Micah 6:5
O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) What Balaam the son of Beor answered.—This incident is adduced in the “pleading” as a signal instance of the controlling power of God, exercised in an unmistakable manner in behalf of the Israelites. Balaam was constrained to bless when he had the highest conceivable motive to curse the Israelites. He apologised for this involuntary action on his part to Balak. There is no more conclusive instance extant of the will of man controlled to do the exact opposite of his intended action in the history of mankind. It is better to put a stop after “answered him.” The next sentence records an independent instance of the interposition of God in behalf of Israel. “Remember also the incidents which happened from Shittim to Gilgal.” Shittim was the name of a valley in the plains of Moab (Joel 3:18), from which place Joshua sent two spies to view Jericho immediately before the passage of the Jordan to Gilgal was effected, under the circumstances mentioned in the fourth chapter of Joshua.

Righteousness.—The word rather means here liberality, beneficence.

Micah 6:5. O my people, remember, &c. — Call to remembrance what Balaam said in answer to Balak, when he consulted him, namely, that there was no enchantment against Jacob, &c., nothing that could be done against them, nothing that could overthrow them but their own sins; that they were blessed, and it could not be reversed by any thing but their own forsaking God and his service, under whose particular protection they were. From Shittim unto Gilgal — From the encampment at Shittim, Numbers 25:1, on the way to that at Gilgal, Joshua 4:19. Balaam gave different answers in the interval between those places. But some think this sentence should not be connected with what goes before, but that it begins a new sentence, the purport of which is, Remember, O my people, from Shittim unto Gilgal; that is, what things I did, what benefits I bestowed upon you, from the time you were at Shittim till you came to Gilgal. God had indeed before bestowed upon them great benefits, but at this particular time they received more than ordinary instances of his kindness toward them, particularly in causing the waters of Jordan to run back, to let them pass through; and in the fall of the walls of Jericho. That ye may know the righteousness of the Lord — His mercy, justice, truth, and faithfulness.

6:1-5 The people are called upon to declare why they were weary of God's worship, and prone to idolatry. Sin causes the controversy between God and man. God reasons with us, to teach us to reason with ourselves. Let them remember God's many favours to them and their fathers, and compare with them their unworthy, ungrateful conduct toward him.Remember now - The word translated now is a very tender one, like our "do now remember" or "do remember," beseeching instead of commanding. Dionysius: "I might command, but I speak tenderly, that I may lead thee to own the truth." "What Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him." God did not only raise up Moses, Aaron, Miriam, out of their brethren, but He turned the curse of the alien Balaam into a blessing; and that, not for their righteousness, (for even then they were rebellious,) but against their deserts, out of His own truth and righteousness. Not that the curse of Balaam could in itself have hurt them; but, in proportion to his reputation, it would have infused great energy into their enemies: and its reversal must have struck a great panic into them and into others. Human might having failed in Sihon and Og, Balak sought superhuman. God showed them by their own diviner, that it was against them. Even after they had seduced Israel, through Balaam's devilish counsel, Midian seems to have been stricken by God with panic, and not to have struck a blow Numbers 31:49.

From Shittim unto Gilgal - The words are separated by the Hebrew accent from what went before. It is then probably said in concise energy for, "Remember too front Shittim to Gilgal," that is, all the great works of God "from Shittim" , the last encampment of Israel out of the promised land, where they so sinned in Baal-peor, "unto Gilgal," the first in the promised land, which they entered by miracle, where the Ark rested amid the victories given them, where the Covenant was renewed, and "the reproach of Egypt was rolled away" Joshua 5:9. Remember all, from your own deep sin and rebellion to the deep mercy of God.

That ye may know the righteousness - (righteousnesses) of the Lord His Faithfulness in performing His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God speaketh of His promises, not as what they were in themselves, mere mercy, but as what they became, through that gracious and free promise, righteousness, in that He had bound Himself to fulfill what He had, out of mere grace, promised. So in the New Testament He saith, "God is not unrighteous that He should forget your works and labor which proeeedeth of love" Hebrews 6:10; and, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" 1 John 1:9. Micah speaks, by a rare idiom, of the righteousnesses of the Lord, each act of mercy being a separate effluence of His Righteousness. The very names of the places suggest the righteous acts of God, the unrighteous of Israel. : "But we too, who desire with unveiled face to behold the glory of the Lord, and have Abraham really for our father, let us, when we have sinned, hear God pleading against us, and reproving us for the multitude of His benefits. For we too once served Pharaoh and the people of Egypt, laboring in works of mire and clay; and He redeemed us who gave Himself a Redemption for all; that we, the redeemed of the Lord, "whom He redeemed out of the hand of the enemy and gathered from the lands, might say, His mercy endureth forever" Psalm 107:1-3. He sent also before our face Moses, the spiritual Law, and Aaron the High Priest, not bearing the typical Ephod and Urim, but having in His Forehead the seal of holiness which God the Father sealed; and Miriam, the foreshewing of prophets. Recollect we too what he thought against us who willed to devour us, the true Balak, Satan, who laid snares for us through Balaam, the destroyer of the people, fearing lest we should cover his land and occupy it, withdrawing the earthly-minded from his empire."

