Numbers 23:19 Commentaries: "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: has he said, and shall he not do it? or has he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) Neither the son of man, that he should repent.—The adoption of these words, with slight variation, by Samuel (1Samuel 15:29) affords evidence of his familiarity with this portion of the Pentateuch.

Numbers 23:19. That he should lie — Break his promise made to his people for their preservation and benediction. Neither the son of man that he should repent — Change his counsels or purposes, as men change theirs, either because they are not able to execute them, or because they are better informed, or their minds are changed by some unexpected occurrence, or by their passions, none of which things have place in God. When the inspired writers speak of God’s repenting, as Jeremiah 18:8, and Amos 7:3-6, they are to be understood as speaking figuratively, and adapting their language to our apprehensions. They only mean that God changes the course of his providence toward mankind, according as he sees a change in their dispositions and actions. See note on Genesis 6:6.23:11-30 Balak was angry with Balaam. Thus a confession of God's overruling power is extorted from a wicked prophet, to the confusion of a wicked prince. A second time the curse is turned into a blessing; and this blessing is both larger and stronger than the former. Men change their minds, and break their words; but God never changes his mind, and therefore never recalls his promise. And when in Scripture he is said to repent, it does not mean any change of his mind; but only a change of his way. There was sin in Jacob, and God saw it; but there was not such as might provoke him to give them up to ruin. If the Lord sees that we trust in his mercy, and accept of his salvation; that we indulge no secret lust, and continue not in rebellion, but endeavour to serve and glorify him; we may be sure that he looks upon us as accepted in Christ, that our sins are all pardoned. Oh the wonders of providence and grace, the wonders of redeeming love, of pardoning mercy, of the new-creating Spirit! Balak had no hope of ruining Israel, and Balaam showed that he had more reason to fear being ruined by them. Since Balaam cannot say what he would have him, Balak wished him to say nothing. But though there are many devices in man's heart, God's counsels shall stand. Yet they resolve to make another attempt, though they had no promise on which to build their hopes. Let us, who have a promise that the vision at the end shall speak and not lie, continue earnest in prayer, Lu 18:1.The field of Zophim - Or, "of watchers." It lay upon the top of Pisgah, north of the former station, and nearer to the Israelite camp; the greater part of which was, however, probably concealed from it by an intervening spur of the hill. Beyond the camp Balaam's eye would pass on to the bed of the Jordan. It was perhaps a lion coming up in his strength from the swelling of that stream (compare Jeremiah 49:19) that furnished him with the augury he awaited, and so dictated the final similitude of his next parable. 18, 19. Rise up—As Balak was already standing (Nu 23:17), this expression is equivalent to "now attend to me." The counsels and promises of God respecting Israel are unchangeable; and no attempt to prevail on Him to reverse them will succeed, as they may with a man. That he should lie, i.e. break his faith and promises made to his people for their preservation and benediction.

That he should repent, . e. change his counsels or purposes; which men do, either because they are not able to execute them, or because they are better informed and their minds changed by some unexpected occurrent, or by their lusts and passions, none of which have place in God. And therefore I plainly see that all our endeavours and repeated sacrifices are to no purpose, and can make no impression in God, nor induce him to curse those whom he hath purposed, and solemnly and frequently promised, to bless.

Shall he not do it? Is he like a man that oft speaks and promises what he either never intends, or cannot or will not perform? God is not a man, that he should lie,.... Man is a creature consisting of a body of flesh and blood, and of a soul, a created and finite spirit; but God, though he has the parts of an human body ascribed to him in a figurative sense, yet is not to be conceived of in a corporeal manner; and though he is a Spirit, yet eternal, immense, and infinite; and much less is as a sinful man, who goes astray from the womb speaking lies; no, let God be true, and every man a liar: he is God, that cannot lie; his counsels of old are faithfulness and truth; his promises yea and amen in Christ; the Scriptures inspired by him are true, and the prophecies of them are punctually accomplished, particularly what he foretold of the people of Israel, and promised unto them; that they should be happy, and inherit the land of Canaan; that be would be true and faithful to them, and there could be no hope, by any means whatever, to make him false and unfaithful to his word: neither the son of man, that he should repent; repentance is found in men, who repent for what they have done, or change their minds, as to what they intended to do or set about; perceiving it to be wrong to do it, or that they are able to do it, some unforeseen thing turning up they were not aware of: but nothing of this kind belongs to God, or can befall him; he never changes his mind, alters his counsels, purposes, and decrees, and never varies in his affections to his people, nor makes void his choice of them, or covenant with them; and his calling of them by his grace, and his gifts of grace bestowed upon them, are without repentance: and particularly with respect to the people of Israel, there was no reason to hope or believe that God would change his purposes or promises respecting their outward happiness, and enjoyment of the land of Canaan; or that ever he would be prevailed upon to curse them, or admit them to be cursed, when he was determined, and had so peremptorily promised that he would bless them:

