Numbers 23:7
And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.
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Numbers 23:7. His parable — That is, his oracular and prophetical speech; which he calls a parable, because of the weightiness of the matter, and the liveliness of the expressions which is usual in parables. Jacob — The posterity of Jacob.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.Aram - Or, "highland." This term denotes the whole elevated region, from the northeastern frontier of Palestine to the Euphrates and the Tigris. The country between these streams was especially designated "Aram-naharaim," or "Aram of the two rivers:" the Greeks called it Mesopotamia; and here, according to Deuteronomy 23:4, was Balaam's home. Compare Numbers 22:5 note. 7. took up his parable—that is, spoke under the influence of inspiration, and in the highly poetical, figurative, and oracular style of a prophet.

brought me from Aram—This word joined with "the mountains of the East," denotes the upper portion of Mesopotamia, lying on the east of Moab. The East enjoyed an infamous notoriety for magicians and soothsayers (Isa 2:6).

He took up, to wit, into his mouth; he expressed or spoke.

His parable, i.e. his oracular and prophetical speech; which he calls a parable, because of the weightiness of the matter, and the majesty and smartness of the expressions which is usual in parables.

From Aram; from Aram, Naharaim, or Mesopotamia, Deu 23:4. See Genesis 10:22. Aram lay

towards the mountains of the east: the east was infamous for charmers or soothsayers, Isaiah 2:6.

Jacob; the posterity of Jacob, i.e. Israel, as it here follows. And he took up his parable, and said,.... Pronounced the word, the prophetic word, which God had put into his mouth; so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call it, the parable of his prophecy; so called, because, in prophecies, often figurative and enigmatical expressions are used, and also sententious and weighty ones, either of which are sometimes called parables; see Psalm 78:2,

Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram; or Syria, that is, from Mesopotamia, as the Septuagint translate it; and so the Targum of Jonathan, from Aram or Syria, which is by Euphrates:

out of the mountains of the east: it being the mountainous part of Mesopotamia or Chaldea, where Balaam dwelt, which lay to the east of the land of Moab:

saying, come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel; he owns that this was Balak's view in sending for him; nor does he deny that be himself came with such an intention, could he be able to execute it; even curse the people of Israel, with the utmost abhorrence and detestation of them, and in the most furious and wrathful manner, as the last word used signifies.

And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, {d} defy Israel.

(d) Cause everyone to hate and detest them.

7. he took up his parable] i.e. he took up upon his lips, he uttered; Numbers 23:18, Numbers 24:3; Numbers 24:15; Numbers 24:20 f., Num 24:23. Cf. Job 27:1; Job 29:1, Amos 5:1 and frequently. On the Heb. mâshâl (‘parable’), a didactic or artistic utterance, see Numbers 21:27.

Aram] i.e. Aram-naharaim. See on Numbers 22:5. The short form Aram (cf. Hosea 12:12, where the meaning is the same as here) usually denotes the more westerly regions of which Damascus was the capital.

the mountains of the East] The high ranges of the Syrian desert, the country of the nomad ‘children of the east’ (Jeremiah 49:28, Ezekiel 25:4; Ezekiel 25:10), who wandered E . of Ammon, Moab, and Edom.

7–10. Balaam’s first prophetic message. This consists of seven short couplets. Balaam declares the uselessness of Balak’s action in fetching him for the purpose of cursing (Numbers 23:7 f.); the security of Israel, their separateness from other nations, and their great numbers (Numbers 23:9-10 a); and he prays that his end may be like theirs (Numbers 23:10 b).Verse 7. - Took up his parable. מָשָׁל (cf. Numbers 21:27). Balaam's utterances were in the highest degree poetical, according to the antithetic form of the poetry of that day, which delighted in sustained parallelisms, in lofty figures, and in abrupt turns. The "mashal" of Balaam resembled the "burden" of the later prophets in this, that it was not a discourse uttered to men, but a thing revealed in him of which he had to deliver himself as best he might in such words as came to him. His inward eye was fixed on this revelation, and he gave utterance to it without consideration of those who heard. Aram, i.e., Aram-Naharaim, or Mesopotamia (cf. Genesis 29:1; Deuteronomy 23:4). Defy, or "threaten,' i.e., with the wrath of Heaven. Jacob. The use of this name as the poetical equivalent of Israel shows that Balaam was familiar with the story of the patriarch, and understood his relation to the people before him. Balaam's First Words. - Numbers 23:1-3. Preparations for the first act, which was performed at Bamoth-baal. At Balaam's command Balak built seven altars, and then selected seven bullocks and seven rams, which they immediately sacrificed, namely, one bullock and one ram upon each altar. The nations of antiquity generally accompanied all their more important undertakings with sacrifices, to make sure of the protection and help of the gods; but this was especially the case with their ceremonies of adjuration. According to Diod. Sic. ii. 29, the Chaldeans sought to avert calamity and secure prosperity by sacrifices and adjurations. The same thing is also related of other nations (see Hengstenberg, Balaam, p. 392). Accordingly, Balaam also did everything that appeared necessary, according to his own religious notions, to ensure the success of Balak's undertaking, and bring about the desired result. The erection of seven altars, and the sacrifice of seven animals of each kind, are to be explained from the sacredness acquired by this number, through the creation of the world in seven days, as being the stamp of work that was well-pleasing to God. The sacrifices were burnt-offerings, and were offered by themselves to Jehovah, whom Balaam acknowledged as his God.
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