5. what Balak … consulted—how Balak plotted to destroy thee by getting Balaam to curse thee (Nu 22:5).

what Balaam … answered—how the avaricious prophet was constrained against his own will, to bless Israel whom he had desired to curse for the sake of Balak's reward (Nu 24:9-11) [Maurer]. Grotius explains it, "how Balaam answered, that the only way to injure thee was by tempting thee to idolatry and whoredom" (Nu 31:16). The mention of "Shittim" agrees with this: as it was the scene of Israel's sin (Nu 25:1-5; 2Pe 2:15; Re 2:14).

from Shittim unto Gilgal—not that Balaam accompanied Israel from Shittim to Gilgal: for he was slain in Midian (Nu 31:8). But the clause, "from Shittim," alone applies to Balaam. "Remember" God's kindnesses "from Shittim," the scene of Balaam's wicked counsel taking effect in Israel's sin, whereby Israel merited utter destruction but for God's sparing mercy, "to Gilgal," the place of Israel's first encampment in the promised land between Jericho and Jordan, where God renewed the covenant with Israel by circumcision (Jos 5:2-11).

know the righteousness—Recognize that, so far from God having treated thee harshly (Mic 6:3), His dealings have been kindness itself (so "righteous acts" for gracious, Jud 5:11; Ps 24:5, 112:9).

O my people, remember now; O Israel, think well of it, what I did then was worthy of a grateful remembrance to this day.

What Balak king of Moab consulted: this man, though a great and warlike prince, yet would not adventure by plain force to set upon Israel; he wished their ruin, he contrived it, and had he succeeded in his first attempt to bring Israel under a curse, he was resolved next to attack them by force.

And what Balaam, a man accounted to be a prophet and a holy man, able to blast any by his curse, and able to advance any affairs by his blessing, but really he was a soothsayer, and a man of pernicious counsels, answered him; forced against his interest and inclinations to bless Israel, Deu 23:4,5 Jos 24:10, and to confess he could not prevail with God to curse Israel; so also remember how Balaam counselled Balak to draw your fathers to sin, how this snare took, and how it cost twenty-four thousand lives. The story at large you have Numbers 22 Num 23 Num 24.

From Shittim: this the place where Balak began by fair but lewd women of Midian to debauch Israel as Balaam had counselled, and so continued to Gilgal all along the borders of his dominion: or else thus, Remember, O my people, how I spared thee in the matter of Baalpeor, for which thou deservedst to be destroyed at Shittim; remember also the mercies I gave under the conduct of Joshua after Moses’s death, which fell out whilst you abode at Shittim, Joshua 3:1.

Gilgal; where Israel first took possession of the Promised Land, and saw visibly the faithfulness of their God.

That ye may know the righteousness of the Lord; the mercy, justice, uprightness, veracity, as it signifies; but here it rather denotes the right on God’s side in this controversy with his people.

O my people, remember now; O Israel, think well of it, what I did then was worthy of a grateful remembrance to this day.

What Balak king of Moab consulted: this man, though a great and warlike prince, yet would not adventure by plain force to set upon Israel; he wished their ruin, he contrived it, and had he succeeded in his first attempt to bring Israel under a curse, he was resolved next to attack them by force.

And what Balaam, a man accounted to be a prophet and a holy man, able to blast any by his curse, and able to advance any affairs by his blessing, but really he was a soothsayer, and a man of pernicious counsels, answered him; forced against his interest and inclinations to bless Israel, Deu 23:4,5 Jos 24:10, and to confess he could not prevail with God to curse Israel; so also remember how Balaam counselled Balak to draw your fathers to sin, how this snare took, and how it cost twenty-four thousand lives. The story at large you have Numbers 22 Num 23 Num 24.

