Numbers 23:21
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.
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(21) He hath not beheld iniquity . . . —The same combination of the words aven (iniquity, or injustice) and amal (perverseness, or, rather, suffering or grievance) occurs in Habakkuk 1:3.

The shout of a king.—The word which is rendered shout (teruah) is the same which occurs in Leviticus 23:24, and which is there rendered blowing of trumpets. (Comp. Joshua 6:5; Joshua 6:20, where the same word is rendered shout as here.)

Numbers 23:21. Iniquity in Jacob — Not such as in the Canaanites: such as he will punish with a curse, with utter destruction. The Lord is with him — He hath a favour for this people, and will defend and save them. The shout of a king — That is, such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith a people congratulate the approach and presence of their king, when he appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle with victory. This expression implies God’s being their King and Ruler, and their abundant security and confidence in him.

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."Iniquity" and "perverseness" are found together again in the Hebrew of Psalm 10:7; Psalm 90:10, and elsewhere; and import wickedness together with that tribulation which is its proper result.

The shout - The word is used (Leviticus 23:24 note) to describe the sound of the silver trumpets. The "shout of a king" will therefore refer to the jubilant sounds by which the presence of the Lord as their King among them was celebrated by Israel.

21. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob—Many sins were observed and punished in this people. But no such universal and hopeless apostasy had as yet appeared, to induce God to abandon or destroy them.

the Lord his God is with him—has a favor for them.

and the shout of a king is among them—such joyful acclamations as of a people rejoicing in the presence of a victorious prince.

He, i.e. God, understood Numbers 23:20, and expressed Numbers 23:19,

hath not or doth not

behold or see iniquity or perverseness, i.e. any sin, in Jacob or

Israel; which cannot be meant of a simple seeing or knowing of him, for so God did see and observe, yea, and chastise their sins, as is manifest, Exodus 32:9 Deu 9:13; but of such a sight of their sins as should provoke God utterly to forsake and curse and destroy them, which was Balak’s desire, and Balaam’s hope and design. For as Balaam knew that none but Israel’s God could curse or destroy Israel, so he knew that nothing but their sin could move him so to do; and therefore he took a right, though wicked, course afterwards to tempt them to sin, and thereby to expose them to ruin, Num 25. And Balaam had now hoped that God was incensed against Israel for their sins, and therefore would be prevailed with to give them up to the curse and spoil. But, saith he, I was mistaken, I see God hath a singular favour to this people, and though he sees and punisheth sin in other persons and people with utter destruction, as he hath now done in Sihon and Og and the Amorites, yet he will not do so with Israel; he winks at their sins, forgets and forgives them, and will not punish them as their iniquities deserve. In this sense God is said not to see sins, as elsewhere he is said to forget them, Isaiah 43:25 Jeremiah 31:34, and to cover them, Psalm 32:1, which keeps them out of sight, and so out of mind; and to blot them out, Psalm 51:1,9, and to cast them behind his back, Isaiah 38:17, or into the depth of the sea, Micah 7:19, in which cases they cannot be seen nor read. And men are oft said not to know or see those sins in their children or others, which they do not take notice of so as to punish them. And this sense best agrees with the context; God hath decreed and promised to bless this people, and he hath blessed them, and I cannot reverse it, Numbers 23:20, and he will not reverse it, though provoked to do so by their sins, which he will take no notice of. Others thus, He hath not beheld, as hitherto he hath not, so for the future he will not behold, i.e. so as to approve it, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 7:1 Isaiah 66:2 Habakkuk 1:13, or so as to suffer it, injury against Jacob, &c. For aven, here rendered iniquity, is oft used in that sense, as Job 5:6,7 Pr 12:21 22:8. And the other word, amal, rendered perverseness, oft notes vexation and trouble, as Job 5:6,7 Psa 25:17 36:4; and the particle beth, rendered in, is oft used for against, as Exodus 14:25 20:16 Numbers 12:1. So the sense is, God will not see them wronged or ruined by any of their adversaries, whereof the following words may be a good reason, for God is with him, &c. The Lord his God is with him, i.e. he hath a favour for this people, and will defend and save them. So the phrase of God’s being with a person or people signifies, as Judges 6:13 Psalm 46:7 Isaiah 8:10.

The shout of a king is among them, i.e. such joyful and triumphant shouts as those wherewith a people congratulate the approach and presence of their king when he appears among them upon some solemn occasion, or when he returns from battle with victory and spoils. The expression implies God’s being their King and Ruler, and their abundant security and just confidence in him as such. And here is an allusion to the silver trumpets which were made by God’s command, and used upon great solemnities, in which God their King was present in a special manner, Numbers 10:9 Joshua 6:16,20 1 Samuel 4:5 2 Chronicles 13:12.

