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1 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plaines of Moab, on this side Iordane by Iericho.

2 And Balak the sonne of Zippor, saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.

3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many, and Moab was distressed, because of the children of Israel.

4 And Moab said vnto the elders of Midian; Now shall this company licke vp all that are round about vs, as the oxe licketh vp the grasse of the field. And Balak the sonne of Zippor, was King of the Moabites at that time.

5 He sent messengers therefore vnto Balaam the sonne of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the riuer of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: beholde, they couer the face of the earth, and they abide ouer against me.

6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse mee this people, for they are too mightie for me: peraduenture I shall preuaile, that we may smite them, and that I may driue them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest, is blessed, and hee whom thou cursest, is cursed.

7 And the elders of Moab, and the elders of Midian departed, with the rewards of diuination in their hand; and they came vnto Balaam, and spake vnto him the words of Balak.

8 And hee said vnto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word againe as the Lord shal speake vnto mee: and the Princes of Moab abode with Balaam.

9 And God came vnto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee?

10 And Balaam said vnto God, Balak the sonne of Zippor, King of Moab, hath sent vnto me, saying;

11 Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which couereth the face of the earth: Come now, curse me them; peraduenture I shalbe able to ouercome them, and driue them out.

12 And God saide vnto Balaam; Thou shalt not goe with them, thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.

13 And Balaam rose vp in the morning, and said vnto the Princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the Lord refuseth to giue mee leaue to goe with you.

14 And the Princes of Moab rose vp, and they went vnto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with vs.

15 And Balak sent yet againe Princes, moe, and more honourable then they.

16 And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor; Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from comming vnto me:

17 For I wil promote thee vnto very great honour, and I will do whatsoeuer thou saiest vnto me: Come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.

18 And Balaam answered and said vnto the seruants of Balak, If Balak would giue me his house full of siluer and gold, I cannot goe beyond the word of the Lord my God, to doe lesse or more.

19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarie yee also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say vnto me more.

20 And God came vnto Balaam at night, and said vnto him, If the men come to call thee, rise vp, and goe with them: but yet the word which I shall say vnto thee, that shalt thou doe.

21 And Balaam rose vp in the morning, and sadled his asse, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 And Gods anger was kindled, because he went: and the Angel of the Lord stood in the way for an aduersarie against him: Now he was riding vpon his asse, and his two seruants were with him.

23 And the Asse sawe the Angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawen in his hand: and the asse turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the asse, to turne her into the way.

24 But the Angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, & a wall on that side.

25 And when the asse saw the Angel of the Lord, she thrust her selfe vnto the wall, and crusht Balaams foote against the wall: and hee smote her againe.

26 And the Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrowe place, where was no way to turne, either to the right hand, or to the left.

27 And when the asse sawe the Angel of the Lord, shee fell downe vnder Balaam, and Balaams anger was kindled, and hee smote the asse with a staffe.

28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the asse, and shee saide vnto Balaam, What haue I done vnto thee, that thou hast smitten mee these three times?

29 And Balaam said vnto the asse, Because thou hast mocked mee: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

30 And the asse said vnto Balaam, Am not I thine asse, vpon which thou hast ridden euer since I was thine, vnto this day? was I euer wont to do so vnto thee? And he said, Nay.

31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and hee saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawen in his hand: and hee bowed downe his head, and fell flat on his face.

32 And the Angel of the Lord said vnto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine asse these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is peruerse before me.

33 And the asse saw me, and turned from me these three times: vnlesse shee had turned from me, surely now also I had slaine thee, and saued her aliue.

34 And Balaam said vnto the Angel of the Lord, I haue sinned: for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against mee: Now therefore if it displease thee, I will get mee backe againe.

35 And the Angel of the Lord said vnto Balaam, Goe with the men: but onely the word that I shall speake vnto thee, that thou shalt speake: So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, hee went out to meete him, vnto a citie of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the vtmost coast.

37 And Balak said vnto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send vnto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not vnto me? Am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?

38 And Balaam saide vnto Balak, Loe, I am come vnto thee: haue I now any power at all to say any thing? the worde that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speake.

39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came vnto Kiriath-Huzoth.

