And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Numbers 21:15. As Balaam in his journey would avoid the districts occupied by the Israelites, he must have approached this city from the east, by the course of the Nahaliel; and in the name Balu'a, still borne by one of the upper branches of this stream, there is perhaps a reminiscence of the name of the prophet.
she fell down under Balaam; upon her knees on the ground, not being able to go backwards nor forwards, nor to turn out of the way to the right or left:
and Balaam's anger was kindled; he was displeased and out of humour before, when it turned into the field, and when it squeezed his foot against the wall, and therefore he smote it; but now falling down with him, he was in a fume and fury, quite enraged:
and he smote the ass with a staff; which he rode with, perhaps his divining staff, see Hosea 4:12, it is not said what he smote it with before but probably with the same: Aben Ezra says, at the first and second time he smote it with a small stick, or with a thong.And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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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