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 on 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). The answer with which Balaam had sent the Moabitish messengers away, encouraged Balak to cherish the hope of gaining over the celebrated soothsayer to his purpose notwithstanding, and to send an embassy "of princes more numerous and more honourable than those," and to make the attempt to overcome his former resistance by more splendid promises; whether he regarded it, as is very probable, "as the remains of a weakly fear of God, or simply as a ruse adopted for the purpose of obtaining better conditions" (Hengstenberg). As a genuine heathen, who saw nothing more in the God of Israel than a national god of that people, he thought that it would be possible to render not only men, but gods also, favourable to his purpose, by means of splendid honours and rich rewards.

(Note: Compare the following remarks of Pliny (h. n. xxviii. 4) concerning this belief among the Romans: "Verrius Flaccus auctores ponit, quibus credat, in oppugnationibus ante omnia solitum a Romanis sacerdotibus evocari Deum, cujus in tutela id oppidum esset, promittique illi eundem aut ampliorem apud Romanos cultum. Et durat in Pontificum disciplina id sacrum, constatque ideo occultatum, in cujus Dei tutela Roma esset, ne qui hostium simili modo agerent;" - and the further explanations of this heathen notion in Hengstenberg's Balaam and his Prophecies.)

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