|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:1-10 With the camps of Israel full in view, Balaam ordered seven altars to be built, and a bullock and a ram to be offered on each. Oh the sottishness of superstition, to imagine that God will be at man's beck! The curse is turned into a blessing, by the overruling power of God, in love to Israel. God designed to serve his own glory by Balaam, and therefore met him. If God put a word into the mouth of Balaam, who would have defied God and Israel, surely he will not be wanting to those who desire to glorify God, and to edify his people; it shall be given what they should speak. He who opened the mouth of the ass, caused the mouth of this wicked man to speak words as contrary to the desire of his heart, as those of the ass were to the powers of the brute. The miracle was as great in the one case as in the other. Balaam pronounces Israel safe. He owns he could do no more than God suffered him to do. He pronounces them happy in their distinction from the rest of the nations. Happy in their numbers, which made them both honourable and formidable. Happy in their last end. Death is the end of all men; even the righteous must die, and it is good for us to think of this with regard to ourselves, as Balaam does here, speaking of his own death. He pronounces the righteous truly blessed, not only while they live, but when they die; which makes their death even more desirable than life itself. But there are many who desire to die the death of the righteous, but do not endeavour to live the life of the righteous; gladly would they have an end like theirs, but not a way like theirs. They would be saints in heaven, but not saints on earth. This saying of Balaam's is only a wish, not a prayer; it is a vain wish, being only a wish for the end, without any care for the means. Many seek to quiet their consciences with the promise of future amendment, or take up with some false hope, while they neglect the only way of salvation, by which a sinner can be righteous before God.
Chapter 23:1. - Build me here seven altars. According to the common opinion of the heathen, it was necessary to propitiate with sacrifices the God with whom they had to do, and if possible to secure his favourable consideration on their side. The number seven was especially connected with the revelation of the tree God, the Creator of the world, and was probably observed here for this reason. The sacrifices were offered no doubt to Jehovah.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Balaam said unto Balak,.... When upon one of the high places of Baal, and after having taken a view of the people of Israel as they lay encamped:
build me here seven altars; this was purely Heathenish; for not only the Israelites after the law of Moses had but one altar, but the patriarchs before that never built but one altar at a time. Some have thought regard is had to the seven planets worshipped by Heathens; though no doubt Balaam pretended to sacrifice to Jehovah the true God, in order to gain him over to him to agree to it to curse Israel, and persuaded Balak, though an idolater, to join with him; and, the more easily to bring him to it, mixes Heathen rites and customs in sacrifice to him:
and prepare me here seven oxen, and seven rams; which were creatures offered in sacrifice according to the law of Moses, and before that was given, and by persons who were not under it; and even by seven of each sort, and that by the express command of God, Job 42:8. It may be observed, that both in this, and the preceding clause, the word here is carefully expressed, namely, in one of the high places; there the altars were erected, and thither the oxen were brought to be sacrificed; so that both the place, and the number of the altars, savoured of Heathenish worship, in which he complied to induce the king to sacrifice to Jehovah.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Nu 23:1-30. Balak's Sacrifices.
1. Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars—Balak, being a heathen, would naturally suppose these altars were erected in honor of Baal, the patron deity of his country. It is evident, from Nu 23:4 that they were prepared for the worship of the true God; although in choosing the high places of Baal as their site and rearing a number of altars (2Ki 18:22; Isa 17:8; Jer 11:13; Ho 8:11; 10:1), instead of one only, as God had appointed, Balaam blended his own superstitions with the divine worship. The heathen, both in ancient and modern times, attached a mysterious virtue to the number seven; and Balaam, in ordering the preparation of so many altars, designed to mystify and delude the king.
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