From Shittim: this the place where Balak began by fair but lewd women of Midian to debauch Israel as Balaam had counselled, and so continued to Gilgal all along the borders of his dominion: or else thus, Remember, O my people, how I spared thee in the matter of Baalpeor, for which thou deservedst to be destroyed at Shittim; remember also the mercies I gave under the conduct of Joshua after Moses’s death, which fell out whilst you abode at Shittim, Joshua 3:1.

Gilgal; where Israel first took possession of the Promised Land, and saw visibly the faithfulness of their God.

That ye may know the righteousness of the Lord; the mercy, justice, uprightness, veracity, as it signifies; but here it rather denotes the right on God’s side in this controversy with his people.

O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted,.... What a scheme he had laid; what contrivances he had formed; what consultations he had with a soothsayer or diviner he sent for to curse Israel; how he sought to get the God of Israel on his side, and to set him against them, that he might be rid of them, and they be ruined and destroyed. The Moabites were the descendants of Moab, a son of Lot, by one of his daughters; when they first set up their kingdom is not certain; nor who their kings in succession were before Balak: it appears there was a former king, whom the king of the Amorites fought with, and took away his land from him, Numbers 21:26; who probably was Zippor, the father of Balak, and whom he succeeded; the kingdom being recovered by him, or by this his son; however, he was on the throne when Israel was upon the borders of his kingdom, which threw him into a panic; upon which he sent messengers to a neighbouring magician next mentioned, to advise with him what to do in this his extremity; and the Jews have a tradition, that, because of the multitude of sacrifices he offered, he was worthy to have Ruth, the descendant from him; who, they say, was the daughter of Eglon, the grandson of Balak, king of Moab (s):

and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him; this man is called a soothsayer, Joshua 13:22; The Jews say he was first a prophet; and so the Apostle Peter calls him, 2 Peter 2:16; and afterwards became a diviner (t): they differ very much about him, who he was, and from whom he descended. Beor his father is sometimes said to be the son of Laban (u); and, at other times, Balaam himself is said to be Laban the Syrian (w), whose soul they suppose transmigrated into Balaam, as it afterwards did into Nabal, according to them. Some (x) take him to be the same with Elihu, who interposed in the dispute between Job and his friends; and others say that he was one of the eunuchs, counsellors, and magicians of Pharaoh, both when Moses was a child, and when he wrought his miracles in Egypt; and that Jannes and Jambres, of whom the Apostle Paul makes mention, 2 Timothy 3:8; were his two sons (y): he was an inhabitant of Pethor, which was situated on the river Euphrates, thought by Junius to be the Pacoria of Ptolemy: he seems to have been a Mesopotamian, though some say a Midianite; but, whether one or the other, he did not live at any great distance from the king of Moab: he was slain by the sword the children of Israel, in the times of Joshua, Joshua 13:22; and, as the Jews say (z) he was, when he was but thirty three or thirty four years of age; they observing upon it, that bloody and deceitful men do not live out, half their days; but this does not seem so well to agree with other things they say of him; however, this soothsayer and sorcerer Balak sent for to curse Israel; whose heart and tongue, though a wicked man, and would fain have done according to Balak's wish and desire, were so overruled by the power of God, that instead of cursing Israel he was obliged to bless them, and to prophesy of their future happiness and prosperity, and of the Messiah, that should spring from them; see history of all this in Numbers 22:1;

from Shittim unto Gilgal, that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord; here something must be supplied to make sense of the words; either, "remember what good things I did for you (a), from Shittim to Gilgal"; the former was the place where the children of Israel committed whoredom and idolatry, and was on the other side Jordan; and the latter was the place they came to when they had passed over Jordan, where the covenant of circumcision was renewed, and the first passover kept; now they are called upon to remember the goodness of God unto them from one place to another, and what were done between them; how that at Shittim, though they provoked the Lord to anger, yet he did not cut them all off, but spared a number of them, to enter and possess the land of Canaan; and though Moses died by the way, yet be raised up Joshua to go before them, and in a miraculous manner led them through the river Jordan, and brought them to Gilgal--favours ever to he had in remembrance. So the Targum,

"were not great things done for you in the plain of Shittim unto the house of Gilgal, that the righteousness of the Lord might be known?''

