Numbers 22:18
And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord . . . —These words may have been nothing more than an ostentatious semblance of disinterestedness and superiority to worldly considerations; or it is possible that Balaam may have been conscious that “he spake not of himself,” and that, as regards his prophetic utterances, he was but the mouthpiece of the Lord.

22:15-21 A second embassy was sent to Balaam. It were well for us, if we were as earnest and constant in prosecuting a good work, notwithstanding disappointments. Balak laid a bait, not only for Balaam's covetousness, but for his pride and ambition. How earnestly should we beg of God daily to mortify such desires in us! Thus sinners stick at no pains, spare no cost, and care not how low they stoop, to gratify their luxury, or their malice. Shall we then be unwilling to do what is right? God forbid! Balaam's convictions charged him to keep to the command of God; nor could any man have spoken better. But many call God theirs, who are not his, not truly because not only his. There is no judging men by their words; God knows the heart. Balaam's corruptions at the same time inclined him to go contrary to the command. He seemed to refuse the temptation; but he expressed no abhorrence of it. He had a strong desire to accept the offer, and hoped that God might give him leave to go. He had already been told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence of the ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. God gave Balaam up to his own heart's lusts. As God sometimes denies the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the desires of the wicked in wrath.Balak, like the ancient pagan world generally, not only believed in the efficacy of the curses and incantations of the soothsayers, but regarded their services as strictly venal. Hence, when his first offer was declined, he infers at once that he had not bid high enough. 13-15. the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you—This answer has an appearance of being good, but it studiously concealed the reason of the divine prohibition [Nu 22:12], and it intimated his own willingness and desire to go—if permitted. Balak despatched a second mission, which held out flattering prospects, both to his avarice and his ambition (Ge 31:30). You desire and expect that from me which is out of my power, to resist the will of the great God. He slyly insinuates, that he wanted not will, but power only.

The Lord my God; so he calls him, partly, to magnify himself as the servant of the great Jehovah; partly, that by professing this respect unto God he might the sooner induce him to grant his desire; and partly, because he worshipped the true God, together with idols, as many in those times and places did.

And Balaam answered, and said unto the servant's of Balak,.... Who were not only princes of the land, but officers of state in the court of Balak:

if Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more; which is well spoken, had it been from his heart: he speaks very respectfully of God, calling him by his great and incommunicable name Jehovah, the Being of beings; representing him as the object of his worship and adoration, as he might be along with other gods, which was the practice of the Heathens in those times, particularly the Syrians, among whom Balaam lived; so did Laban and others before him: likewise he makes a profession of him, and claims an interest in him, which he might the rather do, to make himself look greater, as being the servant of the most high God; for the Gentiles in those times, and indeed in later times, had a notion of one supreme God, superior to all the rest; and this Jehovah Balaam claimed as his God: he speaks very well of the word of God, to which he pretended so strict a regard, that he would not transgress it in the least, for all that Balak could give him or more, no, not for all the money in the world; and yet his heart at the same time went after his covetousness, and he was eagerly desirous and greedy of getting the advantages into his hands that were offered him; for he hoped that God would change his mind, and alter his word, and give him leave to go and get the money, as appears by what follows.

And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. Jehovah my God] It is very remarkable that the early Israelite tradition, as preserved in J , should have placed this expression in the mouth of an Ammonite (Numbers 22:7) soothsayer.

to do less or more] to do small or great. An idiomatic expression for ‘to do anything at all.’ The same is expressed in Numbers 24:13 by ‘good or bad.’

Verse 18. - I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God. Balaam's faith was paramount within its own sphere of operation. It did not control his wishes; it did not secure the heart obedience which God loves; but it did secure, and that absolutely, outward obedience to every positive command of God, however irksome; and Balaam never made any secret of this. Numbers 22:18But Balaam replied to the proposals of these ambassadors: "If Balak gave me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the mouth (command) of Jehovah, my God, to do little or great," i.e., to attempt anything in opposition to the will of the Lord (cf. 1 Samuel 20:2; 1 Samuel 22:15; 1 Samuel 25:36). The inability flowed from moral awe of God and dread of His punishment. "From beginning to end this fact was firmly established in Balaam's mind, viz., that in the work to which Balak summoned him he could do nothing at all except through Jehovah. This knowledge he had acquired by virtue of his natural gifts as seer, and his previous experience. But this clear knowledge of Jehovah was completely obscured again by the love for the wages which ruled in his heart. Because he loved Balak, the enemy of Israel, for the sake of the wages, whereas Jehovah loved Israel for His own name's sake; Balaam was opposed to Jehovah in his inmost nature and will, though he knew himself to be in unison with Him by virtue of his natural gift. Consequently he fell into the same blindness of contradiction to which Balak was in bondage" (Baumgarten). And in this blindness he hoped to be able to turn Jehovah round to oppose Israel, and favour the wishes of his own and Balak's heart. He therefore told the messengers to wait again, that he might ask Jehovah a second time (Numbers 22:19). And this time (Numbers 22:20) God allowed him to go with them, but only on the condition that he should do nothing but what He said to him. The apparent contradiction in His first of all prohibiting Balaam from going (Numbers 22:12), then permitting it (Numbers 22:20), and then again, when Balaam set out in consequence of this permission, burning with anger against him (Numbers 22:22), does not indicate any variableness in the counsels of God, but vanishes at once when we take into account the pedagogical purpose of the divine consent. When the first messengers came and Balaam asked God whether he might go with them and curse Israel, God forbade him to go and curse. But since Balaam obeyed this command with inward repugnance, when he asked a second time on the arrival of the second embassy, God permitted him to go, but on the condition already mentioned, namely, that he was forbidden to curse. God did this not merely because it was His own intention to put blessings instead of curses into the prophet's mouth, - and "the blessings of the celebrated prophet might serve as means of encouraging Israel and discouraging their foes, even though He did not actually stand in need of them" (Knobel), - but primarily and principally for the sake of Balaam himself, viz., to manifest to this soothsayer, who had so little susceptibility for higher influences, both His own omnipotence and true deity, and also the divine election of Israel, in a manner so powerful as to compel him to decide either for or against the God of Israel and his salvation. To this end God permitted him to go to Balak, though not without once more warning him most powerfully by the way of the danger to which his avarice and ambition would expose him. This immediate intention in the guidance of Balaam, by which God would have rescued him if possible from the way of destruction, into which he had been led by the sin which ruled in his heart, does not at all preclude the much further-reaching design of God, which was manifested in Balaam's blessings, namely, to glorify His own name among the heathen and in Israel, through the medium of this far-famed soothsayer.
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