|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.
Verse 3. - Peradventure the Lord will come to meet me. It might be concluded from Numbers 24:1 that Balaam went only to look for "auguries," i.e., for such natural signs in the flight of birds and the like as the heathen were wont to observe as manifestations of the favour or disfavour of God, the success or failure of enterprises. It seems clear that it was his practice to do so, either as having some faith himself in such uncertainties, or as stooping to usual heathen arts which he inwardly despised. But from the fact that God met him (we know not how), and that such supernatural communication was not unexpected, we may conclude that Balaam's words meant more for himself than the mere observance of auguries, whatever they may have meant for Balak. To an high place. Rather, "to a bald place" (שֶׁפִי - compare the meaning of "Calvary"), from which the immediate prospect was uninterrupted.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Balaam said unto Balak, stand by thy burnt offering,.... By which it appears that the sacrifices offered were of this sort, and there might be one, which was more peculiarly the burnt offering of Balak; though he might be more or less with Balaam concerned in them all; at which he was directed to stand while it was burning, presenting that and himself to the Lord, that he would have respect to both:
and I will go; depart from thence, at some little distance, unto some private place:
peradventure the Lord will come to meet me; upon the offering of these sacrifices to him, though he could not be certain of it, he having lately shown some displeasure and resentment unto him; and this was also in the daytime, when it was in the night he usually came unto him:
and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee; the whole of it, truly as it is, whether agreeable or not:
and he went to an high place; but he was in one already, and therefore if this is the sense of the word, he must go to another, into a grove in one of the high places, where he might be retired, and so fit for a divine converse; and the Targum of Onkelos renders it alone: but rather the sense is, that he went into a plain, as De Dieu has shown from the use of the word in the Syriac language; he was upon a high place, and he went down from thence into the plain, perhaps into a cave at the bottom of the hill, a retired place, where he hoped the Lord would meet him, as he did.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. Stand by thy burnt offering—as one in expectation of an important favor.
peradventure the Lord will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me—that is, makes known to me by word or sign.
he went to an high place—apart by himself, where he might practise rites and ceremonies, with a view to obtain a response of the oracle.
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