both his justice in punishing offenders at Shittim, and his bounty and kindness, as well as his truth and faithfulness, in sparing others; bestowing his favours on them, and bringing them into the promised land: or it may be supplied thus, as by some, "remember what Balak consulted (b) from Shittim to Gilgal"; that is, with Balaam, and what answer and advice he gave him; which was to send beautiful women among the Israelites, and so tempt them to adultery, and by that means to idolatry; and which scheme and consultation took place at Shittim, by means of which several thousands were slain; and the device was to have continued the temptation even to Gilgal, which, had it not been prevented, in all likelihood would have issued in the destruction of that people; and therefore they had reason to know, own, and acknowledge the goodness and faithfulness of God unto them: or rather, taking the phrase "from Shittim to Gilgal" to be a proverbial one (c), of going from place to place, it may have respect to Balak's having Balaam from place to place, to take a view of the people, and curse them; or how he might set the God of Israel against them, and gain him over to him; and then the sense is this,

"remember how Balak consulted Balaam from place to place, and what answers he returned him; all which was done, that "he (Balak) might know the righteousness of the Lord";''

and so the Syriac version renders it, and it will bear to be so rendered: the thing which Balak chiefly consulted was, how he should get the God of Israel on his side; as it was usual with Heathen princes, when at war, to attempt to get the gods of their enemies from them, and on their side; and inquires of Balaam how this was to be effected; what righteousness it was the Lord required; what duties of religion to be performed; what rites or sacrifices were acceptable to him; and the sum of his questions on this head, and Balaam's answer to them, are contained in the following verses.

(s) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 105. 2.((t) Ib. fol. 106. 1.((u) Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 7. 1.((w) Targum Jon. in Numbers 22.5. Targum in 1 Chron. 44. Vid. Burkium ib. (x) Hieron. Quaeat. Hebr. in Genesim, fol. 69. D. (y) Dibre Hayamim Shel Moseh, fol. 4. 2. & 6. 2. Targum Jon. in Exod. ix. 21. Shemot Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 90. 1. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 106. (z) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 106. 2. Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 7. 2.((a) "Recordare qualia bona exhibuerim tibi", Munster; "memento eorum quae gesta sunt", Vatablus; "quae contigerint tibi", Calvin; "memento eorum quae fecerim", Grotius; "recordare quid evenerit tibi", Piscator. (b) "Memento quid cogifaverit contra te Balac, et quid responderit ei Balaam a Settim", &c. Ribera; so Menochius, Tirinus. (c) See Bishop Chandler's Defence of Christianity, p. 290.

O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from {c} Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the {d} righteousness of the LORD.

(c) That is, remember my benefits from the beginning, how I delivered you from Balaam's curse, and also spared you from Shittim which was in the plain of Moab, until I brought you into the promised land.

(d) That is, the truth of his promise and his manifold benefits toward you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. O my people, remember now …] The prophet, in the name of Jehovah, reminds his people of another great mercy, the bringing to nought of Balak’s plan to destroy Israel.

consulted] i.e. with the elders of Midian (Numbers 22:4).

from Shittim unto Gilgal] Shittim was the last station of the Israelites on the other side of Jordan; Gilgal the first in the land of Canaan. It is not clear how these words are to be connected grammatically with what precedes. The sense appears to be, ‘Remember that which happened between Shittim and Gilgal,’ i.e. not only the episode of Balak and Balaam, but the wonderful passage of the Jordan and the entrance into the promised land. Probably some words have dropped out before this clause.

the righteousness] Rather, the righteous acts; lit. ‘the righteousnesses’ (so Jdg 5:11, 1 Samuel 12:7).

