« AnteriorContinuar »
was the highest disobedience and presumption to pretend or offer at the reversing of it, by a farther application. However, blinded with covetousness and pride, he again addressed himself to God; who, offended at his obstina. cy, leaves him to himself, and tells him, "If the men "come to call thee, rise* and go with them; but what I "shall say to thee, that only shalt thou do."
Notwithstanding this permission to go, God was resolved to make Balaam sensible of his displeasure. Upon this concession he arose in the morning and went with the princes of Moab: but as he was on the road, the Angel of the Lord stood on the way with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam's mind was so taken up with the expectation of the advantage he should make of this expedition, that he thinks of nothing else; but it pleased God to give the ass, on which Balaam rode, such quickness of sight, that she both saw the angel and shunned him, by turning out of the road into the field. Balaam for this beats the ass, and struggling to put the beast into the way, the angel stood in another narrow path between two walls, which enclosed some vineyards. The ass, seeing the angel, pushed up to the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot. This so incensed him, that he beat her again. But when the angel went farther, and stood in a narrow place, where the ass could not turn, she fell down under him. Balaam was now in a greater passion than before, and beat her with his staff. But God, to rebuke the
nations, 1 Sam. viii. 7. He answered their desire; but he did it in his anger, Hosea xiii. 11. And at other times, when they would not hearken to him, he gave them up to their own hearts' lust, and let them walk in their own counsels, Psal. xviii. 11, 12. From whence we may observe how unfit we are to choose for ourselves; especially in opposition to God's immediate commands and instructions.
Rise, &c. This by the consent of interpreters is looked upon, not as a command, but a permission; and seems ironically spoken; as if God had said, “Since thou art so eager to go, though thou knowest it is against my mind, take thy own course; go if thou wilt. But yet thou shalt not gain thy end; thou shalt go with this restriction on thy will, Thou shalt say nothing, but what I shall direct thee."
madness of the prophet, miraculously opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to him, "What have I done to "thee, that thou shouldst beat me these three times? Be"cause, (said he) thou hast deserved it in mocking me : "had I a sword in my hand I would kill thee." The ass replied, "Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast been "used to ride, ever since I was thine; did I ever serve "thee so before?" He answered, "No."* The unusualness of this accident, one would think, might have been an admonition to Balaam, to let him know there was something more than common in the ass's speaking; but his resentment against the ass for bruising his foot and throwing him, and stopping him thus upon the road, when he was in haste to be made rich and great, had so blinded him, that he thought nothing of it, till God himself opened his eyes, and let him see the angel standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; at the sight of which he bowed himself down, and fell on his face. The angel expostulates with him, tells him his undertaking was perverse, in attempting to go against the express command of God, and that therefore he was come to stop him; and but for his ass, which he had so barbarously used, he had slain him.
Balaam, convicted with this just reproach, confesses his sin, and faintly offered to turn back, if his journey displeased the Lord. But this he needed not have said; for he knew well enough, that his undertaking from the beginning displeased God, because at his first address he was forbidden by him to go. However, the Lord resolved out of this man's wicked inclination to raise some advantage; and therefore since he was gone so far, he would not send him back, but make him, who was hired to curse, be the instrument of pronouncing a blessing on his people. Having thus chastised Balaam on the way, he
No. It has been objected that Balaam discovers no surprise at this wonderful event-the speaking of a brute creature. But it is possible he might express his amazement, though in the brevity of this history it be omitted. Infidels have affected to laugh at the power of speech given to an ass, but nothing is too hard for the Lord, and any miracle might as well be objected to as this.
suffered him to go on, but with this charge, that he should only speak what God should tell him.
Balaam, thus dismissed, went on his journey with the princes of Moab; and when Balak understood that Balaam was coming, that he might the more oblige him by personal civilities, he came out himself to meet him, receiving him upon the confines of his dominions. At their meeting, the king in a friendly manner blamed Balaam for refusing to come to him upon his first sending, since it was in his power to advance him: But Balaam, to excuse himself, let him know what restraint the Lord had laid upon him. Then Balak entertained him publicly with his princes and great men that day, the next day he brought him up into the High Places of Baal,† that from thence he might take a view of the camp of Israel. . While they were here, the prophet directs the king to order seven‡ altars to be erected for him there; and seven oxen, with seven rams, to be prepared. Which being done, they both together offered an ox and a ram upon each altar. Then leaving Balak to stand by his burntoffering, Balaam withdrew to consult the Lord, who meets and instructs him what to say; and returning to Balak, whom he found standing at the altar, and the princes of Moab with him, he thus addressed himself to them: "Thou hast caused me, O king, to come from Aram,§
* High Places. The Scripture calls bigb, those eminences and groves which the idolatrous nations consecrated to their gods, and where they in a brutish and lascivious manner solaced themselves.
