Numbers 23:8
How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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. 8. How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed?—A divine blessing has been pronounced over the posterity of Jacob; and therefore, whatever prodigies can be achieved by my charms, all magical skill, all human power, is utterly impotent to counteract the decree of God. God hath not cursed, but blessed Israel, and therefore it is a vain and ridiculous attempt for me to curse them in spite of God.

How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed?.... The sense is, that it was impossible for him to curse those that God did not curse himself, or would not have cursed by others; not but that he had a good will to it, to get Balak's money and honour, but he knew not how to accomplish it; yea, he saw it was in vain to attempt it, it was a thing that could not possibly be done: God does not, nor will he curse his spiritual Israel; they are blessed by him in Christ, and they shall be blessed; nor is it in the power of their enemies to curse them, or do them any harm: the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, instead of God and the Lord in this and the following clause, use the phase,"the Word of the Lord;''the essential Word, the Son of God, who is so far from cursing his people, that he has delivered them from the curses of the law, being made a curse for them, that the blessings of the everlasting covenant of grace might come upon them; and they are blessed of God in him, and for his sake, with all spiritual blessings:

or how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied? which is the same thing in other words, only this last word is expressive of more contempt and indignation.

How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Numbers 23:8"How shall I curse whom God does not curse, and how threaten whom Jehovah does not threaten?" Balak imagined, like all the heathen, that Balaam, as a goetes and magician, could distribute blessings and curses according to his own will, and put such constraint upon his God as to make Him subservient to his own will (see at Numbers 22:6). The seer opposes this delusion: The God of Israel does not curse His people, and therefore His servant cannot curse them. The following verses (Numbers 23:9 and Numbers 23:10) give the reason why: "For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him. Lo, it is a people that dwelleth apart, and is not numbered among the heathen. Who determines the dust of Jacob, and in number the fourth part of Israel? Let my soul die the death of the righteous, and my end be like his?" There were two reasons which rendered it impossible for Balaam to curse Israel: (1) Because they were a people both outwardly and inwardly different from other nations, and (2) because they were a people richly blessed and highly favoured by God. From the top of the mountains Balaam looked down upon the people of Israel. The outward and earthly height upon which he stood was the substratum of the spiritual height upon which the Spirit of God had placed him, and had so enlightened his mental sight, that he was able to discern all the peculiarities and the true nature of Israel. In this respect the first thing that met his view was the fact that this people dwelt alone. Dwelling alone does not denote a quiet and safe retirement, as many commentators have inferred from Deuteronomy 33:28; Jeremiah 49:31, and Micah 7:14; but, according to the parallel clause, "it is not reckoned among the nations," it expresses the separation of Israel from the rest of the nations. This separation was manifested outwardly to the seer's eye in the fact that "the host of Israel dwelt by itself in a separate encampment upon the plain. In this his spirit discerned the inward and essential separation of Israel from all the heathen" (Baumgarten). This outward "dwelling alone" was a symbol of their inward separation from the heathen world, by virtue of which Israel was not only saved from the fate of the heathen world, but could not be overcome by the heathen; of course only so long as they themselves should inwardly maintain this separation from the heathen, and faithfully continue in covenant with the Lord their God, who had separated them from among the nations to be His own possession. As soon as Israel lost itself in heathen ways, it also lost its own external independence. This rule applies to the Israel of the New Testament as well as the Israel of the Old, to the congregation or Church of God of all ages. יתחשּׁב לע, "it does not reckon itself among the heathen nations," i.e., it does not share the lot of the other nations, because it has a different God and protector from the heathen (cf. Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 33:29). The truth of this has been so marvellously realized in the history of the Israelites, notwithstanding their falling short of the idea of their divine calling, "that whereas all the mightier kingdoms of the ancient world, Egypt, Assyria, Babel, etc., have perished without a trace, Israel, after being rescued from so many dangers which threatened utter destruction under the Old Testament, still flourishes in the Church of the New Testament, and continues also to exist in that part which, though rejected now, is destined one day to be restored" (Hengstenberg).

In this state of separation from the other nations, Israel rejoiced in the blessing of its God, which was already visible in the innumerable multitude into which it had grown. "Who has ever determined the dust of Jacob?" As the dust cannot be numbered, so is the multitude of Israel innumerable. These words point back to the promise in Genesis 13:16, and applied quite as much to the existing state as to the future of Israel. The beginning of the miraculous fulfilment of the promise given to the patriarchs of an innumerable posterity, was already before their eyes (cf. Deuteronomy 10:22). Even now the fourth part of Israel is not to be reckoned. Balaam speaks of the fourth part with reference to the division of the nation into four camps (ch. 2), of which he could see only one from his point of view (Numbers 22:41), and therefore only the fourth part of the nation. מספּר is an accusative of definition, and the subject and verb are to be repeated from the first clause; so that there is no necessity to alter מספּר into ספר מי. - But Israel was not only visibly blessed by God with an innumerable increase; it was also inwardly exalted into a people of ישׁרים, righteous or honourable men. The predicate ישׁרים is applied to Israel on account of its divine calling, because it had a God who was just and right, a God of truth and without iniquity (Deuteronomy 32:4), or because the God of Israel was holy, and sanctified His people (Leviticus 20:7-8; Exodus 31:13) and made them into a Jeshurun (Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26). Righteousness, probity, is the idea and destination of this people, which has never entirely lost it, though it has never fully realized it. Even in times of general apostasy from the Lord, there was always an ἐκλογή in the nation, of which probity and righteousness could truly be predicated (cf. 1 Kings 19:18). The righteousness of the Israelites was "a product of the institutions which God had established among them, of the revelation of His holy will which He had given them in His law, of the forgiveness of sins which He had linked on to the offering of sacrifices, and of the communication of His Spirit, which was ever living and at work in His Church, and in it alone" (Hengstenberg). Such a people Balaam could not curse; he could only wish that the end of his own life might resemble the end of these righteous men. Death is introduced here as the end and completion of life. "Balaam desires for himself the entire, full, indestructible, and inalienable blessedness of the Israelite, of which death is both the close and completion, and also the seal and attestation" (Kurtz). This desire did not involve the certain hope of a blessed life beyond the grave, which the Israelites themselves did not then possess; it simply expressed the thought that the death of a pious Israelite was a desirable good. And this it was, whether viewed in the light of the past, the present, or the future. In the hour of death the pious Israelite could look back with blessed satisfaction to a long life, rich "in traces of the beneficent, forgiving, delivering, and saving grace of God;" he could comfort himself with the delightful hope of living on in his children and his children's children, and in them of participating in the future fulfilment of the divine promises of grace; and lastly, when dying in possession of the love and grace of God, he could depart hence with the joyful confidence of being gathered to his fathers in Sheol (Genesis 25:8).

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