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And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying,
If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak.
And now behold, I go unto my people: come there. fore, and I will advertise thee, what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.
And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor, hath said, and the man whose eyes are open, hath said :
He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
I shall see him but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh; there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies, and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion; and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city. And when he looked on Amalek, he took up
his rable, and said Amalek was the first of the nations, but his latter end shall be, that he perish for ever.
And he looked on the Kenites; and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwelling place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.
Nevertheless, the Kenite shall be wasted until Ashur shall carry thee away captive.
And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doth this! And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim,
shall afflict Ashur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever.
And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place; and Balak also went his way.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
The king of Moab must have had a very malignant mind to persist, as he did, in wishing to bring the curse of God op a people, who had not discovered the least intention of annoying him or his subjects ; and it was very treacherous in Balaam to concur with this distrustful monarch, in his cruel design against those, who were entitled to the peculiar love and kindness of their own Prophet.
Balaam, having practised every art he could think of, to render the Lord propitious to his wishes, resolved, as it seems, to seck for no further inspiration from God, bat to speak his own words, if not obliged to do otherwise ; however, the SPIRIT OF THE LORD came upon him uninvoked, and he was again impelled to bless Israel, which he did in still more exalted language than before.
The general purport of his prediction was, that the Israelites should be a very powerful and flourishing people. Balak had already heard much more than he wished to hear, but he did not yet know all the LORD meant to inform him of. It certainly was a very proper punishment both to the king and the prophet, for the first to be told, and the latter to relate, what the people they had conspired together to curse, would do to the Moabites, and other neighbouring nations. The confederates were now effectually divided, for the malice of one party was defeated, and the covetousness of the other
disappointed; so we may conclude, that they separated in’anger and discontent, as is usually the case in all friendships, which are founded upon wickedness.
Balaam's prophecies shew that the people of Israel were really under the particular protection of God; and the completion of them, which happened in the course of time, proved the prescience of the ALMIGHTY. Though the Israelitish nation was separated from the rest of the nations as his peculiar people, and had the LORD God dwelling among them, He did not entirely hide Himself from the rest of the world ; it was their idolatrous practices that kept the other nations at a distance from Him. The LORD was ever to be found by such as sought him with an humble and pious mind.
We may easily suppose, that so covetous a man as Balaam could not lose the riches he went in pursuit of to Moab, without feeling a great disappointment. He had not willingly frustrated the wishes of Balak, and as for the Israelites, he regarded them as enemies; to be revenged on them, and to reinstate himself in the fa. vour of the king of Moab, as we learn from another chapter, he formed a device, which it seems effected the reconciliation he sought for. It was this * ; he advised the king of Moab to send some of the Midianitish women among the Israelites, with a view to draw them to their idolatrous worship, and by this means expose them to the displeasure of God. This artifice succeeded, for many of them suffered themselves to be deluded by these strange women, even so far as to assist at the sacrifices which they offered to Baal Peort; and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He commanded Moses to hang up the principal offenders. The LORD also sent a plague among the * Numb. xxxi. 16.
# Numb. xxv. 3, 4. F 3
people, people, which carried off about * 24,000 of those who had committed the great offence. At length Phineas, the son of Eleazar the priest, who was very zealous for the honour of God, slew a prince of the house of Simeon, who was a principal transgressor; for which God rewarded Phineas by stopping the plague, and giving him a promise, that as long as the priesthood lasted, it should continue in his family.
+ Shortly after the plague, Moses, by God's command, again numbered the Israelites; and there were of men fit to bear arms, 601,730; of the Levites 23,000 males; the LORD then ordered Moses to fix the lot of each tribe, previous to their taking possession of the promised land : amongst thein was not one man of those that were numbered at mount Sinai, excepting Moses himself, Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the two faithful spies.
In a short time after Phineas had performed the action above-mentioned, Moses was commanded by the LORD to make war against the Midianites with a small army; he accordingly selected 1000 men from each tribe, who, with Phineas at their head, made a great slaughter. In this battle fell the prophet Balaam, who, it is supposed, had returned to Midian, for the purpose of giving his diabolical advice to Balak; his fate, in being killed amongst the Midianites, was such as he justly deserved, and his associating with those on whom he had pronounced curses, shewed that he doubted the power of the Lord to execute, what his own moutlı had been obliged to foretel.
Moses and Eleazar the priest went in procession to meet the victors, who brought the prey and the spoil unto them to be divided; when Moses discovered, that contrary to the express command of God, they had * Numb. xxv. 9.
+ Numb, xxvi.
saved all the women and children alive: for which Moses reprehended them, and caused all the captives to be slain immediately. This may at first sight appear an act of cruelty, but we must consider that the women were in this case the principal aggressors, and that they would certainly have introduced idolatry amongst the Israelites; and had the children been permitted to live, it is likely they would have revolted from the Israelites, and caused great confusion when they were grown up : by dying innocent they were saved from the curse of God, and he doubtless had mercy on them.
Moses, by Divine appointment, ordered the prey to be divided into two parts ; one for the 12,000 who un. dertook the war, the other for the congregation, that is the people in general. This division extended only to such things as might be valuable in stocking the land they were going to possess; for the plate, jewels, and other articles, which each man took, he was permitted to reserve for himself.
Moses divided to each tribe its share, and then left it to the heads of the tribes to distribute amongst themselves according to their families. God was to have a tribute out of it, as a part set aside for holy purposes in acknowledgment of his sovereignty. The soldiers, however, were particularly favoured in this distribution, for out of the people's share, God required one in 50; out of the soldiers' share one in 500 only. The soldiers tribute was given to the priests, the people's portion to the Levites.
When the officers called the men » by their names, there was not one missing; the people therefore offered a willing offering of costly things, in token of gratitude for the protection of Divine Providence; these were brought to the tabernacle, to be kept as memorials, that on future occasions the people might be encouraged to trust in God's merciful protection.