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eagerness to have Israel cursed, made him change his mind: for he calls for Balaam again, and intreats him to try another place, in hopes that God would permit him to curse Israel. Upon which, Balaam followed Balak to the top of Mount Peor, a hill that looked towards the Wilderness. Whatever ground Balak might have for his hopes, it is certain that Balaam knew the positive will of God in this case was to bless and not to curse; and this he had declared to be irreversible, when he told Balak God was not like fickle man; yet stimulated with the blind desire of reward, he consents to the wish of Balak again to tempt the Lord: for he there erected seven altars, and laid seven sacrifices thereon. But having in vain tried all his arts of divination,* and seeing that God was resolved to continue blessing Israel, without withdrawing, as before, (under pretence of consulting the Lord) surveying the extended camp of Israel, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he cried out in an ecstacy, "How goodly "are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!" Then, by significant metaphors, he foretold the extent, fertility and strength of Israel, and that those who blessed them should be blessed, and those who cursed them should be cursed.
Balak exasperated to find that Balaam, whom he had called to curse the people of Israel, had blessed them three several times, smiting his hands together, upbraided Balaam with having deceived him, in blessing those whom he was sent for to curse. Then, unable any longer to restrain his anger, commands him to make haste and be gone; "For I thought, (said he) to have promoted thee to great honour, if thou hadst effected my design in cursing Israel; but the Lord hath hindered thy preferment." Balaam
* Divination. See Numb. xxiv. 1.
Spirit. In Numb. xxiii. it is observable that while Balaam used his art of divination or enchantment, he had only a word put into his mouth; but now having laid aside his enchantments, the Spirit of God came upon him.
Smiting, &c. This was a token of great displeasure, as smiting the breast was of sorrow.
had recourse to his old excuse, that he could not exceed the commands of the Lord, but must speak what he put into his mouth: and though he was willing to gratify the king of Moab in some sort, and perhaps (considering his covetous temper) to entitle himself to some reward, he offered to advertise* him now at parting, what the Israelites should do to his people in the latter days: but still, against his own inclination, he bestowed blessings on Israel, and prophesied, that a Star should come forth from Jacob, and a Rod from Israel; that it should smite the chiefs of Moab, and destroy the children of Seth; that Edom should fall under its power, and that the Amalekites and Kenites should be extirpated. In fine, he foretold, that the Western nations, the Greeks and Romans, should vanquish the Assyrians, destroy the Hebrews, and themselves perish.
After these predictions, as if vexed at his own disappointment in missing the expected reward, and to be revenged on the Israelites as the occasion of it, he instructsf the Moabites and Midianites in a wicked artifice; which was to send their daughters to the camp of the Israelites, to draw those people into idolatry; the sure method to deprive them of the assistance of God, who protected them. This artifice succeeded, for the very next account we have of the Israelites is, that they lay encamped at Shittim; where many of them were deluded by the Moabitish and Midianitish women, and were drawn in,
* Advertise. See Numb. xxiv. 14. But that this was in revenge, is plain from the next note.
+ Instructs After Balaam had given Balak what hints he could concerning the ruin of his people by the Israelites, which was no very comfortable admonition; (for he did not at the same time instruct him how to avoid that ruin) by way of revenge he puts them in a method to render the people of Israel odious to their God, and taught Balak how to betray Israel, and draw them into fornication and idola. try, which soon after followed. This indeed is not mentioned in Numb. xxiv, where this passage or interview between Balak and Balaam ends; but Moses in ch. xxxi. v. 16. plainly refers to the counsel of Balaam, and lays the whole blame on him.
Shittim. Which signifies turning aside.
not only to commit fornication with them, but to assist at their sacrifices, and worship their gods, even BaalPeor.*
The greatness of this sin appears in the severity of the punishment; for God commanded Moses to take the chiefs of those who had joined themselves to Baal-Peor, and hang them up before the Lord in the sight of all the people. Moses accordingly gave charge to the Judgest of Israel to see execution done, every one on the men under his charge, who had sacrificed to Baal-Peor. But the divine justice did not stop here. Their fornication must be punished as well as their idolatry; which was aggravated exceedingly by a person of considerable worth and dignity. The daring Zimri, the son of Salu, prince of a chief house among the Simeonites, took Cozbi, the daughter of Zur, who was also a prince of a chief house in Midian, and insolently brought her to the Israelitish camp, in contempt of Moses, and in sight of all the congregation, who, because of the late execution done upon their princes, stood weeping before the door of the tabernacle; led her openly to his tent and his bed. This superlative impudence, and open violation of God's law, none offered to resent, but Phineas, Aaron's grandson; who, rising up from the congregation, and filled with a holy zeal, took a javelin in his hand, and followed them to the tent; where he thrust them both through. This zealous act of Phineas put a stop to the plague, which God had sent among the people for this audacious act of Zimri, and the lewdness and impiety of his comrades. However there died on this occasion no less than twentyfour thousand. This remarkable instance of pious zeal
* Baal-Peor. Supposed to be the beastly Priapus, adored with obscene rites.