Verse 5. - The Lord reminds the people of another great benefit subsequent to the Exodus, viz. the defeat of the designs of Balak, and the sorceries of Balaam. Consulted. United with the elders of Midian in a plot against thee (see Numbers 22. etc.). Answered him. There ought to be a stop here. The answer of Balaam was the blessing which he was constrained to give, instead of the curse which he was hired to pronounce (comp. Joshua 24:10). From Shittim unto Gilgal. This is a fresh consideration, referring to mercies under Joshua, and may be made plainer by inserting "remember" (which has, perhaps, dropped out of the text), as in the Revised Version. Shittim was the Israelites' last station before crossing the Jordan, and Gilgal the first in the land of Canaan; and so God bids them remember all that happened to them between those places - their sin in Shittim and the mercy then shown them (Numbers 25.), the miraculous passage of the Jordan, the renewal of the covenant at Gilgal (Joshua 5:9). Shittim; the acacia meadow (Abel-Shittim), hod. Ghor-es-Seisaban, was at the southeastern corner of the Ciccar, or Plain of Jordan, some seven miles from the Dead Sea. Gilgal (see note on Amos 4:4). That ye may know the righteousness (righteous acts) of the Lord. All these instances of God's interposition prove how faithful he is to his promises, how he cares for his elect, what are his gracious counsels towards them (see the same expression, Judges 5:11; 1 Samuel 12:7). Micah 6:5Micah 6:3-5 open the suit. Micah 6:3. "My people! what have I done unto thee, and with what have I wearied thee? Answer me. Micah 6:4. Yea, I have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, redeemed thee out of the slave-house, and sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Micah 6:5. My people! remember now what Balak the king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim to Gilga; that thou mayest discern the righteous acts of Jehovah." The Lord opens the contest with the question, what He has done to the nation, that it has become tired of Him. The question is founded upon the fact that Israel has fallen away from its God, or broken the covenant. This is not distinctly stated, indeed; but it is clearly implied in the expression הלאתיך, What have I done, that thou hast become weary of me? לאה, in the hiphil, to make a person weary, more particularly to weary the patience of a person, either by demands of too great severity (Isaiah 43:23), or by failing to perform one's promises (Jeremiah 2:31). ענה בי, answer against me, i.e., accuse me. God has done His people no harm, but has only conferred benefits upon them. Of these He mentions in Micah 6:4 the bringing up out of Egypt and the guidance through the Arabian desert, as being the greatest manifestations of divine grace, to which Israel owes its exaltation into a free and independent nation (cf. Amos 2:10 and Jeremiah 2:6). The kı̄ (for) may be explained from the unexpressed answer to the questions in Micah 6:3 : "Nothing that could cause dissatisfaction with me;" for I have done nothing but confer benefits upon thee. To set forth the leading up out of Egypt as such a benefit, it is described as redemption out of the house of bondage, after Exodus 20:2. Moreover, the Lord had given His people prophets, men entrusted with His counsels and enlightened by His Spirit, as leaders into the promised land: viz., Moses, with whom He talked mouth to mouth, as a friend to his friend (Numbers 12:8); and Aaron, who was not only able as high priest to ascertain the counsel and will of the Lord for the sake of the congregation, by means of the "light and right," but who also, along with Moses, represented the nation before God (Numbers 12:6; Numbers 14:5, Numbers 14:26; Numbers 16:20; Numbers 20:7 ff., and 29). Miriam, the sister of the two, is also mentioned along with them, inasmuch as she too was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20). In Micah 6:5 God also reminds them of the other great display of grace, viz., the frustration of the plan formed by the Moabitish king Balak to destroy Israel by means of the curses of Balaam (Numbers 22-24). יעץ refers to the plan which Balak concocted with the elders of Midian (Numbers 22:3 ff.); and ענה, Balaam's answering, to the sayings which this soothsayer was compelled by divine constraint to utter against his will, whereby, as Moses says in Deuteronomy 23:5-6, the Lord turned the intended curse into a blessing. The words "from Shittim (Israel's last place of encampment beyond Jordan, in the steppes of Moab; see at Numbers 22:1 and Numbers 25:1) to Gilgal" (the first place of encampment in the land of Canaan; see at Joshua 4:19-20, and Joshua 5:9) do not depend upon זכר־נא, adding a new feature to what has been mentioned already, in the sense of "think of all that took place from Shittim to Gilgal," in which case זכר־נא would have to be repeated in thought; but they are really attached to the clause וּמה עבה וגו, and indicate the result, or the confirmation of Balaam's answer. The period of Israel's journeying from Shittim to Gilgal embraces not only Balak's advice and Balaam's answer, by which the plan invented for the destruction of Israel was frustrated, but also the defeat of the Midianites, who attempted to destroy Israel by seducing it to idolatry, the miraculous crossing of the Jordan, the entrance into the promised land, and the circumcision at Gilgal, by which the generation that had grown up in the desert was received into the covenant with Jehovah, and the whole nation reinstated in its normal relation to its God. Through these acts the Lord had actually put to shame the counsel of Balak, and confirmed the fact that Balaam's answer was inspired by God.

(Note: With this view, which has already been suggested by Hengstenberg, the objections offered by Ewald, Hitzig, and others, to the genuineness of the words "from Shittim to Gilgal," the worthlessness of which has been demonstrated by Caspari, fall to the ground.)

By these divine acts Israel was to discern the tsidqōth Yehōvâh; i.e., not the mercies of Jehovah, for tsedâqâh does not mean mercy, but "the righteous acts of Jehovah," as in Judges 5:11 and 1 Samuel 12:7. This term is applied to those miraculous displays of divine omnipotence in and upon Israel, for the fulfilment of His counsel of salvation, which, as being emanations of the divine covenant faithfulness, attested the righteousness of Jehovah.

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