Numbers 23:1
And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK

(1) Build me here seven altars.—The patriarchs of old, as their pious descendants after the giving of the Law, never erected more than one altar in one place. A plurality of altars was the badge of idolatry. Hengsten-berg adduces several instances in proof that the ancients were accustomed to have recourse to sacrifice and conjuration in order to avert calamity and produce prosperity. (History of Balaam and his Prophecies, p. 392.) The number seven was regarded as significant among the Greeks and Romans, as well as among the Israelites.

Numbers 23:1. Build me seven altars — To the true God, otherwise he would not have mentioned it to God as an argument why he should grant his requests, as he does, Numbers 23:4. And though Balak was averse from God and his worship, yet he would be easily overruled by Balaam, who doubtless told him that it was in vain to make an address to any other than the God of Israel, who alone was able either to bless or curse them, as he pleased. Seven — This being the usual number in the more solemn and important sacrifices, even among those worshippers of the true God who were not of the seed of Abraham, nor favoured with a written revelation, Job 42:8. Perhaps it was intended to show that they worshipped Him who had in a manner consecrated the number seven, by ceasing from his works of creation on the seventh day. It may not be improper to notice here how much the number seven is regarded in the sacred writings. The blood of atonement was to be sprinkled seven times before the mercy-seat, Leviticus 16:14; the consecrating oil was to be sprinkled seven times upon the altar, Leviticus 8:11; the leper was to be sprinkled seven times, and seven days were appointed for his cleansing, Leviticus 14:7-9; seven days were to be employed in consecrating the priests, (Leviticus 8:35,) and for purifying the unclean, Leviticus 12:2; Numbers 19:19; seven times Naaman washed in Jordan, 2 Kings 5:10; 2 Kings 5:14; seven days Jericho was besieged, and seven priests with seven trumpets blew, and the walls fell down, Joshua 6.; seven priests blew trumpets before the ark when David brought it home, 1 Chronicles 15:24; every seventh day was a sabbath; the seventh year a year of rest; and seven times seven years brought the jubilee. The principal events that should befall the world and the church, from the time of the banishment of St. John to the isle of Patmos, in the reign of Domitian, (A.D. 96,) to the consummation of all things, are comprehended in that wonderful book of prophecy termed the Revelation, by St. John, under the emblems of seven seals of a book opened, seven trumpets sounded by seven angels, and seven vials poured out also by seven angels. Now what more solid reason can be assigned for this peculiar regard shown by God himself to the number seven, than that it was intended to hold him forth to mankind as that Jehovah who had created the world in six days, and by resting on the seventh, had consecrated that number, and rendered it in some sense sacred to all nations and ages?

23:1-10 With the camps of Israel full in view, Balaam ordered seven altars to be built, and a bullock and a ram to be offered on each. Oh the sottishness of superstition, to imagine that God will be at man's beck! The curse is turned into a blessing, by the overruling power of God, in love to Israel. God designed to serve his own glory by Balaam, and therefore met him. If God put a word into the mouth of Balaam, who would have defied God and Israel, surely he will not be wanting to those who desire to glorify God, and to edify his people; it shall be given what they should speak. He who opened the mouth of the ass, caused the mouth of this wicked man to speak words as contrary to the desire of his heart, as those of the ass were to the powers of the brute. The miracle was as great in the one case as in the other. Balaam pronounces Israel safe. He owns he could do no more than God suffered him to do. He pronounces them happy in their distinction from the rest of the nations. Happy in their numbers, which made them both honourable and formidable. Happy in their last end. Death is the end of all men; even the righteous must die, and it is good for us to think of this with regard to ourselves, as Balaam does here, speaking of his own death. He pronounces the righteous truly blessed, not only while they live, but when they die; which makes their death even more desirable than life itself. But there are many who desire to die the death of the righteous, but do not endeavour to live the life of the righteous; gladly would they have an end like theirs, but not a way like theirs. They would be saints in heaven, but not saints on earth. This saying of Balaam's is only a wish, not a prayer; it is a vain wish, being only a wish for the end, without any care for the means. Many seek to quiet their consciences with the promise of future amendment, or take up with some false hope, while they neglect the only way of salvation, by which a sinner can be righteous before God.Balaam, after the general custom of the pagan, prefaced his divinations by sacrifice. In the number of the altars regard was probably had to the number of the then known planets. Yet Balaam evidently intended his sacrifice as an offering to the true God. CHAPTER 23

Nu 23:1-30. Balak's Sacrifices.

1. Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars—Balak, being a heathen, would naturally suppose these altars were erected in honor of Baal, the patron deity of his country. It is evident, from Nu 23:4 that they were prepared for the worship of the true God; although in choosing the high places of Baal as their site and rearing a number of altars (2Ki 18:22; Isa 17:8; Jer 11:13; Ho 8:11; 10:1), instead of one only, as God had appointed, Balaam blended his own superstitions with the divine worship. The heathen, both in ancient and modern times, attached a mysterious virtue to the number seven; and Balaam, in ordering the preparation of so many altars, designed to mystify and delude the king.Balak and Balsam sacrifice: God meets him, and he blesses Israel, Numbers 23:1-10. Balak is troubled: they go to another place to curse them: they sacrifice again: Balaam consults God, who meets him, and he again blesses Israel, Numbers 23:11-21. They go to a third place, and sacrifice again, Numbers 23:27-30.

The altars were either,

1. To Baal, in whose high places this was done and to whom alone Balak used to sacrifice. Or rather,

2. To the true God, otherwise he would not have mentioned it to God as an argument why he should grant his requests, as he doth Numbers 23:4. And though Balak was averse from God and his worship, yet he would be easily overruled by Balaam, who doubtless told him that it was in vain to make an address to any other than the God of Israel, who alone was able either to bless or curse them, as he pleased. And therefore when Balaam lost his design this way he tried it another way with greater success, but still used to the same method, in provoking their own God to destroy the Israelites, Num 25. But though he direct his sacrifices to the right object, he chooseth a wrong place, and, to comply with Balak’s desire, makes use of the high places of Baal for this end, and mingles his own superstitions with the worship of God, in erecting divers altars, according to the manner of heathens and idolators, 2 Kings 18:22 Isaiah 17:8 Jeremiah 11:13 Hosea 8:11 10:1 12:11; whereas God appointed and holy men used but one altar, though many sacrifices were to be offered upon it, Genesis 8:20 Exodus 17:15 24:4. Seven was the solemn and usual number in sacrifices, 1 Chronicles 15:26 2 Chronicles 29:21 Job 42:8.

And Balaam said unto Balak,.... When upon one of the high places of Baal, and after having taken a view of the people of Israel as they lay encamped:

build me here seven altars; this was purely Heathenish; for not only the Israelites after the law of Moses had but one altar, but the patriarchs before that never built but one altar at a time. Some have thought regard is had to the seven planets worshipped by Heathens; though no doubt Balaam pretended to sacrifice to Jehovah the true God, in order to gain him over to him to agree to it to curse Israel, and persuaded Balak, though an idolater, to join with him; and, the more easily to bring him to it, mixes Heathen rites and customs in sacrifice to him:

and prepare me here seven oxen, and seven rams; which were creatures offered in sacrifice according to the law of Moses, and before that was given, and by persons who were not under it; and even by seven of each sort, and that by the express command of God, Job 42:8. It may be observed, that both in this, and the preceding clause, the word here is carefully expressed, namely, in one of the high places; there the altars were erected, and thither the oxen were brought to be sacrificed; so that both the place, and the number of the altars, savoured of Heathenish worship, in which he complied to induce the king to sacrifice to Jehovah.

And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams.
1–6. Balaam demanded a seven-fold sacrifice, in order to propitiate God, that He might be willing to give His prophet a message. Balak complied with the request, hoping that the message might be a curse.

Chapter 23:1. - Build me here seven altars. According to the common opinion of the heathen, it was necessary to propitiate with sacrifices the God with whom they had to do, and if possible to secure his favourable consideration on their side. The number seven was especially connected with the revelation of the tree God, the Creator of the world, and was probably observed here for this reason. The sacrifices were offered no doubt to Jehovah. Numbers 23:1Balaam's First Words. - Numbers 23:1-3. Preparations for the first act, which was performed at Bamoth-baal. At Balaam's command Balak built seven altars, and then selected seven bullocks and seven rams, which they immediately sacrificed, namely, one bullock and one ram upon each altar. The nations of antiquity generally accompanied all their more important undertakings with sacrifices, to make sure of the protection and help of the gods; but this was especially the case with their ceremonies of adjuration. According to Diod. Sic. ii. 29, the Chaldeans sought to avert calamity and secure prosperity by sacrifices and adjurations. The same thing is also related of other nations (see Hengstenberg, Balaam, p. 392). Accordingly, Balaam also did everything that appeared necessary, according to his own religious notions, to ensure the success of Balak's undertaking, and bring about the desired result. The erection of seven altars, and the sacrifice of seven animals of each kind, are to be explained from the sacredness acquired by this number, through the creation of the world in seven days, as being the stamp of work that was well-pleasing to God. The sacrifices were burnt-offerings, and were offered by themselves to Jehovah, whom Balaam acknowledged as his God.
Numbers 23:1 Interlinear
Numbers 23:1 Parallel Texts

Numbers 23:1 NIV
Numbers 23:1 NLT
Numbers 23:1 ESV
Numbers 23:1 NASB
Numbers 23:1 KJV

Numbers 23:1 Bible Apps
Numbers 23:1 Parallel
Numbers 23:1 Biblia Paralela
Numbers 23:1 Chinese Bible
Numbers 23:1 French Bible
Numbers 23:1 German Bible

Bible Hub

Numbers 22:41
Top of Page
Top of Page