God brought them out of Egypt; he has as it were the strength of an unicorn.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)od brought them out of Egypt.—Literally, is bringing them. The use of the participle denotes the continuance of the action. He who brought them forth out of Egypt was still conducting them on their march. There is an obvious allusion in these words to those of Balak in Numbers 22:5 : “Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt.” Seeing that the people did not come out of Egypt in obedience to their own caprice, but under Divine guidance, it was vain for Balak to resist them on their course, seeing that to contend with them was to contend against God.
The strength of an unicorn.—Better, of a buffalo. (Comp. Deuteronomy 33:17—a passage closely resembling the present—from which it appears that the reem had more than one horn.)Numbers 23:22. Out of Egypt — Namely, by a strong hand, and in spite of all their enemies, and therefore it is in vain to seek or hope to overcome them. He hath the strength of a unicorn — He, Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt, such change of numbers being very common in the Hebrew language. The sense is, Israel is not now what he was in Egypt, a poor, weak, dispirited, unarmed people, but high, and strong, and invincible. The only difficulty is, what creature is here meant by ראם, reem, which we translate unicorn. Bochart, who is followed by Le Clerc, Patrick, and others, is of opinion that it is a kind of mountain goat, or wild goat, of a very tall size, well known in Arabia. Others, with the learned Scheuchzer, suppose the rhinoceros to be meant, concerning one species of which, the unicorn is, Buffon informs us in his Natural History, that its length, from the extremity of the muzzle to the origin of the tail, is at least twelve feet, and the circumference of the body nearly the same. Of one of this species, sent to London from Bengal in the year 1739, Dr. Parsons observes, “The vivacity and promptitude of his movements led me to think that he is altogether unconquerable, and that he could easily overtake any man who should offend him.” — See Ency. Brit. It seems very probable this is the animal here alluded to, and in Numbers 23:8 of the next chapter.God brought them out of Egypt, to wit, by a strong hand, and in spite of all their enemies, and therefore it is in vain to seek or hope to overcome them.
1. God, last mentioned. But so the comparison is mean and unbecoming. Or rather,
2. Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt; such change of numbers being very common in the Hebrew language. The sense is, Israel is not now what he was in Egypt, a poor, weak, dispirited, unarmed people, but high, and strong, and invincible. The great strength and fierceness of a unicorn is celebrated in Scripture, Numbers 24:8 Deu 33:17 Job 39:9 Psalm 22:21 92:10. But whether it be a unicorn, or a rhinoceros, or a strong and fierce kind of wild goat, which is here called reem, it is not needful here to determine. Numbers 22:5, thou sayest, "lo, a people is come out of Egypt";"they did not come out of themselves, but God brought them:"
he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn; that is, not God, but the people he brought out of Egypt, being a mighty people, able to push their enemies and subdue them, being numerous and strong, especially as strengthened by the mighty God of Jacob; and therefore their strength is expressed by the strength of this creature; for be it what it will, whether the rhinoceros or the wild ox, or one kind of goats, as Bochart (l) thinks; whatever is meant by the term here must be a strong creature, see Deuteronomy 33:17 and great is the strength of the spiritual Israel of God, which they have from him to exercise grace, perform duty, withstand and overcome all their spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, and the world.God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. He hath as it were the horns of the wild-ox] ‘He’ means Israel, not God. The word for ‘horns’ is rare; but Deuteronomy 33:17 helps to decide the meaning. In Psalm 95:4 it denotes mountain peaks. The wild-ox (re’çm) ‘is the rîmu of the Assyrian inscriptions. It is represented on the Assyrian sculptures as a huge species (now extinct) of the bovine kind.’ See art. ‘Unicorn’ in Hastings’ DB. iv.
23a. For divination is not in Jacob, and soothsaying is not in Israel] This appears to explain Israel’s victorious strength by the fact that they were free from these heathen practices. But the words are strange in the midst of a passage describing the fierce and irresistible advance of an army with a divine King and Captain at their head. In Numbers 23:21 the words for ‘calamity’ and ‘trouble’ can also be rendered, as in R.V. , ‘iniquity’ and ‘perverseness.’ And it is very probable that a scribe, who understood the two words in the latter sense, inserted the present clause as a marginal comment on Numbers 23:21, thus endorsing the principle contained in 1 Samuel 15:23, that soothsaying and divination by means of teraphim are sins no less than rebellion against God’s commands. It is further noteworthy that in the same chapter (1 Samuel 15:29) are quoted Balaam’s words in Numbers 23:19 a.
23b. Now shall it be said &c.] If the former half of the verse was not originally part of the poem, these words refer suitably to God’s action in bringing Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 23:22 a).Verse 22. - God. אֵל, and also at the end of the next verse, and four times in the next chapter (verses 4, 8, 16, 23). The use seems to be poetic, and no particular signification can be attached to it. Brought them, or, perhaps, "is leading them." So the Septuagint: Θεὸς ὁ ἐξαγαγὼν αὐτόν. Unicorn. Hebrew, רְאֵם. It is uniformly rendered μονοκέρως by the Septuagint, under the mistaken notion that the rhinoceros was intended. It is evident, however, from Deuteronomy 33:17 and other passages that the teem had two hems, and that its horns were its most prominent feature. It would also appear from Job 39:9-12 and Isaiah 34:7 that, while itself untameable, it was allied to species employed in husbandry. The reem may therefore have been the aurochs or urus, now extinct, but which formerly had so large a range in the forests of the old world. There is some doubt, however, whether the urns existed in those days in Syria, and it may have been a wild buffalo, or some kindred animal of the bovine genus, whose size, fierceness, and length of horn made it a wonder and a fear. Numbers 23:1-6). כּה in Numbers 23:15 does not mean "here" or "yonder," but "so" or "thus," as in every other case. The thought is this: "Do thou stay (sc., as thou art), and I will go and meet thus" (sc., in the manner required). אקּרה (I will go and meet) is a technical term here for going out for auguries (Numbers 24:1), or for a divine revelation.
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