+ Baal. Some will have the temple of Baal to be in those high-places, others the statue. As to the word Baal, it is sometimes a proper name (as here in this place) sometimes it is the common name of idols: Thus the Phoenicians called their god Baal; the Babylonians theirs Bell, or Belus, which is the same.
Seven. The number Seven was esteemed sacred among the Israelites, (from whom probably Balaam might have learnt it) as appears in Lev. iv. 6. where the priest is said to sprinkle the blood of the bullock seven times before the veil of the Sanctuary.
§ ▲ram. The same as Mesopotamia, which the Hebrews call Aram Naharaim.
"out of the mountains of the East, to curse the family of "Jacob, and bid defiance to Israel. But how shall I "curse those whom God hath not cursed? and how shall "I defy those, whom the Lord hath not defied? From "the top of the rocks I see their Protector, and from "the hills I behold him. Behold, this people shall be "separated to God, and distinguished from all other people in religion, laws, and course of life: they "shall not be reckoned among the nations." Then setting forth the prosperity and increase of Israel, he concluded by saying, "Let me die the death of the righ་ teous, and let my last end be like his."
Balak was offended at this answer, and in a passionate haste, asks, "What hast thou done? I sent for thee to curse my enemies, and thou hast blessed them!" Balaam excused himself by the necessity of his instructions, from which, at this time, it was not in his power to deviate. However, Balak is not discouraged; from a change of the place, he hopes a change of fortune, or better success; and therefore taking Balaam into the field of Zophim to the top of Pisgah, he tries whether he can curse from thence. Balaam, who was willing to please him, had seven altars erected there, and a bullock and a ram offered on each. Then withdrawing again, as before, to consult the Lord, he received fresh instructions. Balak now began to understand the interview between the Lord and Balaam, and upon his return to him and his attendants, who were big with expectation of the result, demanded what the Lord had spoken? Upon which Balaam, to bespeak the greater attention and regard to what he should say, began thus. " Consider, O Balak, thou son
Excused. From Balaam's excuse, Numb. xxiii. 12, some interpret, as if he would have cursed the Israelites, if he could: and indeed if we consider what Moses told the Israelites, Deut. xxiii. 5, "Nevertheless, the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam, but turned the curse into a blessing to thee;" we may well conclude that Balaam did earnestly labour with God by persuasion or intreaty to have had liberty to have cursed the children of Israel.
"of Zippor, consider, that God, who hath already blessed "Israel, and forbidden me to curse them, is not like "man, that he should renounce his promise, or repent "of his purpose. Hath he promised, and shall he not "perform? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it "good? Behold I have received a commission to bless, "and he hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it. He "hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he << seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with "him, and the shoutt of a king is among them. God "hath brought them out of Egypt; he hath, as it were, "the strength of an unicorn. Surely no enchantment
can prevail against Jacob, nor any divination against "Israel. So that considering what God shall work at this "time for the deliverance of his people, all the world "shall wonder and say, What hath God wrought! Who "hath put his people out of the reach of fraud or force, "and turned the intended curse into a blessing." And to shew their future strength and success, he adds, "The people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up them"selves as a young lion: they shall not lie down until they eat of the prey, and drink of the blood of the "slain."
This was such a mortification to Balak, that he silences Balaam, forbidding him either to curse or bless. But his
He bath, &c. The former national sins of Israel were atoned for and pardoned: the people were not at that time guilty of idolatry or rebellion; but were in a very obedient disposition, had much true religion among them, and were comparatively righteous. Thus the true believer is fully pardoned and accepted, and really sanctified and obedient: in him the Lord beholds not iniquity, or perverseness; none allowed, none unsubdued, none unpardoned. Scott.
+ Shout. So Jerome, Arias Motánus, Tremellius and Junius render it. That, is the triumph of a king victorious over his enemies.
Unicorn. This animal (generally supposed to be the Rhinoceros, or Rheem) is frequently used to express extraordinary strength: as here Numb. xxiii. 22. Psal. xxix. 6. Job xxxix. 12. Deut. xxxiii. 17. Psal. xxii. 21. and xcii. 11, &c.