40 And Balak offered oxen, and sheepe, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.

41 And it came to passe on the morrow, that Balak tooke Balaam, and brought him vp into the high places of Baal, that thence hee might see the vtmost part of the people.

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Commentary for Numbers 22

Balak's fear of Israel, He sends for Balaam. (1-14) Balaam goes to Balak. (15-21) The opposition to Balaam by the way. (22-35) Balaam and Balak meet. (36-41)1-14 The king of Moab formed a plan to get the people of Israel cursed; that is, to set God against them, who had hitherto fought for them. He had a false notion, that if he could get some prophet to pray for evil upon them, and to pronounce a blessing upon himself and his forces, that then he should be able to deal with them. None had so great a reputation as Balaam; and Balak will employ him, though he send a great way for him. It is not known whether the Lord had ever spoken to Balaam, or by him, before this; though it is probable he had, and it is certain he did afterwards. Yet we have abundant proof that he lived and died a wicked man, an enemy to God and his people. And the curse shall not come upon us if there is not a cause, even though men utter it. To prevail with Balaam, they took the wages of unrighteousness, but God laid restraint upon Balaam, forbidding him to curse Israel. Balaam was no stranger to Israel's cause; so that he ought to have answered the messengers at once, that he would never curse a people whom God had blessed; but he takes a night's time to consider what he should do. When we parley with temptations, we are in great danger of being overcome. Balaam was not faithful in returning God's answer to the messengers. Those are a fair mark for Satan's temptation, who lessen Divine restraints; as if to go against God's law were only to go without his leave. The messengers also are not faithful in returning Balaam's answer to Balak. Thus many are abused by the flatteries of those about them, and are prevented from seeing their own faults and follies.

15-21 A second embassy was sent to Balaam. It were well for us, if we were as earnest and constant in prosecuting a good work, notwithstanding disappointments. Balak laid a bait, not only for Balaam's covetousness, but for his pride and ambition. How earnestly should we beg of God daily to mortify such desires in us! Thus sinners stick at no pains, spare no cost, and care not how low they stoop, to gratify their luxury, or their malice. Shall we then be unwilling to do what is right? God forbid! Balaam's convictions charged him to keep to the command of God; nor could any man have spoken better. But many call God theirs, who are not his, not truly because not only his. There is no judging men by their words; God knows the heart. Balaam's corruptions at the same time inclined him to go contrary to the command. He seemed to refuse the temptation; but he expressed no abhorrence of it. He had a strong desire to accept the offer, and hoped that God might give him leave to go. He had already been told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence of the ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. God gave Balaam up to his own heart's lusts. As God sometimes denies the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the desires of the wicked in wrath.

22-35 We must not think, that because God does not always by his providence restrain men from sin, therefore he approves of it, or that it is not hateful to him. The holy angels oppose sin, and perhaps are employed in preventing it more than we are aware. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaam counted him his adversary; those are really our best friends, and we ought so to reckon them, who stop our progress in sinful ways. Balaam has notice of God's displeasure by the ass. It is common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil, to push on violently, through the difficulties Providence lays in their way. The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was a great miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made man speak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man's voice. The ass complained of Balaam's cruelty. The righteous God does not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but they shall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some way or other speak for them. Balaam at length has his eyes opened. God has many ways to bring down the hard and unhumbled heart. When our eyes are opened, we shall see the danger of sinful ways, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed. Balaam seemed to relent; I have sinned; but it does not appear that he was sensible of this wickedness of his heart, or willing to own it. If he finds he cannot go forward, he will be content, since there is no remedy, to go back. Thus many leave their sins, only because their sins have left them. The angel declared that he should not only be unable to curse Israel, but should be forced to bless them: this would be more for the glory of God, and to his own confusion, than if he had turned back.

36-41 Balak has now nothing to complain of, but that Balaam did not come sooner. Balaam bids Balak not depend too much upon him. He seems to speak with vexation; but is really as desirous to please Balak, as ever he had pretended to be to please God. See what need we have to pray every day, Our Father which art in heaven, lead us not into temptation. Let us be jealous over our own hearts, seeing how far men may go in the knowledge of God, and yet come short of Divine grace.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

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