Numbers 22:35
And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
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(35) Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee . . . —The command contained in Numbers 22:20 is here repeated, and the unrighteous prophet is punished by being constrained to reap the fruit of his own perversity. It should be observed that here, as elsewhere, the angel who speaks to Balaam identifies himself with Him who sent him: “The word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak.” (Comp. Numbers 22:20, where God Himself is represented as delivering to Balaam the same injunction.)

Numbers 22:35. Go with the men — I allow thee to go upon the following terms. It must have tended to convince the Moabites how much Israel was under the divine protection, to see that Balaam, covetous as he was, and even after such great rewards were set before him, durst not imprecate evil against that people. Only the word that I shall speak, &c. — These words may be understood as a prediction, as well as a command; importing that he would find himself unable to pronounce either more or less about Israel than what God would put in his mouth.

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.Go with the men - A command, not a permission merely. Balaam, no longer a faithful servant of God, was henceforth overruled in all his acts so that he might subserve the divine purpose as an instrument.34, 35. I have sinned … if it displease thee, I will get me back again—Notwithstanding this confession, he evinced no spirit of penitence, as he speaks of desisting only from the outward act. The words "go with the men" was a mere withdrawal of further restraint, but the terms in which leave was given are more absolute and peremptory than those in Nu 22:20. Go with the men: this may be either,

1. A mere permission; Since neither the convictions of thy own conscience, nor the experience of thy danger, have weaned thee from thy base designs and inclinations, I shall no further restrain thee; my angel shall give thee no more disturbance; go on and prosper. Or,

2. A concession; I allow thee to go upon the following terms; for the words here are more absolute and unconditional than those Numbers 22:20.

That thou shalt speak: these words may express either,

1. The event; or,

2. His duty. See Poole on "Numbers 22:20".

And the angel of the Lord said unto Balaam, go with the men,.... Which was not a command, but a concession, or rather a permission, leaving him to go if he would, suffering him to follow his own heart's lusts, and giving him up to them to his own destruction; and besides, it was not his going barely that was displeasing to God, but his going with such a bad intention:

but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak; which expresses not only what he ought to do, but what he should be obliged to do, even to bless the people against his will, when his mind was to curse them, it being for his worldly interest; and therefore it is suggested he had better not go at all, since he never would be able to carry his point, yea, would be brought to shame and confusion before Balak and his nobles: the angel speaking in the same language as God did before to Balaam, Numbers 22:20 shows that not a created angel, but a divine Person, is here meant:

so Balaam went with the princes of Balak; whom after this he quickly overtook, or they him, or they met together at some appointed place, and proceeded on in their journey.

And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the {q} word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

(q) Because his heart was evil, his charge was renewed, that he should not pretend ignorance.

35–41. At this point the narrative of E , interrupted after Numbers 22:21, is resumed. Balak went to the border of his territory to meet Balaam. A sacrificial feast was held, and on the next day Balaam was conducted to a point of vantage from which he could see Israel. These verses, however, are not without difficulties; and it is probable that with E have been fused those portions of J which related that Balaam was allowed to proceed to Moab, and that Balak received him on his arrival.

Verse 35. - Go with the men. It may be asked to what purpose the angel appeared, if Balaam was to proceed just the same. The answer is that the angel was not a warning, but a destroying, angel, a visible embodiment of the anger of God which burnt against Beldam for his perversity. The angel would have slain Balaam, as the lion slew the disobedient prophet, but that God in his mercy permitted the fidelity and wisdom of the ass to save her master from the immediate consequences of his folly. If Balaam had had a mind capable of instruction, he would indeed have gone on as he was bidden, but in a very different spirit and with very different designs. Numbers 22:35The angel of the Lord sought to preserve Balaam from the destruction which threatened him, by standing in his way; but he did not see him, though his ass did. וגו נטתה אוּלי, "perhaps it turned out before me; for otherwise I should surely have killed thee, and let her live." The first clause is to be regarded, as Hengstenberg supposes, as an aposiopesis. The angel does not state positively what was the reason why perhaps the ass had turned out of the way: he merely hints at it lightly, and leaves it to Balaam to gather from the hint, that the faithful animal had turned away from affection to its master, with a dim foreboding of the danger which threatened him, and yet for that very reason, as it were as a reward for its service of love, had been ill-treated by him. The traditional rendering, "if the ass had not turned aside, surely," etc., cannot be defended according to the rules of the language; and there is not sufficient ground for any such alteration of the text as Knobel suggests, viz., into לוּלי. These words made an impression, and Balaam made this acknowledgment (Numbers 22:34): "I have sinned, for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me; and now, if it displease thee, I will get me back again." The angel of the Lord replied, however (Numbers 22:35): "Go with the men; but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that shalt you speak." This was sufficient to show him, that it was not the journey in itself that was displeasing to God, but the feelings and intentions with which he had entered upon it. The whole procedure was intended to sharpen his conscience and sober his mind, that he might pay attention to the word which the Lord would speak to him. At the same time the impression which the appearance and words of the angel of the Lord made upon his heart, enveloped in mist as it was by the thirst for gold and honour, was not a deep one, nor one that led him to a thorough knowledge of his own heart; otherwise, after such a warning, he would never have continued his journey.
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