Numbers 24

1 And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord that he should bless Israel, he went not as he had gone before, to seek divination: but setting his face towards the desert,
2 And lifting up his eyes, he saw Israel abiding in their tents by their tribes: and the spirit of God rushing upon him,
3 He took up his parable and said: Balaam the son of Beor hath said: The man hath said, whose eye is stopped up:
4 The bearer of the words of God hath said, he that hath beheld the vision of the Almighty, he that falleth, and so his eyes are opened:
5 How beautiful are thy tabernacles O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel!
6 As woody valleys, as watered gardens near the rivers, as tabernacles which the Lord hath pitched, as cedars by the waterside.
7 Water shall flow out of his bucket, and his seed shall be in many waters. For Agag his king shall be removed, and his kingdom shall be taken away.
8 God hath brought him out of Egypt, whose strength is like to the rhinoceros. They shall devour the nations that are his enemies, and break their bones, and pierce them with arrows.
9 Lying down he hath slept as a lion, and as a lioness, whom none shall dare to rouse. He that blesseth thee, shall also himself be blessed: he that curseth thee shall be reckoned accursed.
10 And Balac being angry against Balaam, clapped his hands together and said: I called thee to curse my enemies, and thou on the contrary hast blessed them three times.
11 Return to thy place. I had determined indeed greatly to honour thee, but the Lord hath deprived thee of the honour designed for thee.
12 Balaam made answer to Balac: Did I not say to thy messengers, whom thou sentest to me:
13 If Balac would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to utter any thing of my own head either good or evil: but whatsoever the Lord shall say, that I will speak?
14 But yet going to my people, I will give thee counsel, what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.
15 Therefore taking up his parable, again he said: Balaam the son of Beor hath said: The man whose eye is stopped up, hath said:
16 The hearer of the words of God hath said, who knoweth the doctrine of the Highest, and seeth the visions of the Almighty, who falling hath his eyes opened:
17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth
18 And he shall possess Idumea: the inheritance of Seir shall come to their enemies, but Israel shall do manfully.
19 Out of Jacob shall he come that shall rule, and shall destroy the remains of the city.
20 And when he saw Amalec, he took up his parable, and said: Amalec the beginning of nations, whose latter ends shall be destroyed.
21 He saw also the Cinite: and took up his parable, and said: Thy habitation indeed is strong: but though thou build thy nest in a rock,
22 And thou be chosen of the stock of Cin, how long shalt thou be able to continue? For Assur shall take thee captive.
23 And taking up his parable, again he said: Alas, who shall live when God shall do these things?
24 They shall come in galleys from Italy, they shall overcome the Assyrians, and shall waste the Hebrews, and at the last they themselves also shall perish.
25 And Balaam rose, and returned to his place: Balac also returned the way that he came.

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.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 24

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