2 Peter 2:16 MEANING

2 Peter 2:16
(16) But was rebuked for his iniquity.--Literally, But had a conviction of his own transgression--i.e., was convicted of it, or rebuked for it. His transgression was that, although as a prophet he knew the blessedness of Israel, and although God gave him leave to go only on condition of his blessing Israel, he went still cherishing a hope of being able to curse, and so winning Balak's promised reward.

The dumb ass.--Literally, a dumb beast of burden. The same word is rendered "ass" in Matthew 21:5, in the phrase "foal of an ass." In Palestine the ass was the most common beast of burden, horses being rare, so that in most cases "beast of burden" would necessarily mean "ass."

Forbad the madness.--Strictly, hindered the madness; and thus the trivial discrepancy which some would urge as existing between this passage and Numbers 22 disappears. It has been objected that not the ass but the angel forbad Balaam from proceeding. But it was the ass which hindered the infatuation of Balaam from hurrying him to his own destruction (Numbers 22:33). The word for "madness" is probably chosen for the sake of alliteration with "prophet"--prophetou paraphronian. It is a very rare formation, perhaps coined by the writer himself.

Verse 16. - But was rebuked for his iniquity; literally, but had a rebuke for his own transgression. The word for "rebuke" (ἔλεγξιν) Occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The guilt of offering the wages of unrighteousness rested with Balak; Balaam's own transgression lay in his readiness to accept them - in his willingness to break the law of God by cursing, for filthy lucre's sake, those whom God had not cursed. The dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet. The word for "ass" is literally "beast of burden" (ὑποζύγιον, as in Matthew 21:5). "Dumb" is literally "without voice;" naturally without voice, it spake with the voice of man. The word ἐκώλυσεν, rendered "forbade," is rather "checked," or "stayed." The word for "madness" (παραφρονίαν) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The ass checked the prophet's folly by her shrinking from the angel, and by the miracle that followed; the angel, while permitting Balaam to expose himself to the danger into which he had fallen by tempting the Lord, forbade any deviation from the word to be put into his mouth by God. Balaam obeyed in the letter; but afterwards the madness which had been checked for the moment led him into deadly sin (Numbers 31:16). We observe that St. Peter assumes the truthfulness of the narrative in the Book of Numbers (see Mr. Clark's note in the 'Speaker's Commentary' on Numbers 22:28).

2:10-16 Impure seducers and their abandoned followers, give themselves up to their own fleshly minds. Refusing to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ, they act against God's righteous precepts. They walk after the flesh, they go on in sinful courses, and increase to greater degrees of impurity and wickedness. They also despise those whom God has set in authority over them, and requires them to honour. Outward temporal good things are the wages sinners expect and promise themselves. And none have more cause to tremble, than those who are bold to gratify their sinful lusts, by presuming on the Divine grace and mercy. Many such there have been, and are, who speak lightly of the restraints of God's law, and deem themselves freed from obligations to obey it. Let Christians stand at a distance from such.But was rebuked for his iniquity,.... Which was not merely going along with the messengers of Balak, for he had leave from the Lord so to do, Numbers 22:20; but going along with them with a desire to curse Israel, when it was the will of God he should go and bless them, in order to get Balak's money; so that his governing iniquity was covetousness, which led him to other sins; and for this he was rebuked by the angel, Numbers 22:32, as well as reproved by his ass, Numbers 22:28, for

the dumb ass, as it was naturally so, the ass on which he rode,

speaking with man's voice; which was supernatural and miraculous, for it was God that opened the mouth of the ass: the mouth of that ass is said, by the Jews (m), to be one of the ten things created between the two evenings on the sixth day of the creation; that is, as the gloss on it says, concerning which it was decreed, that its mouth should be opened to speak what this ass said; and the occasion of it may be seen in Numbers 22:22. Lactantius (n) observes, that there are two stars in the constellation of Cancer, which the Greeks call the "asses"; and which, the poets feign, are those that carried Liberus over a river, when he could not pass it; to one of which he gave this for a reward, "ut humana voce loqueretur", "that it should speak with man's voice"; a fable, no doubt, hatched from the sacred history, and said in imitation of this ass. Which

forbad the madness of the prophet: and so Balaam, though a diviner and soothsayer, is called by the Jewish writers (o); who, they say, was first a prophet, and then a soothsayer, from whom Jerom (p) seems to have received the tradition; who says, that he was first a holy man, and a prophet of God, and afterwards, through disobedience, and a desire of gifts, was called a diviner; for his eyes were opened, and he saw the vision of the Almighty; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied many things concerning Israel, and the Messiah, and others, Numbers 24:4. His madness lay in going with the messengers of Balak, Numbers 22:21, in order to curse Israel, contrary to the will of God, Numbers 22:12; and it is madness in any to oppose God in his counsels, purposes, providences, and precepts; and every sin, which is an act of hostility against God, has madness in it; and this of Balaam's was forbid by his ass, and he was convinced of it. Very appropriately is mention made of this dumb ass, when the persons here spoken of were as natural brute beasts, and worse than them, 2 Peter 2:12.

(m) Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 6. & Jarchi in ib. Sepher Cosri, par. 2. p. 254. (n) De falsa Religione, l. 1. c. 21. (o) Pesikta, Ilmedenu & Gerundensis apud Drus in loc. T. Bab Sanhedrin fol. 106. 1. Aben Ezra in Numbers 32.28. (p) Tradition. Heb. in Genes. fol. 69. D.

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