And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The field of Zophim.—i.e., of watchers. Tne spot seems to be identified with that from which Moses afterwards surveyed the promised land (Deuteronomy 3:27), and which is described in Deuteronomy 34:1 as “the mountain of Nebo,” or Mount Nebo. It is possible, however, that Pisgah may have had more than one of such summits.Jeremiah 49:19) that furnished him with the augury he awaited, and so dictated the final similitude of his next parable. Zophim, a place so called from the spies and watches which were kept there. Pisgah, a high hill in the land of Moab, so called Deu 3:27 34:1.
to the top of Pisgah; a high hill in this place, where perhaps the watch tower was, or, however, the watchman stood: this looked towards Jeshimon or Bethjesimoth, in the plain of Moab, where Israel lay encamped, see Numbers 21:20, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar: as he had done before, Numbers 23:2.And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. to the field of Zophim] The site is unknown. Ẓôphim means ‘watchers,’ and it was evidently high ground which afforded an extensive outlook.
the top of the Pisgah] See on Numbers 21:20. There were probably many places in the mountains of Moab which would be useful as posts for sentinels. This one is defined as lying somewhere among the western headlands.Verse 14. - The field of Zophim, i.e., of the watchers. Probably a well-known outlook. To the top of Pisgah. They followed apparently on the track of their enemies (see on Numbers 21:20). Numbers 22:6). The seer opposes this delusion: The God of Israel does not curse His people, and therefore His servant cannot curse them. The following verses (Numbers 23:9 and Numbers 23:10) give the reason why: "For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him. Lo, it is a people that dwelleth apart, and is not numbered among the heathen. Who determines the dust of Jacob, and in number the fourth part of Israel? Let my soul die the death of the righteous, and my end be like his?" There were two reasons which rendered it impossible for Balaam to curse Israel: (1) Because they were a people both outwardly and inwardly different from other nations, and (2) because they were a people richly blessed and highly favoured by God. From the top of the mountains Balaam looked down upon the people of Israel. The outward and earthly height upon which he stood was the substratum of the spiritual height upon which the Spirit of God had placed him, and had so enlightened his mental sight, that he was able to discern all the peculiarities and the true nature of Israel. In this respect the first thing that met his view was the fact that this people dwelt alone. Dwelling alone does not denote a quiet and safe retirement, as many commentators have inferred from Deuteronomy 33:28; Jeremiah 49:31, and Micah 7:14; but, according to the parallel clause, "it is not reckoned among the nations," it expresses the separation of Israel from the rest of the nations. This separation was manifested outwardly to the seer's eye in the fact that "the host of Israel dwelt by itself in a separate encampment upon the plain. In this his spirit discerned the inward and essential separation of Israel from all the heathen" (Baumgarten). This outward "dwelling alone" was a symbol of their inward separation from the heathen world, by virtue of which Israel was not only saved from the fate of the heathen world, but could not be overcome by the heathen; of course only so long as they themselves should inwardly maintain this separation from the heathen, and faithfully continue in covenant with the Lord their God, who had separated them from among the nations to be His own possession. As soon as Israel lost itself in heathen ways, it also lost its own external independence. This rule applies to the Israel of the New Testament as well as the Israel of the Old, to the congregation or Church of God of all ages. יתחשּׁב לע, "it does not reckon itself among the heathen nations," i.e., it does not share the lot of the other nations, because it has a different God and protector from the heathen (cf. Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 33:29). The truth of this has been so marvellously realized in the history of the Israelites, notwithstanding their falling short of the idea of their divine calling, "that whereas all the mightier kingdoms of the ancient world, Egypt, Assyria, Babel, etc., have perished without a trace, Israel, after being rescued from so many dangers which threatened utter destruction under the Old Testament, still flourishes in the Church of the New Testament, and continues also to exist in that part which, though rejected now, is destined one day to be restored" (Hengstenberg).
In this state of separation from the other nations, Israel rejoiced in the blessing of its God, which was already visible in the innumerable multitude into which it had grown. "Who has ever determined the dust of Jacob?" As the dust cannot be numbered, so is the multitude of Israel innumerable. These words point back to the promise in Genesis 13:16, and applied quite as much to the existing state as to the future of Israel. The beginning of the miraculous fulfilment of the promise given to the patriarchs of an innumerable posterity, was already before their eyes (cf. Deuteronomy 10:22). Even now the fourth part of Israel is not to be reckoned. Balaam speaks of the fourth part with reference to the division of the nation into four camps (ch. 2), of which he could see only one from his point of view (Numbers 22:41), and therefore only the fourth part of the nation. מספּר is an accusative of definition, and the subject and verb are to be repeated from the first clause; so that there is no necessity to alter מספּר into ספר מי. - But Israel was not only visibly blessed by God with an innumerable increase; it was also inwardly exalted into a people of ישׁרים, righteous or honourable men. The predicate ישׁרים is applied to Israel on account of its divine calling, because it had a God who was just and right, a God of truth and without iniquity (Deuteronomy 32:4), or because the God of Israel was holy, and sanctified His people (Leviticus 20:7-8; Exodus 31:13) and made them into a Jeshurun (Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26). Righteousness, probity, is the idea and destination of this people, which has never entirely lost it, though it has never fully realized it. Even in times of general apostasy from the Lord, there was always an ἐκλογή in the nation, of which probity and righteousness could truly be predicated (cf. 1 Kings 19:18). The righteousness of the Israelites was "a product of the institutions which God had established among them, of the revelation of His holy will which He had given them in His law, of the forgiveness of sins which He had linked on to the offering of sacrifices, and of the communication of His Spirit, which was ever living and at work in His Church, and in it alone" (Hengstenberg). Such a people Balaam could not curse; he could only wish that the end of his own life might resemble the end of these righteous men. Death is introduced here as the end and completion of life. "Balaam desires for himself the entire, full, indestructible, and inalienable blessedness of the Israelite, of which death is both the close and completion, and also the seal and attestation" (Kurtz). This desire did not involve the certain hope of a blessed life beyond the grave, which the Israelites themselves did not then possess; it simply expressed the thought that the death of a pious Israelite was a desirable good. And this it was, whether viewed in the light of the past, the present, or the future. In the hour of death the pious Israelite could look back with blessed satisfaction to a long life, rich "in traces of the beneficent, forgiving, delivering, and saving grace of God;" he could comfort himself with the delightful hope of living on in his children and his children's children, and in them of participating in the future fulfilment of the divine promises of grace; and lastly, when dying in possession of the love and grace of God, he could depart hence with the joyful confidence of being gathered to his fathers in Sheol (Genesis 25:8).
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