Numbers 22:22
And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
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(22) Because he went.—Literally, because he was going. The participle denotes the continuous act. He deliberately and resolutely proceeded on his journey with the messengers of Balak, in defiance of the warnings which he had received.

Stood in the way.—Better, placed (or, stationed) himself in the way.

Numbers 22:22. Because he went — Namely, of his own accord, and did not wait till the princes of Moab came to call him, which was the sign and condition of God’s permission, but rather himself rose and went to call them. The apostle describes Balaam’s sin here to be, that he ran greedily into an error for reward, Judges 11. For an adversary — To oppose, if not to kill him. His servants with him — The rest of the company being probably gone before them. For in those ancient times there was more of simplicity, and less of ceremony, and therefore it is not strange that Balaam came at some distance after the rest, and attended only by his own servants.

22:22-35 We must not think, that because God does not always by his providence restrain men from sin, therefore he approves of it, or that it is not hateful to him. The holy angels oppose sin, and perhaps are employed in preventing it more than we are aware. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaam counted him his adversary; those are really our best friends, and we ought so to reckon them, who stop our progress in sinful ways. Balaam has notice of God's displeasure by the ass. It is common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil, to push on violently, through the difficulties Providence lays in their way. The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was a great miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made man speak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man's voice. The ass complained of Balaam's cruelty. The righteous God does not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but they shall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some way or other speak for them. Balaam at length has his eyes opened. God has many ways to bring down the hard and unhumbled heart. When our eyes are opened, we shall see the danger of sinful ways, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed. Balaam seemed to relent; I have sinned; but it does not appear that he was sensible of this wickedness of his heart, or willing to own it. If he finds he cannot go forward, he will be content, since there is no remedy, to go back. Thus many leave their sins, only because their sins have left them. The angel declared that he should not only be unable to curse Israel, but should be forced to bless them: this would be more for the glory of God, and to his own confusion, than if he had turned back.The angel - i. e., the Angel that led the Israelites through the wilderness (compare Numbers 20:16 and references), and subsequently appeared as the Captain of the Lord's host to Joshua Jos 6:13. In desiring to curse Israel, Balaam was fighting against Israel's Leader. The presence of the Angel in his path was designed to open his eyes, blinded by sin, to the real character of his course of conduct. 22. God's anger was kindled because he went—The displeasure arose partly from his neglecting the condition on which leave was granted him—namely, to wait till the princes of Moab "came to call him" [Nu 22:20], and because, through desire for "the wages of unrighteousness" [2Pe 2:15], he entertained the secret purpose of acting in opposition to the solemn charge of God. God’s anger was kindled; either,

1. Because he went of his own accord with the princes of Moab, and did not wait till they came to call him, i.e. urged him to go, which was the sign and condition of God’s permission, Numbers 22:20, but rather himself rose and called them, as it may seem from Numbers 22:21. Or,

2. Because those words, Numbers 22:20, did contain no approbation nor license, but a bare permission, and that. in anger, as Balaam might easily have understood, if he had considered his own heart, or the circumstances of his concession. This was no more an approbation than that passage of Christ to Judas, John 13:27, That thou doest, do quickly. Or,

3. Because he went with ill design, and desire to do contrary to what God had charged him, to wit, to curse the people, as plainly appears from the following story, and from Deu 23:5; for God hath been oft and justly angry with those who have done what God bade them, when they did it in evil manner, or for evil ends, as appears from Isaiah 10:6,7, and many other places.

The Lord stood in the way, i.e. to oppose and terrify, if not to kill him.

His two servants were with him; the rest of the company being probably gone before them. For in those ancient times there was more of simplicity, and less of ceremony; and therefore it is not strange that Balaam came at some distance after the rest, and attended only by his own servants.

And God's anger was kindled because he went,.... Though he had given him leave to go; but then it was upon condition that the princes called him to go with them, whereas he went without their call, and did not wait for it; and besides, he did not acquaint them, as he did not the messengers before, of what God had said, that he should not curse Israel, nor say anything contrary to this his will, which, had he told them, they would not have taken him with them; moreover, he went with an intention, with a good will to curse Israel, which must be displeasing to God, who knew his heart; so the Targum of Jonathan,"and the anger of the Lord was strong, because he went to curse them;''likewise, though he had a permission to go, it was in an angry manner, and was not agreeable to the Lord he should go, and therefore should not have gone notwithstanding; or, at least, he might expect some marks of the divine displeasure; so Jarchi observes, he saw that the thing was evil in the eyes of the Lord, or displeasing to him, and yet he desired it; just as the people of Israel, when the Lord bid them go up and possess the land, which case Aben Ezra instances in; they desired persons might be sent before hand to spy out the land, which, though permitted, they smarted for it: for not whatsoever God permits is well pleasing to him; besides, the words may be rendered (h), "when he went", or, "as he was going"; and so not a reason of the Lord's anger, but expresses when it was kindled or broke forth:

and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him; that this was not a created angel, one of the ministering spirits, but the eternal one, the angel of Jehovah's presence, appears from Numbers 22:35 that went before the people of Israel in the wilderness, not only to guide but to guard and protect them; and who was an adversary to their adversaries, and at all times stood up for their help and assistance against all those that hated and opposed them: Jarchi calls him an angel of mercy, who would have restrained Balaam from sinning, that he might not sin and perish, and so was rather a friend than an adversary, had he attended to him:

now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him; who, the Targum of Jonathan says, were Jannes and Jambres, the magicians of Egypt, of whom see 2 Timothy 3:8 these only were with him, the princes of Midian on some account or another being separated from him.

