Numbers 22:12
And God said to Balaam, You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people: for they are blessed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Numbers 22:12. They are blessed — They are conducted under the banner of heaven, and no imprecations can hinder their progress. Though Balaam’s cursing Israel signified nothing of itself, yet God would not permit it, because the Moabites would have paid so great a regard to it, that they would thereupon have attacked the Israelites in hopes of being able to overcome and drive them back, Numbers 22:11; and so this would have brought on a war between them, which God did not design at this time to permit, Deuteronomy 2:9.22:1-14 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.Balaam must surely have known that God's blessing was on the people with whose marvelous march forth from Egypt he was acquainted Exodus 15:14; Exodus 18:1; Joshua 2:9, and from whom he had himself probably learned much (compare the language of Numbers 23:12 with Genesis 13:6, and that of Numbers 24:9 with Genesis 49:9). But his reply to the messengers next morning Numbers 22:13, betrays the desire to venture to the utmost of that which God would not forbid rather than to carry out God's will in hearty sincerity. 8-14. Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me, &c.—God usually revealed His will in visions and dreams; and Balaam's birth and residence in Mesopotamia, where the remains of patriarchal religion still lingered, account for his knowledge of the true God. His real character has long been a subject of discussion. Some, judging from his language, have thought him a saint; others, looking to his conduct, have described him as an irreligious charlatan; and a third class consider him a novice in the faith, who had a fear of God, but who had not acquired power over his passions [Hengstenberg]. God revealeth his mind to Balaam, not for any love to him, but for the sake of his people concerned in it, as he did to Pharaoh, Genesis 41:25, and to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:45.

They are blessed by my irrevocable decree and sentence, and therefore it is in vain for men to curse them. And God said unto Balaam, thou shalt not go with them,.... Which is a denial of the first thing Balak requested, "come now, therefore", &c. Numbers 22:6.

thou shall not curse the people; which was the principal thing desired, and in order to which he was solicited to go with the messengers; but this is absolutely forbidden:

for they are blessed; by the Lord himself, with an irrevocable blessing, and therefore it would be vain and fruitless, as well as dangerous for him to attempt to curse them, Genesis 12:3 this may have a special respect to the blessing of Jacob by Isaac, which could not be reversed by the solicitations of Esau, and which descended to Jacob's posterity, the Israelites, Genesis 27:33.

And God {f} said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.

(f) He warned him by a dream, that he should not consent to the kings wicked request.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. for they are blessed] It was necessary to inform Balaam of this; as a foreigner in far Mesopotamia he knew nothing of Israel and their relation to Jehovah.Balak sent messengers to Balaam to Pethor in Mesopotamia. The town of Pethor, or Pethora (Φαθοῦρα, lxx), is unknown. There is something very uncertain in Knobel's supposition, that it is connected with Φαθοῦσαι, a place to the south of Circessium (Zozim. iii. 14), and with the Βέθαννα mentioned by Ptolemy, v. 18, 6, and that these are the same as Anah, Ἀναθώ, "Anatha (Ammian. Marcell. xxiv. 1, 6). And the conjecture that the name is derived from פּתר, to interpret dreams (Genesis 41:8), and marks the place as a seat of the possessors of secret arts, is also more than doubtful, since פּשׁר corresponds to פּתר in Aramaean; although there can be no doubt that Pethor may have been a noted seat of Babylonian magi, since these wise men were accustomed to congregate in particular localities (cf. Strabo, xvi. 1, 6, and Mnter Relig. der Babyl. p. 86). Balak desired Balaam to come and curse the people of Israel, who had come out of Egypt, and were so numerous that they covered the eye of the earth (see Exodus 10:5), i.e., the whole face of the land, and sat down (were encamped) opposite to him; that he might then perhaps be able to smite them and drive them out of the land. On ארה for אר, the imperative of ארר, see Ewald, 228, b. - "For I know that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed." Balak believed, in common with the whole of the ancient world, in the real power and operation of the curses, anathemas, and incantations pronounced by priests, soothsayers, and goetae. And there was a truth at the foundation of this belief, however it may have been perverted by heathenism into phantasy and superstition. When God endows a man with supernatural powers of His word and Spirit, he also confers upon him the power of working upon others in a supernatural way. Man, in fact, by virtue of the real connection between his spirit and the higher spiritual world, is able to appropriate to himself supernatural powers, and make them subservient to the purpose of sin and wickedness, so as to practise magic and witchcraft with them, arts which we cannot pronounce either mere delusion or pure superstition, since the scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments speak of witchcraft, and condemn it as a real power of evil and of the kingdom of darkness. Even in the narrative itself, the power of Balaam to bless and to curse is admitted; and, in addition to this, it is frequently celebrated as a great favour displayed towards Israel, that the Lord did not hearken to Balaam, but turned the curse into a blessing (Deuteronomy 23:5; Joshua 24:10; Micah 6:3; Nehemiah 13:2). This power of Balaam is not therefore traced, it is true, to the might of heathen deities, but to the might of Jehovah, whose name Balaam confessed; but yet the possibility is assumed of his curse doing actual, and not merely imaginary, harm to the Israelites. Moreover, the course of the history shows that in his heart Balaam was very much inclined to fulfil the desire of the king of the Moabites, and that this subjective inclination of his was overpowered by the objective might of the Spirit of Jehovah.
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