Numbers 24:1
And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXIV.

(1) He set his face toward the wilderness.—i.e., towards the place where the Israelites were encamped on the steppes of Moab.

Numbers 24:1. He went not as at other times — At former times; to seek for enchantments — The word נחשׁ, from which נחשׁים, necashim, here rendered enchantments, is derived, signifies to augur, conjecture, search, make trial, find out: 1 Kings 20:33, it is translated, to observe diligently; Genesis 30:27, to learn by experience, and, in the margin of Genesis 44:5, to make trial, although in the text there it is rendered to divine. It certainly is not necessary to understand the word of enchantments. Nor is there any proof that Balaam had had recourse to any on either of the two former occasions. On the contrary, the sacred historian informs us, that he retired both times, not to meet evil spirits, and receive communications from them, but to meet JEHOVAH, and receive intimations of his will, saying to Balak on the first occasion, Whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And both times we read that Jehovah put a word in Balaam’s mouth. All, therefore, that we can reasonably conclude from the passage before us is, that Balaam omitted to do now what he had done before. He went not — Retired not, as he had done the former times, for the meeting, or obtaining of divinations, that is, for the purpose of obtaining information from the Lord concerning future things, or to make inquiries about them. M. Saurin seems to be clearly of this opinion, and to consider the expression as signifying no more here than “the revelations which Balsam desired of God concerning the destiny of the Israelites.” Houbigant is of the same mind, observing that the word נחשׁיםnechashim, auguries, is here to be understood in a good sense, because Balaam interpreted the will of the true God, and not the will of the god of Moab, from these auguries. Thus also Le Clerc, paraphrasing the passage, says, “He judged it superfluous to inquire further into the mind of God, as God had sufficiently declared his purpose to bless Israel.” Indeed, as Christ is known to have no communion with Belial, it seems strange that any Christian should ever have imagined that God would thus have made known his will, and thus lay open the secrets of futurity, to a man that had or attempted to have intercourse with evil spirits. See Isaiah 8:19; and Isaiah 44:25; and Isaiah 47:12. He set his face toward the wilderness — Where Israel lay encamped, expecting what God, of his own accord, would suggest to him concerning this matter.24:1-9 Now Balaam spake not his own sense, but the language of the Spirit that came upon him. Many have their eyes open who have not their hearts open; are enlightened, but not sanctified. That knowledge which puffs men up with pride, will but serve to light them to hell, whither many go with their eyes open. The blessing is nearly the same as those given before. He admires in Israel, their beauty. The righteous, doubtless, is more excellent than his neighbour. Their fruitfulness and increase. Their honour and advancement. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their power and victory. He looks back upon what had been done for them. Their courage and security. The righteous are bold as a lion, not when assaulting others, but when at rest, because God maketh them to dwell in safety. Their influence upon their neighbours. God takes what is done to them, whether good or evil, as done to himself.The position of Peor northward from Pisgah, along the Abarim heights, is approximately determined by the extant notices of Beth-peor.

Jeshimon - was the waste, in the great valley below, where stood Beth-jeshimoth, "the house of the wastes."

CHAPTER 24

Nu 24:1-25. Balaam Foretells Israel's Happiness.

1. to seek for—that is, to use enchantments. His experience on the two former occasions [Nu 23:3, 15] had taught him that these superstitious accompaniments of his worship were useless, and therefore he now simply looked towards the camp of Israel, either with a secret design to curse them, or to await the divine afflatus.Balaam lays aside his sorceries, and the Spirit of God comes upon him; his eyes are open; hears the words of God, and sees the vision of the Almighty, Numbers 24:1-4; prophesies of Israel’s prosperity, Numbers 24:5-9. Balak is angry; commands him to flee; his answer, Numbers 24:10-14. He prophesies of the Messias the King, and of the destruction of the nations, Numbers 24:15-24. He returns to his place; and Balak goes his way, Numbers 24:25.

To seek for enchantments, i.e. to use enchantments, which he is said to have done, either because when he consulted and sacrificed to God, he did also use enchantments and consult with the devil, that if one would not, the other might help him; or because he consulted God in a magical and superstitious way, by using such postures or instruments or forms of words as enchanters used.