(h) "quum iret", Noldius, p. 403.

And God's anger was kindled because he {k} went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

(k) Moved rather with covetousness than to obey God.

22. After God has expressly given permission for Balaam to go, His anger would be surprising, and would seem to imply a capricious change of mind, were it not for the consideration that the narrative is derived from two different sources. In Numbers 22:22-34 Balaam travels on an ass, accompanied not by the great retinue of Moabite princes but simply by two of his own servants. The verses are from J , who relates that Balaam lived in the Ammonite country, some 40 miles distant, and the journey was made through cultivated land with vineyards and walls. See note on Numbers 22:5.

an adversary] Heb. ‘a satan.’ In early days a catastrophe or trouble, no less than a favour or blessing, was understood to be due to the action of God; so that here Jehovah Himself, in the form of His angel, was Balaam’s adversary. That is to say, the divine action was personified. The result of this personification is that the Angel, for the most part, appears to be distinguished from Jehovah Himself. But see Numbers 22:35, where the Angel utters Jehovah’s own words. In later times such personifications became more definitely distinguished from God Himself, so that troubles and temptations were attributed to a malevolent spirit, who was hostile to God and men, and for whom ‘Satan’ became a recognised title. Cf. 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1; and see G. A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, pp. 410–19.

22–34. Jehovah was angry with Balaam for going, and His ‘Angel’ hindered him on the way.

Verse 22. - And God's anger was kindled because he went, or, "that he was going." כִּי־הולֵך הוּא. Septuagint, ὅτι ἐπορεύθη αὐτός. There can be no question that the ordinary translation is fight, and that God was angry with Balaam for going at all on such an errand. It is true that God had given him permission to go, but that very permission was a judicial act whereby God punished the covetous and disobedient longings of Balaam in allowing him to have his own way. God's anger is kindled by sin, and it was not less truly sin which prompted Balaam to go because he had succeeded in obtaining formal leave to go. The angel of the Lord stood in the way. The same angel of the covenant apparently of whom Moses had spoken to the Edomites (see on Numbers 20:16). For an adversary against him. לְשָׂטָן לו. Septuagint, διαβαλεῖν αὐτόν, Not so much because Balaam was rushing upon his own destruction as because he was going to fight with curses, if possible, against the Israel of God (cf. 2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 34:7). Numbers 22:22Balaam's Speaking Ass. - Numbers 22:22. "And the anger of God burned, that he was going (הוּא הולך): and the angel of Jehovah placed himself in the way, as an adversary to him." From the use of the participle הולך instead of the imperfect, with which it is not interchangeable, it is evident, on the one hand, that the anger of God was not excited by the fact that Balaam went with the elders of Moab, but by his behaviour wither on setting out or upon the journey;

(Note: From a failure to observe the use of the participle in distinction from the preterite, and from a misinterpretation of the words of the angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:32), "I have come out as an adversary, for the way leads headlong to destruction," which have been understood as implying that the angel meant to prohibit the seer from going, whereas he only intended to warn him of the destruction towards which he was going, the critics have invented a contradiction between the account of the speaking ass (Numbers 22:22-35) and the preceding part of the history. And in consequence of this, A. G. Hoffmann and others have pronounced the section from Numbers 22:22 to Numbers 22:35 to be a later interpolation; whilst Baur, on the other hand (in his Geschichte d. alttestl. Weissagung), regards the account of the ass as the original form of the narrative, and the preceding portion as a composition of the Jehovist. But there is no "contradiction" or "evident incongruity," unless we suppose that the only reason for the appearance of the angel of the Lord was, that he might once more forbid the seer to go, and then give him permission, with a certain limitation. The other difference, which E. v. Ortenberg adduces, are involved in the very nature of the case. The manifestation of God, in the form of the Angel of Jehovah, was necessarily different in its character from a direct spiritual revelation of the divine will. And lastly, the difference in the expressions used to signify "three times," in Numbers 22:28, Numbers 22:32-33, and Numbers 24:10, etc., prove nothing more than that king Balak did not mould his style of speaking according to that of the ass.)

and, on the other hand, that the occurrence which followed did not take place at the commencement, but rather towards the close of, the journey. As it was a longing for wages and honour that had induced the soothsayer to undertake the journey, the nearer he came to his destination, under the guidance of the distinguished Moabitish ambassadors, the more was his mind occupied with the honours and riches in prospect; and so completely did they take possession of his heart, that he was in danger of casting to the winds the condition which had been imposed upon him by God. The wrath of God was kindled against this dangerous enemy of his soul; and as he was riding upon his ass with two attendants, the angel of the Lord stood in his way לו לשׂטן, "as an adversary to him," i.e., to restrain him from advancing farther on a road that would inevitably lead him headlong into destruction (cf. Numbers 22:32). This visible manifestation of God was seen by the ass; but Balaam the seer was so blinded, that it was entirely hidden from his eye, darkened as it was by sinful lust; and this happened three times before Jehovah brought him to his senses by the speaking of the dumb animal, and thus opened his eyes.

(Note: "To the great disgrace of the prophet, the glory of the angel was first of all apparent to the ass... He had been boasting before this of extraordinary visions, and now what was visible to the eyes of a beast was invisible to him. Whence came this blindness, but from the avarice by which he had been so stupefied, that he preferred filthy lucre to the holy calling of God?" (Calvin.))

The "drawn sword" in the angel's hand was a manifestation of the wrath of God. The ass turned from the road into the field before the threatening sight, and was smitten by Balaam in consequence to turn her or guide her back into the road.

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