hath he said, and shall he not do it? or "hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" whether it be with regard to things temporal, spiritual, or eternal; for there is no variableness nor shadow of turning in his mind; he never forgets his word, he foresees all events, he is able to perform, and is true and faithful; and therefore whatever is gone out of his lips will never be altered, but will be most certainly fulfilled, Psalm 89:34 Isaiah 14:24.

{h} God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

(h) God's enemies are compelled to confess that his government is just, constant, and without change or repentance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. Neither a Song of Solomon of man] a mere mortal, with human caprices. It is the only occurrence of the expression that is certainly earlier than Ezekiel.Balak reproached Balaam for this utterance, which announced blessings to the Israelites instead of curses. But he met his reproaches with the remark, that he was bound by the command of Jehovah. The infinitive absolute, בּרך, after the finite verb, expresses the fact that Balaam had continued to give utterance to nothing but blessings. לדבּר שׁמר, to observe to speak; שׁמר, to notice carefully, as in Deuteronomy 5:1, Deuteronomy 5:29, etc. But Balak thought that the reason might be found in the unfavourable locality; he therefore led the seer to "the field of the watchers, upon the top of Pisgah," whence he could see the whole of the people of Israel. The words וגו תּראנּוּ אשׁר (Numbers 23:13) are to be rendered, "whence thou wilt see it (Israel); thou seest only the end of it, but not the whole of it" (sc., here upon Bamoth-baal). This is required by a comparison of the verse before us with Numbers 22:41, where it is most unquestionably stated, that upon the top of Bamoth-baal Balaam only saw "the end of the people." For this reason Balak regarded that place as unfavourable, and wished to lead the seer to a place from which he could see the people, without any limitation whatever. Consequently, notwithstanding the omission of כּי (for), the words קצהוּ אפס can only be intended to assign the reason why Balak supposed the first utterances of Balaam to have been unfavourable. קצהוּ equals העם קצה, the end of the people (Numbers 22:41), cannot possibly signify the whole nation, or, as Marck, de Geer, Gesenius, and Kurtz suppose, "the people from one end to the other," in which case העם קצה (the end of the people) would signify the very opposite of קצהוּ (the end of it); for העם קצה is not interchangeable, or to be identified, with מקּצה כּל־העם (Genesis 19:4), "the whole people, from the end or extremity of it," or from its last man; in other words, "to the very last man." Still less does העם קצה אפס signify "the uttermost end of the whole people, the end of the entire people," notwithstanding the fact that Kurtz regards the expression, "the end of the end of the people," as an intolerable tautology. קבנו, imperative with nun epenth., from קבב. The "field of the watchers," or "spies (zophim), upon the top of Pisgah," corresponds, no doubt, to "the field of Moab, upon the top of Pisgah," on the west of Heshbon (see at Numbers 21:20). Mount Nebo, from which Moses surveyed the land of Canaan in all its length and breadth, was one summit, and possibly the summit of Pisgah (see Deuteronomy 3:27; Deuteronomy 34:1). The field of the spies was very probably a tract of table-land upon Nebo; and so called either because watchers were stationed there in times of disturbance, to keep a look-out all round, or possibly because it was a place where augurs made their observations of the heavens and of birds (Knobel). The locality has not been thoroughly explored by travellers; but from the spot alluded to, it must have been possible to overlook a very large portion of the Arboth Moab. Still farther to the north, and nearer to the camp of the Israelites in these Arboth, was the summit of Peor, to which Balak afterwards conducted Balaam (Numbers 23:28), and where he not only saw the whole of the people, but could see distinctly the camps of the different tribes (Numbers 24:2).
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