Toward the wilderness, where Israel lay encamped, either with intent to curse Israel without God’s leave; or rather, expecting what God of his own accord would suggest to him concerning this matter.

And when Balsam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel,.... That it was good in his sight, what he approved of, and was well-pleasing to him, and that it was his determined mind that Israel should be blessed, and not cursed, from which there was no turning him, by offering sacrifices to him, and much less by his sorceries and divinations:

he went not as at other times; or, "as at a time in a time" (q), at two times, of which see Numbers 23:3, he abode in the place where the sacrifices were offered, and did not depart to another at some distance, as he had twice before done:

to seek for enchantments; which it seems he used before, for he not only offered sacrifices to the true God, which yet were attended with superstitious rites, but he made use of his divining art also; and not only went to meet with God, and hear what he would say to him, but consulted the devil also, being willing to have two strings to his bow, and that, if possible, he might carry his point, and get what his covetous and ambitious mind was desirous of: the words may be literally rendered, "to meet enchantments" (r); but what should be meant by the phrase is not easy to say; I should rather choose to render them, "to meet serpents", and make use of them in his divinations, make observations on them, and predictions from them: one sort of divination is called "ophiomancy", or divining by serpents; so Calchas, on seeing a serpent devour eight sparrows with their dam, foretold the duration of the siege of Troy (s):

but he set his face towards the wilderness: where the people of Israel lay encamped, not with an intention to bless them, though he saw it pleased the Lord, but to take an opportunity, if he could, without his leave, to curse them; and therefore he did not go out as he did before, to know his will, but stood by the sacrifice, with his face to the wilderness, where the people were, to take any advantage that offered.

(q) "sicut vice in vice", Montanus, Vatablus. (r) "in occursum auguriorum", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus. (s) Homer. Iliad. 2. see more instances in Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 1. c. 3. col. 21, 22.

And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the {a} wilderness.

(a) Where the Israelites camped.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. he went not, as at the other times, to meet with omens] The Heb. has a curious idiom which may be rendered either as in R.V. , or ‘as at other times’ (omitting ‘the’), i.e. as was his usual practice on similar occasions. In either case the verse cannot be from the same writer as that of ch. 23, for on the one hand ch. 23 does not relate that Balaam sought for omens, and on the other (if the present words refer to his usual practice) the remark that he did not seek for omens would more naturally have been placed at the beginning of ch. 23 and not after two of his utterances.

Numbers 24:1-2. Balaam knew that Jehovah wished Israel to be blessed; he did not therefore seek an omen to guide him, but began his declaration at once.Chapter 24:1. - As at other times, or, "as (he had done) time after time." Septuagint, κατὰ τὸ εἰωθός. To seek for enchantments. Rather, "for the meeting with aunties." לִקְםראת נְחַשִׁים. Septuagint, to συνάντησιν τοῖς οἰωνοῖς. Nachashim., as in Numbers 23:23, is not enchantments in the sense of magical practices, but definitely auguries, i.e. omens and signs in the natural world observed and interpreted according to an artificial system as manifesting the purposes of God. As one of the commonest and worst of heathen practices, it was forbidden to Israel (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10) and held up to reprobation, as in 2 Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6. Toward the wilderness. הַמִּדְבָּר. Not "Jeshimon," but apparently the Arboth Moab in which Israel was encamped, and which were for the most part desert as compared with the country around. Balaam's Last Words. - Numbers 23:25-30. Balak was not deterred, however, from making another attempt. At first, indeed, he exclaimed in indignation at these second sayings of Balaam: "Thou shalt neither curse it, nor even bless." The double גּם with לא signifies "neither - nor;" and the rendering, "if thou do not curse it, thou shalt not bless it," must be rejected as untenable. In his vexation at the second failure, he did not want to hear anything more from Balaam. But when he replied again, that he had told him at the very outset that he could do nothing but what God should say to him (cf. Numbers 22:38), he altered his mind, and resolved to conduct Balaam to another place with this hope: "peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence." Clericus observes upon this passage, "It was the opinion of the heathen, that what was not obtained through the first, second, or third victim, might nevertheless be secured through a fourth;" and he adduces proofs from Suetonius, Curtius, Gellius, and others.
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