If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own mind; but what the LORD said, that will I speak?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord.—Hebrew, the mouth of the Lord: the same expression which is used in Numbers 22:18, where the Authorised Version has “the word of the Lord.”
Agag - The name, apparently hereditary (compare 1 Samuel 15) to the chieftains of Amalek, means "high." The words point to the Amalekite kingdom as highly prosperous and powerful at the time (compare Numbers 24:20); but also to be far excelled by the future glories of Israel. The Amalekites never in fact recovered their crushing defeat by Saul (1 Samuel 15:2 ff), though they appear again as foes to Israel in the reign of David (1 Samuel 27:1-12 and 30). The remnant of them was destroyed in the reign of Hezekiah 1 Chronicles 4:43.Numbers 22:18,
I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad; for though here it is the "commandment", and there the "word" of the Lord, yet it is the same word in both places in the original text: indeed, here he omits the relation to the Lord he there claims, saying "my God"; and instead of "little or great", here it is "good or bad", but the sense is the same: and he adds, for explanation sake:
of mine own mind: or out of my heart, which was disposed well enough to serve Balak, but was laid under a restraint by the Lord:
but what the Lord said, that will I speak; and he had not only said this to the messengers, but to the king himself, and therefore he thought, that as he had openly and honestly told him this at first, he had no reason to be so angry with him; see Numbers 22:38.If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Deuteronomy 8:7 and Deuteronomy 11:10 with Isaiah 44:4; Isaiah 65:23). ירם (optative), "his king be high before (higher than) Agag." Agag (עגג, the fiery) is not the proper name of the Amalekite king defeated by Saul (1 Samuel 15:8), but the title (nomen dignitatis) of the Amalekite kings in general, just as all the Egyptian kings had the common name of Pharaoh, and the Philistine kings the name of Abimelech.
(Note: See Hengstenberg (Dissertations, ii. 250; and Balaam, p. 458). Even Gesenius could not help expressing some doubt about there being any reference in this prophecy to the event described in 1 Samuel 15:8., "unless," he says, "you suppose the name Agag to have been a name that was common to the kings of the Amalekites" (thes. p. 19). He also points to the name Abimelech, of which he says (p. 9): "It was the name of several kings in the land of the Philistines, as of the king of Gerar in the times of Abraham (Genesis 20:2-3; Genesis 21:22-23), and of Isaac (Genesis 26:1-2), and also of the king of Gath in the time of David (Psalm 34:1; coll. 1 Samuel 21:10, where the same king of called Achish). It seems to have been the common name and title of those kings, as Pharaoh was of the early kings of Egypt, and Caesar and Augustus of the emperors of Rome.")
The reason for mentioning the king of the Amalekites was, that he was selected as the impersonation of the enmity of the world against the kingdom of God, which culminated in the kings of the heathen; the Amalekites having been the first heathen tribe that attacked the Israelites on their journey to Canaan (Exodus 17:8). The introduction of one particular king would have been neither in keeping with the context, nor reconcilable with the general character of Balaam's utterances. Both before and afterward, Balaam predicts in great general outlines the good that would come to Israel; and how is it likely that he would suddenly break off in the midst to compare the kingdom of Israel with the greatness of one particular king of the Amalekites? Even his fourth and last prophecy merely announces in great general terms the destruction of the different nations that rose up in hostility against Israel, without entering into special details, which, like the conquest of the Amalekites by Saul, had no material or permanent influence upon the attitude of the heathen towards the people of God; for after the defeat inflicted upon this tribe by Saul, they very speedily invaded the Israelitish territory again, and proceeded to plunder and lay it waste in just the same manner as before (cf. 1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:1.; 2 Samuel 8:12).
(Note: Even on the supposition (which is quite at variance with the character of all the prophecies of Balaam) that in the name of Agag, the contemporary of Saul, we have a vaticinium ex eventu, the allusion to this particular king would be exceedingly strange, as the Amalekites did not perform any prominent part among the enemies of Israel in the time of Saul; and the command to exterminate them was given to Saul, not because of any special harm that they had done to Israel at that time, but on account of what they had done to Israel on their way out of Egypt (comp. 1 Samuel 15:2 with Exodus 17:8).)
מלכּו, his king, is not any one particular king of Israel, but quite generally the king whom the Israelites would afterwards receive. For מלכּו is substantially the same as the parallel מלכתו, the kingdom of Israel, which had already been promised to the patriarchs (Genesis 17:6; Genesis 35:11), and in which the Israelites were first of all to obtain that full development of power which corresponded to its divine appointment; just as, in fact, the development of any people generally culminates in an organized kingdom. - The king of Israel, whose greatness was celebrated by Balaam, was therefore neither the Messiah exclusively, nor the earthly kingdom without the Messiah, but the kingdom of Israel that was established by David, and was exalted in the Messiah into an everlasting kingdom, the enemies of which would all be made its footstool (Psalm 2:1-12 and Psalm 110:1-7).
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