Bamidbar 23

1 3 And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here shivah mizbechot, and prepare for me here shivah bulls and shivah rams.
2 And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on each mizbe’ach a bull and a ram.
3 And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy olah, and I will go; perhaps Hashem will come to meet me; and whatsoever He showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to a barren height.
4 And Elohim met Balaam, and he said unto Him, I have prepared shivah hamizbechot, and I have offered upon each mizbe’ach a bull and a ram.
5 And Hashem put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak.
6 And he returned unto him, and, hinei, he stood by his olah, he, and all the sarim of Moav.
7 And he took up his mashal, and said, Balak Melech Moav hath brought me from Aram (Syria), out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse for me Ya’akov, and come, denounce Yisroel.
8 How shall I curse, whom El hath not cursed? Or how shall I denounce, whom Hashem hath not denounced?
9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the heights I behold him; see, the people shall live apart, and shall not be reckoned among the Goyim.
10 Who can count the dust of Ya’akov, and the number of the fourth part of Yisroel? Let my nefesh die the death of the yesharim (righteous ones), and let my latter end be like his!
11 And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I brought thee to curse mine enemies, and, hinei, thou hast altogether put a brocha on them.
12 And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which Hashem hath put in my mouth?
13 And Balak said unto him, Come with me unto another place, from where thou mayest see them; thou shalt see part but not all of them, and curse them for me from there.
14 And he brought him into the sadeh of Tzophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built shivah mizbechot, and offered a bull and a ram on each mizbe’ach.
15 And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy olah, while I meet Hashem over there.
16 And Hashem met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus.
17 And when he came to him, hinei, he stood by his olah, and the sarim of Moav with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath Hashem spoken?
18 And he took up his mashal, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; pay heed unto me, thou son of Tzippor.
19 El is not an ish, that He should lie; neither a ben adam, that He should change His mind; hath He said, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not carry it out?
20 Hinei, I have received commandment to make brocha; and He hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
21 He hath not beheld avon in Ya’akov, neither hath He seen amal (trouble) in Yisroel. Hashem Elohav is with him, and the [jubilant] shout of a melech is about him.
22 El brought them out of Mitzrayim; He is for them like the strength of a wild ox.
23 Surely there is no nachash (augury) in Ya’akov; neither is there any kesem (divination) in Yisroel; at the time it is spoken to Ya’akov and to Yisroel what El doeth!
24 See, the people shall rise up as a lioness, and lift up himself as an ari; he shall not lie down until he devours the prey, and drinks the dahm of the slain.
25 And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor at all make a brocha on them.
26 But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Did I not tell thee, saying, All that Hashem speaketh, that I must do?
27 And Balak said unto Balaam, Come now, I will bring thee unto another place; perhaps it will please HaElohim that thou mayest curse them for me from there.
28 And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that overlooks Yeshimon.
29 And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here shivah mizbechot, and prepare here shivah bulls and shivah rams for me.
30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each mizbe’ach.

Bamidbar 23 Commentary

Chapter 23

Balak's sacrifice, Balaam pronounces a blessing instead of a curse. (1-10) Balak's disappointment, and second sacrifice, Balaam again blesses Israel. (11-30)

Verses 1-10 With the camps of Israel full in view, Balaam ordered seven altars to be built, and a bullock and a ram to be offered on each. Oh the sottishness of superstition, to imagine that God will be at man's beck! The curse is turned into a blessing, by the overruling power of God, in love to Israel. God designed to serve his own glory by Balaam, and therefore met him. If God put a word into the mouth of Balaam, who would have defied God and Israel, surely he will not be wanting to those who desire to glorify God, and to edify his people; it shall be given what they should speak. He who opened the mouth of the ass, caused the mouth of this wicked man to speak words as contrary to the desire of his heart, as those of the ass were to the powers of the brute. The miracle was as great in the one case as in the other. Balaam pronounces Israel safe. He owns he could do no more than God suffered him to do. He pronounces them happy in their distinction from the rest of the nations. Happy in their numbers, which made them both honourable and formidable. Happy in their last end. Death is the end of all men; even the righteous must die, and it is good for us to think of this with regard to ourselves, as Balaam does here, speaking of his own death. He pronounces the righteous truly blessed, not only while they live, but when they die; which makes their death even more desirable than life itself. But there are many who desire to die the death of the righteous, but do not endeavour to live the life of the righteous; gladly would they have an end like theirs, but not a way like theirs. They would be saints in heaven, but not saints on earth. This saying of Balaam's is only a wish, not a prayer; it is a vain wish, being only a wish for the end, without any care for the means. Many seek to quiet their consciences with the promise of future amendment, or take up with some false hope, while they neglect the only way of salvation, by which a sinner can be righteous before God.

Verses 11-30 Balak was angry with Balaam. Thus a confession of God's overruling power is extorted from a wicked prophet, to the confusion of a wicked prince. A second time the curse is turned into a blessing; and this blessing is both larger and stronger than the former. Men change their minds, and break their words; but God never changes his mind, and therefore never recalls his promise. And when in Scripture he is said to repent, it does not mean any change of his mind; but only a change of his way. There was sin in Jacob, and God saw it; but there was not such as might provoke him to give them up to ruin. If the Lord sees that we trust in his mercy, and accept of his salvation; that we indulge no secret lust, and continue not in rebellion, but endeavour to serve and glorify him; we may be sure that he looks upon us as accepted in Christ, that our sins are all pardoned. Oh the wonders of providence and grace, the wonders of redeeming love, of pardoning mercy, of the new-creating Spirit! Balak had no hope of ruining Israel, and Balaam showed that he had more reason to fear being ruined by them. Since Balaam cannot say what he would have him, Balak wished him to say nothing. But though there are many devices in man's heart, God's counsels shall stand. Yet they resolve to make another attempt, though they had no promise on which to build their hopes. Let us, who have a promise that the vision at the end shall speak and not lie, continue earnest in prayer, ( Luke 18:1 ) .

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS 23

This chapter gives an account of the sacrifices offered by Balak and Balaam, and how God met Balsam, and put a word into his mouth, which he delivered in the presence of the king of Moab and his princes, Nu 23:1-7, the substance of which are, the separate state and condition of Israel from other nations, their number, and the happiness of the righteous at death, Nu 23:8-10, which made Balak uneasy, since instead of cursing he blessed Israel, and therefore he had him to another place to take a view of the people, Nu 23:11-13 where having offered sacrifices, another word was put into the mouth of Balaam, and which he also delivered before the king and his nobles, Nu 23:14-18, in which were expressed the unchangeableness of God, the irreversibleness of the blessing of Israel, the strength, safety, happiness, and glory of that people, Nu 23:19-24 which made Balak more uneasy still; but willing to try him a third time, he carried him to another place, and there built altars, and offered sacrifices, the consequence of which is related in the next chapter, Nu 23:25-30.

Bamidbar 23 Commentaries