He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel,.... Not that there was no sin in them, nor any observed by the Lord; yet not so as to mark it in strict justice, and punish for it; but he forgave it, hid his face from it, and did not impute it to them; all the three Targums restrain it to idolatry, that there were none among them that worshipped idols, which was the reason why the Lord could not be prevailed upon to curse them: and Aben Ezra observes, that from hence Balak learnt to send women to the Israelites, to entice them to lewdness, and so to idolatry, that he might be able to carry his point: this is true of the spiritual Israel of God; for though there is sin in them, and which is continually done by them, yet their sins are removed from them, and have been laid on Christ, and he has bore them, and made reconciliation for them, and made an end of them, and has redeemed and saved them from them; and God, by imputing his righteousness to them, has justified them from all their sins, has forgiven all their iniquities, and blotted out all their transgressions, and has cast them behind his back, and into the depths of the sea, and has removed them as far from them as the east is from the west: and when God is said not to see or behold iniquity in his people, it is to be understood, not of his eye of Omniscience, with which he sees not only the sins of all men, but those of his own people also, and takes notice of them in a providential way, and chastises them for them; but of his eye of avenging justice, and purity regards the article of justification, which is a full discharge from all sin, and a perfect covering of it from the justice of God, see Jeremiah 50:20,

the Lord his God is with him and which is his protection and defence, and in vain it is for any to be against him, or seek to hurt him; nothing is a greater happiness, or can be a greater safety, than to have the presence of God; it is this makes ordinances pleasant and delightful; by this saints are assisted in duty, and supported under trials; it is an instance of distinguishing and amazing goodness, and is what will make heaven be the happy place and state it is: all the three Targums interpret it of the Word of the Lord that is with them, and for their help; who is the Angel of God's presence, Immanuel, God with us; and who has promised to be with his churches and ministers to the end of the world, and will be with them through life, at death, and to all eternity:

and the shout of a king is among them; of God their King, the Shechinah of their King, as the Targum of Onkelos; his glorious Majesty, to whom they make their joyful acclamations, upon his appearing among them, and on the account of the victories he gives them over their enemies: or of the King Messiah, as the Targum of Jonathan, the King of kings, the Lord of lords; and so, in an ancient writing of the Jews (k), this passage is referred to the days of the Messiah: and this shout may respect the joyful sound of the Gospel, one part of which is, that Zion's King reigns, and which proclaims him to be King, and speaks of the things concerning his kingdom, both the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory; some respect may be had to the sounding of the silver trumpets by the priests on various occasions in Israel; see Numbers 10:1.

(k) Pesikta in Ketoreth Hassamim in Numb. fol. 25. 4.

He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the {i} shout of a king is among them.

(i) They triumph as victorious kings over their enemies.

21. He hath not beheld … Neither hath he seen &c.] The verbs are impersonal: ‘one hath not [i.e. no one hath] beheld …’ But in accordance with Numbers 23:9, it is better to read (with Pesh.) ‘I behold not … neither do I see.

calamity in Jacobtrouble in Israel] This rendering is much more in harmony with the spirit of Balaam’s utterances than R.V. [Note: .V. Redactor.] ‘iniquity’ and ‘perverseness.’ See further in note on Numbers 23:23.

Verse 21. - He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob. The subject of this and the parallel clause is left indefinite. If it is God, according to the A.V., then it means that God in his mercy shut his eyes to the evil which did exist in individuals, and for his own sake would not impute it to the chosen nation. If it be impersonal, according to the Septuagint and the Targums, "one does not behold iniquity," &c., then it means that the iniquity was not flagrant, was not left to gather head and volume until it brought down destruction. Perverseness. Rather, "suffering" (עָמָל. Septuagint, πόνος), the natural consequence of sin. Compare the use of the two words in Psalm 10:7; Psalm 90:10. The shout of a king is among them. The "shout" (תִּרוּעָה) is the jubilation of the nation with which it acclaims its victor king (cf. 1 Samuel 4:5, 6). In Leviticus 23:24; Psalm 47:5 it is used of the sounding of the sacred trumpets. Numbers 23:21After this decided reversal of Balak's expectations, Balaam carried out still more fully the blessing which had been only briefly indicated in his first utterance. "He beholds not wickedness in Jacob, and sees not suffering in Israel: Jehovah his God is with him, and the shout (jubilation) of a king in the midst of him." The subject in the first sentence is God (see Habakkuk 1:3, Habakkuk 1:13). God sees not און, worthlessness, wickedness, and עמל, tribulation, misery, as the consequence of sin, and therefore discovers no reason for cursing the nation. That this applied to the people solely by virtue of their calling as the holy nation of Jehovah, and consequently that there is no denial of the sin of individuals, is evident from the second hemistich, which expresses the thought of the first in a positive form: so that the words, "Jehovah his God is with him," correspond to the words, "He beholds not wickedness;" and "the shout of a king in the midst of it," to His not seeing suffering. Israel therefore rejoiced in the blessing of God only so long as it remained faithful to the idea of its divine calling, and continued in covenant fellowship with the Lord. So long the power of the world could do it no harm. The "shout of a king" in Israel is the rejoicing of Israel at the fact that Jehovah dwells and rules as King in the midst of it (cf. Exodus 15:18; Deuteronomy 33:5). Jehovah had manifested Himself as King, by leading them out of Egypt.
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