Numbers 23:3
And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he sheweth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(3) To an high place.—Rather, to a bare or barren height The heathen augurs were accustomed to choose elevated places for their auspices with an extensive prospect, especially the barren summits of mountains.

Numbers 23:3. Stand by thy burnt-offering — As in God’s presence; as one that offers himself, as well as his sacrifices, to obtain God’s favour. I will go — To some solitary and convenient place, where I may prevail with God to appear to me. From this passage it is inferred, that in those early times it was customary for prophets, and other pious persons, after performing the sacred rites, to retire into some solitary place, there to wait for an answer from God. Whatsoever he showeth me — Reveals to me, either by word or sign. He went to a high place — Some, considering that he was already in a high place, would render it, He went into the plain, or valley. But it must be observed the original word שׁפי, shephi, from שׁפהshephah, eminere, eminens, excelsum esse, properly means, a high and rocky place. See Hebrew, Isaiah 13:2; Jeremiah 3:2. And, no doubt, Balaam ascended into a higher part of the mountain, for the greater convenience of retirement, and beholding Israel, as he says, (Numbers 23:9,) From the top of the rocks I see him.

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 apparently expected to mark some phenomenon in the sky or in nature, which he would be able, according to the rules of his art, to interpret as a portent. It was for such "auguries" (not as the King James Version "enchantments" Numbers 23:23) that he now departed to watch; contrast Numbers 24:1.

An high place - Or, "A bare place on the hill," as opposed to the high place with its grove of trees.

3. Stand by thy burnt offering—as one in expectation of an important favor.

peradventure the Lord will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me—that is, makes known to me by word or sign.

he went to an high place—apart by himself, where he might practise rites and ceremonies, with a view to obtain a response of the oracle.

By thy burnt-offering; as in God’s presence, as one that offers thyself its well as thy sacrifices to obtain his favour. I will go to some solitary and convenient place, where I may by my enchantments prevail with God to appear to me, and to answer thy and my desires in cursing this people.

Whatsoever he showeth me, i.e. reveals to me, either by word or sign.

To an high place; or, into the plain, as that word properly signifies, for he was now in a high place, Numbers 22:4. But this is not material, it was doubtless some solitary place, where he might use some gestures and ceremonies which he would not have others see, and where he might more reasonably expect to meet with God; for both good and evil spirits most commonly appeared to persons in such places.

And Balaam said unto Balak, stand by thy burnt offering,.... By which it appears that the sacrifices offered were of this sort, and there might be one, which was more peculiarly the burnt offering of Balak; though he might be more or less with Balaam concerned in them all; at which he was directed to stand while it was burning, presenting that and himself to the Lord, that he would have respect to both:

and I will go; depart from thence, at some little distance, unto some private place:

peradventure the Lord will come to meet me; upon the offering of these sacrifices to him, though he could not be certain of it, he having lately shown some displeasure and resentment unto him; and this was also in the daytime, when it was in the night he usually came unto him:

and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee; the whole of it, truly as it is, whether agreeable or not:

and he went to an high place; but he was in one already, and therefore if this is the sense of the word, he must go to another, into a grove in one of the high places, where he might be retired, and so fit for a divine converse; and the Targum of Onkelos renders it alone: but rather the sense is, that he went into a plain, as De Dieu has shown from the use of the word in the Syriac language; he was upon a high place, and he went down from thence into the plain, perhaps into a cave at the bottom of the hill, a retired place, where he hoped the Lord would meet him, as he did.

And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.
3. Balaam went some distance away, in the hope that Jehovah would meet him. It is not necessary to suppose that he went to practise enchantments like a soothsayer, e.g. to watch the clouds or the flight of birds. Jehovah had already spoken to him when he was in his own home, and he might expect Him to do so again. In the following verse, indeed, Balaam claims that in the seven-fold sacrifice he has already taken the necessary means to obtain a message.

he went to a bare height] It is not clear why he should choose a bare height. The word is perhaps corrupt. A.V. ‘a high place,’ and marg. ‘solitary’ are wrong.

Verse 3. - Peradventure the Lord will come to meet me. It might be concluded from Numbers 24:1 that Balaam went only to look for "auguries," i.e., for such natural signs in the flight of birds and the like as the heathen were wont to observe as manifestations of the favour or disfavour of God, the success or failure of enterprises. It seems clear that it was his practice to do so, either as having some faith himself in such uncertainties, or as stooping to usual heathen arts which he inwardly despised. But from the fact that God met him (we know not how), and that such supernatural communication was not unexpected, we may conclude that Balaam's words meant more for himself than the mere observance of auguries, whatever they may have meant for Balak. To an high place. Rather, "to a bald place" (שֶׁפִי - compare the meaning of "Calvary"), from which the immediate prospect was uninterrupted. Numbers 23:3After the offering of the sacrifices, Balaam directed the king to stand by his burnt-offering, i.e., by the sacrifices that had been offered for him upon the seven altars, that he might go out for auguries. The meaning of the words, "I will go, peradventure Jehovah will come to meet me," is apparent from Numbers 24:1 : and "he went no more to meet with the auguries" (נחשׁים, see at Leviticus 19:26). Balaam went out to look for a manifestation of Jehovah in the significant phenomena of nature. The word which Jehovah should show to him, he would report to Balak. We have here what is just as characteristic in relation to Balaam's religious stand-point, as it is significant in its bearing upon the genuine historical character of the narrative, namely, an admixture of the religious ideas of both the Israelites and the heathen, inasmuch as Balaam hoped to receive or discover, in the phenomena of nature, a revelation from Jehovah. Because heathenism had no "sure word of prophecy," it sought to discover the will and counsel of God, which are displayed in the events of human history, through various signs that were discernible in natural phenomena, or, as Chryssipus the Stoic expresses it in Cicero de divin. ii. 63, "Signa quae a Diis hominibus portendantur."

(Note: See the remarks of Ngelsbach and Hartung on the nature of the heathen auspices, in Hengstenberg's Balaam and his Prophecies (pp. 396-7). Hartung observes, for example: "As the gods did not live outside the world, or separated from it, but the things of time and space were filled with their essence, it followed, as a matter of course, that the signs of their presence were sought and seen in all the visible and audible occurrences of nature, whether animate or inanimate. Hence all the phenomena which affected the senses, either in the elements or in the various creatures, whether sounds or movements, natural productions or events, of a mechanical or physical, or voluntary or involuntary kind, might serve as the media of revelation." And again (p. 397): "The sign in itself is useless, if it be not observed. It was therefore necessary that man and God should come to meet one another, and that the sign should not merely be given, but should also be received.")

To look for a word of Jehovah in this way, Balaam betook himself to a "bald height." This is the only meaning of שׁפי, from שׁפה, to rub, to scrape, to make bare, which is supported by the usage of the language; it is also in perfect harmony with the context, as the heathen augurs were always accustomed to select elevated places for their auspices, with an extensive prospect, especially the towering and barren summits of mountains that were rarely visited by men (see Hengstenberg, ut sup.). Ewald, however, proposes the meaning "alone," or "to spy," for which there is not the slightest grammatical foundation.

Numbers 23:3 Interlinear
Numbers 23:3 Parallel Texts

Numbers 23:3 NIV
Numbers 23:3 NLT
Numbers 23:3 ESV
Numbers 23:3 NASB
Numbers 23:3 KJV

Numbers 23:3 Bible Apps
Numbers 23:3 Parallel
Numbers 23:3 Biblia Paralela
Numbers 23:3 Chinese Bible
Numbers 23:3 French Bible
Numbers 23:3 German Bible

Bible Hub

Numbers 23:2
Top of Page
Top of Page