Numbers 24

1 When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he didn’t go, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments, but he set his face towards the wilderness. 2 Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came on him. 3 He took up his parable, and said, “Balaam the son of Beor says, the man whose eyes are open says; 4 he says, who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, and having his eyes open: 5 How goodly are your tents, Jacob, and your tents, Israel! 6 As valleys they are spread out, as gardens by the riverside, as aloes which the LORD has planted, as cedar trees beside the waters. 7 Water shall flow from his buckets. His seed shall be in many waters. His king shall be higher than Agag. His kingdom shall be exalted. 8 God brings him out of Egypt. He has as it were the strength of the wild ox. He shall eat up the nations his adversaries, shall break their bones in pieces, and pierce them with his arrows. 9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, as a lioness; who shall rouse him up? Everyone who blesses you is blessed. Everyone who curses you is cursed.” 10 Balak’s anger burnt against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and, behold, you have altogether blessed them these three times. 11 Therefore now flee you to your place! I thought to promote you to great honor; but, behold, the LORD has kept you back from honor.” 12 Balaam said to Balak, “Didn’t I also tell your messengers who you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I can’t go beyond the LORD’s word, to do either good or bad of my own mind. I will say what the LORD says’? 14 Now, behold, I go to my people. Come, I will inform you what this people shall do to your people in the latter days.” 15 He took up his parable, and said, “Balaam the son of Beor says, the man whose eyes are open says; 16 he says, who hears the words of God, knows the knowledge of the Most High, and who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, and having his eyes open: 17 I see him, but not now. I see him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob. A scepter will rise out of Israel, and shall strike through the corners of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth. 18 Edom shall be a possession. Seir, his enemies, also shall be a possession, while Israel does valiantly. 19 Out of Jacob shall one have dominion, and shall destroy the remnant from the city.” 20 He looked at Amalek, and took up his parable, and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, But his latter end shall come to destruction.” 21 He looked at the Kenite, and took up his parable, and said, “Your dwelling place is strong. Your nest is set in the rock. 22 Nevertheless Kain shall be wasted, until Asshur carries you away captive.” 23 He took up his parable, and said, “Alas, who shall live when God does this? 24 But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim. They shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber. He also shall come to destruction.” 25 Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place; and Balak also went his way.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–9

Now Balaam spake not his own sense, but the language of the Spirit that came upon him. Many have their eyes open who have not their hearts open; are enlightened, but not sanctified. That knowledge which puffs men up with pride, will but serve to light them to hell, whither many go with their eyes open. The blessing is nearly the same as those given before. He admires in Israel, their beauty. The righteous, doubtless, is more excellent than his neighbour. Their fruitfulness and increase. Their honour and advancement. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their courage and security. The righteous are bold as a lion, not when assaulting others, but when at rest, because God maketh them to dwell in safety. Their influence upon their neighbours. God takes what is done to them, whether good or evil, as done to himself. (Nu 24:10-14)

Verses 10–14

This vain attempt to curse Israel is ended. Balak broke out into a rage against Balaam, and expressed great vexation. Balaam has a very full excuse; God restrained him from saying what he would have said, and constrained him to say what he would not have uttered.

Verses 15–25

Under the powerful influence of the Spirit of prophecy, Balaam foretold the future prosperity and extensive dominion of Israel. Balaam boasts that his eyes are open. The prophets were in old times called seers. He had heard the words of God, which many do who neither heed them, nor hear God in them. He knew the knowledge of the Most High. A man may be full of the knowledge of God, yet utterly destitute of the grace of God. He calls God the Most High and the Almighty. No man could seem to express a greater respect to God; yet he had no true fear of him, love to him, nor faith in him; so far a man may go toward heaven, and yet come short of it at last. Here is Balaam’s prophecy concerning Him who should be the crown and glory of his people Israel; who is David in the type; but our Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah, is chiefly pointed at, and of him it is an illustrious prophecy. Balaam, a wicked man, shall see Christ, but shall not see him nigh; not see him as Job, who saw him as his Redeemer, and saw him for himself. When he comes in the clouds, every eye shall see him; but many will see him, as the rich man in hell saw Abraham, afar off. He shall come out of Jacob, and Israel, as a Star and a Sceptre; the former denoting his glory and lustre; the latter his power and authority. Christ shall be King, not only of Jacob and Israel, but of all the world; so that all shall be either governed by his golden sceptre, or dashed in pieces by his iron rod. Balaam prophesied concerning the Amalekites and Kenites, part of whose country he had now in view. Even a nest in a rock will not be a lasting security. Here is a prophecy that looks as far forward as to the Greeks and Romans. He acknowledges all the revolutions of states and kingdoms to be the Lord’s doing. These events will make such desolations, that scarcely any will escape. They that live then, will be as brands plucked out of the fire. May God fit us for the worst of times! Thus Balaam, instead of cursing the church, curses Amalek the first, and Rome the last enemy of the church. Not Rome pagan only, but Rome papal also; antichrist and all the antichristian powers. Let us ask ourselves, Do we in knowledge, experience, or profession, excel Balaam? No readiness of speech, even in preaching or prayer, no gifts of knowledge or prophecy, are in themselves different from, or superior to the boasted gifts of him who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and died the enemy of God. Simple dependence on the Redeemer’s atoning blood and sanctifying grace, cheerful submission to the Divine will, constant endeavours to glorify God and benefit his people, these are less splendid, but far more excellent gifts, and always accompany salvation. No boasting hypocrite ever possessed these; yet the feeblest believer has something of them, and is daily praying for more of them.

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