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wonders performed by the God of Israel; and it seems, that Balaam was a prophet, who had on some occasions been inspired by the Lord, to utter predictions which had been remarkably accomplished. Balak therefore thought, that if Balaam could be induced to invoke his God to curse Israel, that people would be intimidated from molesting the Moabites, and would depart in search of other conquests; or that the LORD Himself might be prevailed on to assist that nation whose cause His Prophet espoused. Balaam was a very covetous man, and was tempted by these rewards to desire to curse those, who he knew were God's peculiar people; and instead of dismissing the messengers of Balak with assurances, that the Prophet of the Holy God despised all worldly riches and honours, he enquired of the LORD; which in the present case was very impious, because God's pure · poses, in respect to Israel, had been already revealed; and Balaam well knew, that unless they provoked their Heavenly King by disobedience, no nation could prevail against them.
It is evident that Balaam regretted his having been forbidden to go to Balak, for when other messengers were sent, he discovered a strong inclination to attend them, notwithstanding the Lord's former interdiction. Though it was not the Divine Will that he should go, at the first, the LORD permitted him to accompany the messengers the second time, commanding him, however, to speak those words only that he should put in his mouth. Balaam ought therefore to have immediately laid aside all mercenary views, and to have resolved to perform the office of a prophet willingly, but he loved the wages of unrighteousness *, and deter
* 2 Pet. ii, 15.
mined to gain them if possible: he accordingly set off on his journey, and, it is likely, revolved in his mind as he rode along, how he should turn to his own profit the Divine Revelation he expected to receive on his arrival in the land of Moab. God, it is true, commanded him to go with the messengers of Balak, but not to curse Israel, yet this was Balaam's purpose, therefore the Lord's anger was kindled because he went.
Balaam seems to have been one of that kind of men, who have no regard to the feelings of the brute creation. The text says, that he went with the princes of Moab; but we find, that he was afterwards attended only by two of his own servants; therefore it is not unlikely, that, impatient to accomplish his journey, he got before them, and urged his ass to make greater speed than was consistent with the nature of so slow an animal; and that he would have gone on till he had ridden her to death; for we cannot suppose, that the Angel of the LORD would have raised terror in a creature which was undoubtedly the object of Divine compassion, but with a view to the preservation of its life.
This poor ass was an old and steady servant; so that. when she turned aside into a field, he might have
supposed there was some extraordinary cause for her quita ting the road; and he should have tried to get her back by gentle means : instead of this, he had recourse to blows: and the more her terror increased, the greater was his rage and cruelty towards this. poor creature, which had carried him with ease and safety many a fatiguing journey, and which had never before been disobedient to his will. Nay, to such an extreme did he suffer his anger to rise, that he was not even affected with the uncommon circumstance of her speaking to him. The reply which Balaam made to his ass, when she first addressed him, was a very foolish one; for in what could
a creature, hitherto dumb, have mocked him? How barbarous was his wish, that he had a sword in his hand to kill her! There was something extremely pathetic in her subsequent expostulation; and the LORD directed it to his heart, and his awakened conscience acknowledged the justice of the remonstrance which the ass had uttered. It was now Balaam's turn to feel the terror he would not pity. What must have been his remorse, when he found, that, by turning out of the road, the ass had saved his life ? He now perceived, that not only his covetousness, but his cruelty, was displeasing to the LORD; he therefore offered to forego his wicked purpose of gaining the proffered rewards from the King of Moab, but the LORD commanded him to pursue his journey, and again repeated his injunction, to speak the words of Divine inspiration only.
It seems that when Balaam arrived in Moab, his mind retained those impressions which the Divine vision was calculated to make upon it. He feared to offend the LORD; and he candidly declared to Balak, that he had no power of himself to do any thing in the affair, which that monarch had so greatly at heart; but he was still loth entirely to relinquish the promised recompense; he therefore went with Balak, and, it is supposed, instructed him in the mode of sacrificing to the God of Israel, in hopes that the LORD might become propitious to Moab, and comply with the king s dcsire
It is needless to say, that, as a prophet of the true God, Balaam acted a very wicked part; but as many people in the world suppose the animal creation to be abandoned entirely to their will, it may be proper to remark, that his behaviour to his ass was deemed sinful. Surely the reflection that God observes our treatment
of brutes, and that he once publicly espoused the cause of a creature, which is regarded as one of the most despicable in the creation, should restrain us from riding or driving any beyond their natural strength; should induce us to consider the great utility of beasts, and incline us to exercise patience towards them, and make allowances for their want of speech and reason. What Balaam's ass said to him, might with strict propriety be addressed to many an inhuman rider and driver, by their injured animals; but, alas, beasts are dumb, and their owners void of humanity! May it then be the endeavour of all those, who are entrusted with the edu. cation of children, to impress their infant minds with ideas of the usefulness of brutes, and with a sense of the duty of mercy towards them!
BALAAM AND BALAK OFFER SACRIFICES. BALAAM
BY GOD'S COMMAND BLESSETH ISRAEL. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.
And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare ine here seven oxen, and seven
And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a
And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt. offering, and I will go ; peradventure the Lord will come to meet me, and whatsoever he sheweth
I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. And God met Balaam; and he said unto him, I have
prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram.
And the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak.
And he returned unto him, and lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he and all the princes of Moab.
And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.
How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed ? or how shall I dety, whom the LORD hath not defied ?
For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !
And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.
And Balaam answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?
And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them : thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and thou shalt not see them all : and curse me them from thence.
And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.
And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt-offering, while I meet the LORD yonder.