Judges. These were the judges, probably, whom by the advice of his father-in-law Jethro, with God's approbation, he had set over the people, Exod. xviii.
Twenty, &c. In this number, it is probable, that Moses includes the thousand princes that were hanged. Which computation reconciles this place to that of the Apostle, 1 Cor. x. 8. where he mentions but twenty-three thousand, without the thousand princes that were hanged.
for the honour of God, procured for him not only the divine approbation, but a perpetual settlement of the priesthood in himself and his posterity.
These disorders being quieted, and the offenders punished, the next business was to take vengeance of the Midianites, who had debauched the Israelites with their idolatry and fornications. In order to which Moses commanded a detachment of twelve thousand select men, a thousand out of every tribe, to go against the Midianites; among whom went the zealous Phineas, who carried with him the holy instruments, or trumpets, to animate the people. This was indeed but a small army to invade so great and powerful a people. But God, who `put them upon this expedition, went along with them, and blessed them with such wonderful success, that they slew five kings and all their men; among whom was the
* Midianites. Under this name the Moabites were also comprehended.
In order. In Numb. xxv. 16. God commanded Moses to vex the Midianites for betraying Israel, and to smite them. But the execution of this order is interrupted by some things, of which, as they are not strictly historical, we shall here give a short account. After the plague, the Lord commanded that the people, that is, the males, should again be numbered. In which the same method was appointed to be taken that was used in the former numbering, Numb. i. For the other tribes, being numbered with respect to war, andto their possessing the land, were reckoned from twenty years old: but the Levites being exempted from war, and excluded from possessions, were numbered from a month old. The account of this is recorded at large in Numb. xxvi. by which it appears, that of all who were first numbered by Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness of Sinai, Numb. i. there was not then a man left alive, besides Moses, Joshua, and Caleb. So that in less than forty years, six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty grown men (for so many were numbered, ch. 1. beside the tribe of Levi) died in the Wilderness. And yet now at this second numbering there were found six hundred and one thousand, seven hundred and thirty men of twenty years old and upwards, besides Levites.
The next thing is an enumeration of divers laws and ordinances; some of which were more general, as relating to the daily burnt-offerings, and other offerings upon particular festivals. Some were more particular, as private vows of virgins, wives, widows, and divorced persons, and the settling of inheritances in the female line. Of which, see from Numb. xxviii. to xxx,
wicked prophet Balaam,* who though he had before escaped the sword of the angel, yet now fell a sacrifice to the injured people of God. They burned all the cities and castles, took all the women and children prisoners, and seized on their cattle, flocks, and goods: after which, laden with the spoils of their enemies, they return in triumph to the Israelitish' camp. In their way home they are met by Moses, and Eleazar the high-priest, and all the princes; who congratulate their success. But Moses, seeing the Midianitish women among the captives, was much offended with the officers of the army for saving them; for these, said he, by the counsel of Balaam, caused the Israelites to sin against the Lord in the business of Peor, and provoked him to send a plague upon the congregation of Israel. And thereupon he commanded them to kill every male among the children, and every married woman, and to save none alive but the virgin females. After which they were to abide seven days without the camp, and both soldiers and spoils pass through the ceremonies of a legal purification; which when they had performed, God directed Moses to take an account of the whole prey, and dividing it into two equal parts, to give one to the soldiers who had taken it, and the other to the rest of the people that stayed at home. Out of the soldiers' portion, he levied the five hundredth part, both of persons and beasts; which he paid as a tribute to Elcazar, the priest, for a heaveoffering of the Lord; and out of the other portion, which belonged to the people, one part out of fifty of both persons and beasts was given to the Levites. Then the officers of the army, out of the other parts of the booty which they had taken, as jewels of gold, bracelets, rings, ear-rings and tables, brought their expiatory offering to atone for their transgression in saving the Midianitish
* Balaam. By this it seems he was not got home; and it may be, with reason, conjectured, that he was devising much the same mischief against the Hebrews, while he was among the Midianites, as when he was among the Moabites; and therefore he justly fell by the sword of Israel,