|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 4. - I have prepared seven altars. Balaam, acting for the king of Moab, his heathen patron, in this difficult business, points out to God that he had given him the full quota of sacrifices to begin with. It was implied in this reminder that God would naturally feel disposed to do something for Balaam in return.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And God met Balaam,.... Not in a kind and gracious manner; not out of any respect to him and his offerings; not to indulge him with any spiritual communion with him; nor to communicate his mind and will to him as a friend of his; not to gratify his desires, and grant the request of the king of Moab, or to smile upon and succeed the scheme that they had concerted; but for the sake of his people Israel, to counterwork the designs of their enemies; to blast and confound them, and turn their curses into blessings; and particularly to oblige Balaam to bless the people he was so desirous of cursing for the sake of gain:
and he said unto him; in a bragging boasting way, in order to gain his favour, and carry his point:
I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram: that is, to him the Lord; for had they been offered to Baal, he could never have had the nerve to have spoken of them to God; and which he could never have proposed as a reason why he should be regarded by him, or expect on account of them any favour from him: and indeed these altars and sacrifices were not at his expense, though they were prepared and offered at a motion of his; nor were they offered in a right manner, nor with a right end, nor from a right principle, and were far from being acceptable unto God, yea, were abominable unto him; see Proverbs 21:27.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4-6. God met Balaam—not in compliance with his incantations, but to frustrate his wicked designs and compel him, contrary to his desires and interests, to pronounce the following benediction [Nu 23:8-10].
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