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Balaam's first attempt to curse Israel, turned into a blessing,
ver. 1 - 10.
His second attempt with like success, ver. 11 - 24.
The preparation for a third attempt, ver. 25 - 30.
1: Build seven altars - To the true God, otherwise he would not have
mentioned it to God, as an argument why he should grant his requests, as he
doth, (Nu 23:4).
And though Balak was averse from God and his worship, yet he would be
easily overruled by Balaam, who doubtless told him that it was in vain
to make an address to any other than the God of Israel, who alone was
able either to bless or curse them as he pleased. Seven - This being the
solemn and usual number in sacrifices.
3: Stand by thy burnt - offering - As in God's presence, as one that
offers thyself as well as thy sacrifices to obtain his favour. I will
go - To some solitary and convenient place, where I may prevail with God
to appear to me. Sheweth me - Reveals to me, either by word or sign.
An high place - Or, into the plain, as that word properly signifies.
7: His parable - That is, his oracular and prophetical speech; which
he calls a parable, because of the weightiness of the matter, and the
liveliness of the expressions which is usual in parables. Jacob - The
posterity of Jacob.
9: The rocks - Upon which I now stand. I see him - I see the
people, according to thy desire, (Nu 22:41), but cannot improve that
sight to the end for which thou didst design it, to curse them. The
people shall dwell alone - This people are of a distinct kind from others,
God's peculiar people, separated from all other nations, as in religion and
laws, so also in divine protection; and therefore enchantments cannot have
that power against them which they have against other persons and people.
10: The dust - The numberless people of Jacob or Israel, who
according to God's promise, are now become as the dust of the earth. Of
the righteous - Of this righteous and holy people. The sense is, they are
not only happy above other nations in this life, and therefore in vain
should I curse them, but they have this peculiar privilege, that they are
happy after death: their happiness begins where the happiness of other
people ends; and therefore I heartily wish that my soul may have its portion
with theirs when I die. Was not God now again striving with him, not only
for the sake of Israel, but of his own soul?
12: Must I not - Ought I not? Is it not my duty? Canst thou blame
me for it?
13: Thou shalt not see them all - Perhaps he thought the sight of all
them might discourage him, or as it did before, raise his fancy to an
admiration of the multitude and felicity of the people.
15: While I meet the Lord - To consult him, and to receive an answer
18: Rise up - This word implies the diligent attention required;
rouse up thyself and carefully mind what I say.
19: That he should lie - Break his promises made to his people for
their preservation and benediction. Repent - Change his counsels or
purposes; unless he see iniquity in Jacob.
21: Iniquity - Not such as in the Canaanites: Such as he will
punish with a curse, with utter destruction. The Lord is with him - He
hath a favour for this people, and will defend and save them. The shout
of a king - That is, such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith
a people congratulate the approach and presence of their King: when he
appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle
with victory. This expression implies God's being their King and ruler, and
their abundant security and confidence in him.
22: Out of Egypt - Namely, by a strong hand, and in spite of all
their enemies, and therefore it is in vain to seek or hope to overcome them.
He - Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt, such change of numbers
being very common in the Hebrew language. The sense is, Israel is
not now what he was in Egypt, a poor, weak, dispirited, unarmed people,
but high and strong and invincible. An unicorn - The word may mean either
a rhinoceros, or a strong and fierce kind of wild goat. But such a creature
as an unicorn, as commonly painted, has no existence in nature.
23: Against Jacob - Nor against any that truly believe in Christ.
What hath God wrought - How wonderful and glorious are those works which
God is now about to do for Israel! These things will be a matter of
discourse and admiration to all ages.
24: As a great Lion - As a lion rouseth up himself to fight, or to go
out to the prey, so shall Israel stir up themselves to warlike attempts
against their enemies. He shall not lie down - Not rest or cease from
fighting and pursuing.
28: Peor - An high place called Beth - peor, (De 3:29).
That is, the house or temple of Peor, because there they worshipped
Baal - peor.