your nest is set in a rock;
22 yet you Kenites will be destroyed when Ashur takes you captive.”

Balaam’s Seventh Message

23 Then he spoke his message: “Alas! Who can live when God does this?[e]
24 Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus; they will subdue Ashur and Eber, but they too will come to ruin.”
25 Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own 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 51

  • 1. S Numbers 23:20
  • 2. S Numbers 23:23
  • 3. Numbers 23:28
  • 4. S Numbers 11:25,26; 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20; 2 Chronicles 15:1
  • 5. ver 15
  • 6. S Numbers 22:9; Numbers 22:20
  • 7. S Genesis 15:1
  • 8. Jeremiah 4:20; Jeremiah 30:18; Malachi 2:12
  • 9. S Genesis 2:10
  • 10. Psalms 45:8; Song of Songs 4:14
  • 11. Job 29:19; Psalms 1:3; Psalms 104:16; Ezekiel 31:5
  • 12. S Exodus 17:8-16; 2 Samuel 15:8
  • 13. Deuteronomy 28:1; 2 Samuel 5:12; 1 Chronicles 14:2; Psalms 89:27; Psalms 145:11-13
  • 14. S Exodus 15:6; Psalms 2:9; Jer 50: 17
  • 15. 2 Samuel 18:14; Psalms 45:5
  • 16. Genesis 49:9; S Numbers 23:24
  • 17. S Genesis 12:2
  • 18. S Genesis 12:3
  • 19. S Exodus 4:14
  • 20. Job 27:23; Job 34:37; Lamentations 2:15; Ezekiel 21:14; Ezekiel 22:13; Ezekiel 25:6
  • 21. S Numbers 22:6
  • 22. S Numbers 23:11; S Deuteronomy 23:5
  • 23. ver 3-9; Nu 23:7-10,18-24; Nehemiah 13:2
  • 24. ver 14,25
  • 25. S Numbers 22:17
  • 26. Numbers 22:18
  • 27. S Numbers 22:18
  • 28. S Numbers 22:20
  • 29. S Genesis 49:1; Numbers 31:8,16; Daniel 2:28; Micah 6:5
  • 30. S Numbers 22:9
  • 31. Genesis 14:18; Isaiah 14:14
  • 32. Revelation 1:7
  • 33. Matthew 2:2
  • 34. S Genesis 49:10
  • 35. S Genesis 19:37; S Numbers 21:29; S Deuteronomy 23:6; Isa 15:1-16:14
  • 36. Jeremiah 48:45
  • 37. 2 Samuel 8:12; 1 Chronicles 18:11; Psalms 60:8; Isaiah 11:14; Amos 9:12
  • 38. S Genesis 14:6; Deuteronomy 1:44; Joshua 12:7; Joshua 15:10; Judges 5:4
  • 39. Obadiah 1:2
  • 40. S Genesis 9:25
  • 41. S Genesis 49:10; Micah 5:2
  • 42. S Genesis 14:7; S Exodus 17:14
  • 43. Deuteronomy 25:19; 1 Samuel 15:20; 1 Samuel 30:17-20; 2 Samuel 8:12; 1 Chronicles 18:11
  • 44. S Genesis 15:19
  • 45. Psalms 37:27; Proverbs 1:33; Isaiah 32:18; Ezekiel 34:27
  • 46. S Genesis 10:22
  • 47. S Genesis 10:4
  • 48. ver 22
  • 49. S Genesis 10:21
  • 50. ver 20
  • 51. S Numbers 22:5; Numbers 31:8

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Hebrew "Shaddai" ; also in verse 16
  • [b]. Samaritan Pentateuch (see also Jer. 48:45); the meaning of the word in the Masoretic Text is uncertain.
  • [c]. Or possibly "Moab," / "batter"
  • [d]. Or "all the noisy boasters"
  • [e]. Masoretic Text; with a different word division of the Hebrew "The people from the islands will gather from the north" .

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

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