Numbers 22:23
And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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. Balaam saw not the angel because God withheld his eyes, as he did the eyes of Daniel’s companions, Daniel 10:7. It is a truth, which mere philosophers own, that when God withdraws his concourse or help from any of his creatures, they cannot perform their natural acts and offices; the eye cannot see, as Ge 19, nor the ear hear, nor the fire burn, as Da 3. And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way,.... Which Balaam did not; his eyes being held from seeing him by the power and providence of God, that he might be reproved and rebuked by his ass, to whom God gave power to see, more than to him, as Jarchi notes, so that he had little reason to boast of his visions and revelations, and that he was the man whose eyes were open: the angel stood in the very pathway on which the ass was carrying Balaam: and his sword drawn in his hand; as threatening to destroy him, and as if he was just about to push at him, and signifying hereby not only that he deserved to die, but what death he should die of, namely, by the sword, as he did, Numbers 31:8.

and the ass turned aside out of the way; out of the common road, to save its master and itself, from a natural principle of self-preservation: and went into the field; adjoining to, and that lay along the road side:

and Balaam smote the ass to turn her into the way; with his staff, as in Numbers 22:27 to bring her into the common road again.

And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. with his sword drawn in his hand] Numbers 22:31. Joshua 5:13.

and went into the field] The road would run through the open country (‘the field’), without walls or fences. These would only be employed between vineyards, to keep out animals.Verse 23. - And the ass saw the angel of the Lord. This was clearly part of the miracle, the σήμειον which was to exhibit in such a striking manner the stupidity and blindness of the most brilliant and gifted intellect when clouded by greed and selfishness. It is nothing to the point that the lower animals have a quicker perception of some natural phenomena than men, for this was not a natural phenomenon; it is nothing to the point that the lower animals are credited by some with possessing "the second sight," for all that belongs to the fantastic and legendary. If the ass saw the angel, it was because the Lord opened her eyes then, as he did her mouth afterwards. 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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