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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 24

 

 

Verse 1

Numbers 24:1 And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.

Ver. 1. He went not as at other times.] As being resolved to curse howsoever, and without God’s leave; yea, al despito di Dio, as that mouth of blasphemy, Pope Julius III, once said in another case; (a) to take his own course whatever came of it.

He set his face.] As fully bent to do it, and nothing should hinder him. So our Saviour Christ "steadfastly set ( εστηριξε) his face to go to Jerusalem." [Luke 9:51] He steeled his forehead against all oppositions.


Verse 2

Numbers 24:2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding [in his tents] according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him.

Ver. 2. And the spirit of God came upon him.] A common spirit, a spirit of prophecy: "Have not we prophesied in thy name?," [Matthew 7:22] said those castaways. In impiis quandoque sunt dona Dei, sine Deo. God gives gifts to men, "yea to the rebellious," [Psalms 68:18] for the use of his Church. A blind man may bear a torch in his hand, whereby others may receive benefit, though himself receive none; so here.


Verse 3

Numbers 24:3 And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:

Ver. 3. Whose eyes are open.] And therefore can speak it of a certainty: for what is more sure than sight? q.d., Israel shall be blessed, and I will stand to it. He is blessed, "yea, and he shall be blessed." [Genesis 27:33]


Verse 4

Numbers 24:4 He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling [into a trance], but having his eyes open:

Ver. 4. Falling into a trance.] As was usual with the prophets; [Genesis 15:12 Daniel 8:17-19 2 Peter 1:21] {See Trapp on "1 Peter 1:21"} They were carried out of and beyond themselves. And still -

Amor Dei est ecstaticus, neque iuris

Se sinit esse sui - ”


Verse 5

Numbers 24:5 How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, [and] thy tabernacles, O Israel!

Ver. 5. How goodly are thy tents.] It fareth with a hypocrite, as with a surveyor of lands, that taketh an exact compass of other men’s grounds, of which he shall never enjoy a foot. See Numbers 23:10.


Verse 6

Numbers 24:6 As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, [and] as cedar trees beside the waters.

Ver. 6. As the trees of lign aloes.] An odoriferous sweet smelling tree, growing in Arabia, which is said to be a country so sweet that swine cannot live in it.


Verse 7

Numbers 24:7 He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed [shall be] in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.

Ver. 7. His seed shall be in many waters.] He shall sow in locis irriguis; as men are bid to cast their bread, their alms, upon the waters, upon the poor; as upon a well-watered soil. [Ecclesiastes 11:1] Such is the land of Egypt, watered by Nile; which makes the ground so fruitful, that they do but throw in the seed, and have four rich harvests in less than four months, - saith one that had been there. (a)

He shall be higher than Agag.] King of the Amalekites, who was then the greatest monarch of those parts, and did haply think as highly of himself as that proud prince of Tyre, [Ezekiel 28:2-6] or as the great Cham of Cataia, of whom it is reported that every day, after he had dined, he caused the trumpets to be sounded, by that sign giving leave to other princes of the earth to go to dinner.


Verse 8

Numbers 24:8 God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce [them] through with his arrows.

Ver. 8. God brought him forth out of Egypt.] This he tells Balak, in answer to that complaint of his. [Numbers 20:5] Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, q.d., Come they are indeed, but not of themselves, but by God, who said, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."


Verse 9

Numbers 24:9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed [is] he that blesseth thee, and cursed [is] he that curseth thee.

Ver. 9. He lay down as a lion.] {See Trapp on "Genesis 49:9"}

And cursed is he.] Here the sorcerer pronounceth a curse upon himself; for he desired to curse Israel, and therefore in God’s account he did it.

Qui, quia non licuit, non facit, ille facit. ” - Ovid.


Verse 10

Numbers 24:10 And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed [them] these three times.

Ver. 10. And he smote his hands together.] So doth God at the covetous person, such as Balaam was. "Behold, I have smitten my hands at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made," &c. [Ezekiel 22:13]


Verse 13

Numbers 24:13 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?

Ver. 13. I cannot go beyond.] Here was coloured covetousness, or "a cloak of covetousness." [1 Thessalonians 2:5] {See Trapp on "1 Thessalonians 2:5"} God lets out the tedder to wicked men for a time, and then calls them back with shame enough to their task; lets them have the ball on the foot till they come almost to the goal, and then defeats them of their great hopes; as he did this sinful couple. Balak had not his will, nor Balaam his wages; God fooled them both, pulling the morsel out of their mouths, that they had well-nigh devoured.


