|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
22:1-14 The king of Moab formed a plan to get the people of Israel cursed; that is, to set God against them, who had hitherto fought for them. He had a false notion, that if he could get some prophet to pray for evil upon them, and to pronounce a blessing upon himself and his forces, that then he should be able to deal with them. None had so great a reputation as Balaam; and Balak will employ him, though he send a great way for him. It is not known whether the Lord had ever spoken to Balaam, or by him, before this; though it is probable he had, and it is certain he did afterwards. Yet we have abundant proof that he lived and died a wicked man, an enemy to God and his people. And the curse shall not come upon us if there is not a cause, even though men utter it. To prevail with Balaam, they took the wages of unrighteousness, but God laid restraint upon Balaam, forbidding him to curse Israel. Balaam was no stranger to Israel's cause; so that he ought to have answered the messengers at once, that he would never curse a people whom God had blessed; but he takes a night's time to consider what he should do. When we parley with temptations, we are in great danger of being overcome. Balaam was not faithful in returning God's answer to the messengers. Those are a fair mark for Satan's temptation, who lessen Divine restraints; as if to go against God's law were only to go without his leave. The messengers also are not faithful in returning Balaam's answer to Balak. Thus many are abused by the flatteries of those about them, and are prevented from seeing their own faults and follies.
Verse 4. - Moab said unto the elders of Midian. The Midianites were descended from Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:2, 4), and were thus more nearly of kin to Israel than to Moab. They lived a semi-nomadic life on the steppes to the east of Moab and Ammon (cf. Genesis 36:35), supporting themselves partly by grazing, and partly by the caravan trade (Genesis 37:28). Their institutions were no doubt patriarchal, like those of the modern Bedawin, and the "elders" were the sheiks of their tribes. As the ox licketh up the grass of the field. The strong, scythe-like sweep of the ox's tongue was a simile admirable in itself, and most suitable to pastoral Moab and Midian.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Moab said unto the elders of Midian,.... Whom the king of Moab sent for to consult with what to do in the present case, for the good and safety of both people; for, according to the Targum of Jonathan, they were one people and one kingdom unto this time, at least had been confederates, by what is said Genesis 36:35 though Jarchi thinks there was always a mutual hatred of each other, and that Midian now came against Moab to war, but for fear of Israel a peace was made between them, just as it was with Herod and Pontius Pilate in another case, Luke 23:12, however, they were friends as well as neighbours now; and by which it appears, that this Midian was not that where Jethro lived, which was on the Red sea, near Mount Sinai, in Arabia Felix; this was near the river Arnon, and the Moabites in Arabia Petraea; and though both the one and the other descended from Midian, the son of Abraham by Keturah, yet they had spread themselves, or the one was a colony from the other, and might be distinguished into southern and northern Midianites; the latter were those near Moab; and these elders of Midian, addressed by the king of Moab, being now at his court, whether sent for or not, are the same with the five kings or princes of Midian, as they are called, Numbers 31:8 as Aben Ezra observes:
now shall this company lick up all that are round about us; consume us, and all our people, and all adjoining to us, and depending on us:
as the ox licketh up the grass of the field; as easily, and as soon, and as completely and entirely; nor are we any more able to oppose them than the grass of the field is to resist and hinder the ox from devouring it:
and Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time; according to the Targum of Jonathan, Midianites and Moabites reigned by turns so long a time; and that Balak was a Midianite, and so says Jarchi, and unfit for the kingdom, and was set over them through necessity for a time: but it seems rather that he was king in succession after his father Zippor; and the design of the expression is only to show, that he who was before mentioned, Numbers 22:2 was the then reigning prince when this affair happened.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. elders of Midian—called kings (Nu 31:8) and princes (Jos 13:21). The Midianites, a distinct people on the southern frontier of Moab, united with them as confederates against Israel, their common enemy.
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