Verse 14

Numbers 24:14 And now, behold, I go unto my people: come [therefore, and] I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.

Ver. 14. I will advertise thee,] viz., What to do; as he did. [Numbers 31:16] Parasites propound to princes, suavia potius quam sana consilia, pleasing but pestilent counsel, and so do officiously mischieve them; as the dragon is said to bite the elephant’s ear, and there hence to suck his blood, that being the only place that he cannot reach with his trunk to defend.


Verse 16

Numbers 24:16 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:

Ver. 16. And knew the knowledge of the Most High.] The eye may be clear while the hand is palsied. Baalam’s great knowledge was but intuitiva, standing in speculation; it was not directiva vitae: he knew but by hearsay, as a blind man knows colours; his light served but to light him into utter darkness. Neronis Quantus artifex pereo, quadrabit in te peritum, et periturum.


Verse 17

Numbers 24:17 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.

Ver. 17. I shall see him.] So shall "every eye, and those also that pierced him," [Revelation 1:7] but not as "Abraham saw him, and rejoiced"; nor as Job. [Job 19:25; Job 19:27] "The pure in heart" only "shall see him" to their comfort, as pure glass or crystal lets in the light of the sun. Some wicked men have greater common gifts than the godly; as many metals are brighter and more orient than the heavens. Yet as those metals are not so fit, either to receive or convey the light of the sun, so neither are the wicked so fit, either to take or give to others, "the knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins."

A Star out of Jacob.] Jesus Christ the true Morning Star. [Revelation 22:16 John 1:9] That those wise men [Matthew 2:1] had heard of, probably, either from the Chaldean sybils, or from the Jews in the Babylonish captivity, or from this prophecy of Balaam; for he was an east countryman, and uttereth here a very clear and comfortable prophecy of the Messiah, by whom himself received no benefit. Thus the Church, Christ’s "garden enclosed," [Song of Solomon 4:12] may be watered through a wooden gutter; the sun give comfortable light through a sluttish window; the field may be well sowed with a dirty hand; the bell calls us to the church, though it never enter itself but by the sound; the well may yield excellent water, though it have much mud, &c.

And destroy all the children of Seth.] Heb., Unwall; that is, conquer and subdue. Christ by those ram’s horns, by the foolishness of preaching, pulls down strongholds. [2 Corinthians 10:4-5]


Verse 18

Numbers 24:18 And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.

Ver. 18. And Edom shall be a possession.] This was literally fulfilled in David, [1 Chronicles 18:13 Psalms 60:8] but spiritually, and especially in Christ, [Isaiah 63:1-2, &c.} who shall shortly subdue the Romish Edomite. {2 Thessalonians 2:8]


Verse 19

Numbers 24:19 Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.

Ver. 19. And shall destroy him.] David in the history, [1 Kings 11:15-16] Christ in the mystery, [Obadiah 1:18] even all the antichristian rout and rabble. [Revelation 19:21]


Verse 20

Numbers 24:20 And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek [was] the first of the nations; but his latter end [shall be] that he perish for ever.

Ver. 20. First of the nations.] Or, Principal See Numbers 24:7.


Verse 21

Numbers 24:21 And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.

Ver. 21. The Kenites,] i.e., The Midianites, [ 1:16; 4:11] mingled among the Amalekites, [1 Samuel 15:6] for whom they are, and fare the worse, as Hamath did for Damascus. [Zechariah 9:2]


Verse 22

Numbers 24:22 Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive.

Ver. 22. Until Ashur.] Who, together with the Jews, carried captive all the neighbouring nations. [Jeremiah 25:9]


Verse 23

Numbers 24:23 And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!

Ver. 23. Who shall live when, &c.] The Assyrian, that rod of God’s wrath, that overflowing scourge, shall take all afore him, shall bereave millions of their lives, as Caesar is said to have done; and of Mohammed, the first Emperor of the Turks, it is storied that he had been in his time the death of eight hundred thousand men (a)


Verse 24

Numbers 24:24 And ships [shall come] from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever.

Ver. 24. From the coast of Chittim.] Greece and Italy. These four great monarchs had their times and their turns, their ruins as well as their rise.


Verse 25

Numbers 24:25 And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way.

Ver. 25. Returned to his place.] Homewards he went, but stayed amongst the Midianites, and soon after came back to them, to receive money of them, saith Chazkuni, when he heard say of the plague which had been in Israel by his counsel: but as Shimei sought his servants, and lost his life, so Balaam.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 24:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/numbers-24.html. 1865-1868.

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