Numbers 24:20
And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) And when he looked on Amalek . . . —From the. mountain of Peor, on which Balaam then stood, he had a view of the country of the Amalekites, which lay to the south of the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:29; Genesis 36:12).

Amalek was the first of the nations.—The ancestor of the Amalekites was Eliphaz, the son of Esau (Genesis 36:12). It has been supposed that the Amalekites separated themselves at a very early period from the rest of the Edomites. The word reshith, which is here rendered “first,” may denote priority in rank, but more frequently denotes priority in time. The corresponding word in the second clause of the verse, aharith (latter end), may be thought to denote that the reference is to time, not to rank. On the other hand, the reference in Numbers 24:7 to the kings of the Amalekites may be urged in favour of the reference to rank. Some understand the allusion to be to the fact that the Amalekites were the first nation which attacked Israel when they had come out of Egypt (Exodus 17:8). It is possible, however, that there may be a reference both to time and to rank. (Comp. Amos 6:1.)

But his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.—Or, come to destruction. More literally, But his latter end shall be even to one perishingi.e., he shall come to the position of one who is perishing. The destruction of the Amalekites began in the reign of Saul (1Samuel 14:48; 1Samuel 15:7), was continued by David (1Samuel 27:8; 1Samuel 30:17; 2Samuel 8:12), and was completed by Hezekiah (1Chronicles 4:42-43).

Numbers 24:20. He looked upon Amalek — From the top of Pisgah, which was exceeding high, and gave him the prospect of part of all these kingdoms, he turned his eyes from the Moabites more to the south and west, and looked on their neighbours the Amalekites. Amalek was the first of the nations — Hebrew, the beginning, or first-fruits, so called, either because they were the first of all the neighbouring nations which were imbodied together in one government, or because they were the first who fought against Israel and were vanquished by them. That victory was an earnest and first-fruit of the large harvest of victories which the Israelites should, in due time, get over all their enemies. “The Amalekites appear to have been a very ancient nation. They are mentioned as early as the wars of Chedorlaomer, (Genesis 14:7,) and therefore must have been a nation before the times of Abraham and Lot, and consequently much older than the Moabites or Edomites, or any of the nations descended from those patriarchs. But though they were the most ancient and powerful of the neighbouring nations, yet, says Balaam, their latter end shall be that they perish for ever — Here he confirms what God had before denounced by Moses: see Exodus 17:14. Balaam had before declared that the king of Israel should prevail over the king of Amalek; but here the menace is carried further, and Amalek is consigned to utter destruction. And this sentence was in a great measure executed by Saul, 1 Samuel 15:7; afterward more fully by David, 1 Samuel 27:8-9; and 1 Samuel 30:1. And at last, in the days of Hezekiah, the sons of Simeon smote the rest of the Amalekites that were escaped, and dwelt in their habitations, 1 Chronicles 4:41-43. And where is the name or nation of Amalek subsisting at this day? What history, what tradition of them is remaining anywhere? They are but just enough known and remembered to show that what God hath threatened he hath punctually fulfilled.” How incontrovertible is the argument arising from hence in favour not only of the truth of Balaam’s prophecy, but of the assurance which Moses had of its truth, and of the certainty of its accomplishment, inasmuch as he recorded it while Amalek was yet a very powerful nation, and thereby risked on its truth and fulfilment all his credit as an historian and his authority as a lawgiver and messenger of God!24:15-25 Under the powerful influence of the Spirit of prophecy, Balaam foretold the future prosperity and extensive dominion of Israel. Balaam boasts that his eyes are open. The prophets were in old times called seers. He had heard the words of God, which many do who neither heed them, nor hear God in them. He knew the knowledge of the Most High. A man may be full of the knowledge of God, yet utterly destitute of the grace of God. He calls God the Most High and the Almighty. No man could seem to express a greater respect to God; yet he had no true fear of him, love to him, nor faith in him; so far a man may go toward heaven, and yet come short of it at last. Here is Balaam's prophecy concerning Him who should be the crown and glory of his people Israel; who is David in the type; but our Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah, is chiefly pointed at, and of him it is an illustrious prophecy. Balaam, a wicked man, shall see Christ, but shall not see him nigh; not see him as Job, who saw him as his Redeemer, and saw him for himself. When he comes in the clouds, every eye shall see him; but many will see him, as the rich man in hell saw Abraham, afar off. He shall come out of Jacob, and Israel, as a Star and a Sceptre; the former denoting his glory and lustre; the latter his power and authority. Christ shall be King, not only of Jacob and Israel, but of all the world; so that all shall be either governed by his golden sceptre, or dashed in pieces by his iron rod. Balaam prophesied concerning the Amalekites and Kenites, part of whose country he had now in view. Even a nest in a rock will not be a lasting security. Here is a prophecy that looks as far forward as to the Greeks and Romans. He acknowledges all the revolutions of states and kingdoms to be the Lord's doing. These events will make such desolations, that scarcely any will escape. They that live then, will be as brands plucked out of the fire. May God fit us for the worst of times! Thus Balaam, instead of cursing the church, curses Amalek the first, and Rome the last enemy of the church. Not Rome pagan only, but Rome papal also; antichrist and all the antichristian powers. Let us ask ourselves, Do we in knowledge, experience, or profession, excel Balaam? No readiness of speech, even in preaching or prayer, no gifts of knowledge or prophecy, are in themselves different from, or superior to the boasted gifts of him who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and died the enemy of God. Simple dependence on the Redeemer's atoning blood and sanctifying grace, cheerful submission to the Divine will, constant endeavours to glorify God and benefit his people, these are less splendid, but far more excellent gifts, and always accompany salvation. No boasting hypocrite ever possessed these; yet the feeblest believer has something of them, and is daily praying for more of them.When he looked - i. e., in spirit, as he saw the Star Numbers 24:17.

Amalek was the first of the nations - Rather, is pre-eminent among the neighboring nations: compare the same expression in Amos 6:1. Hence, the force of the words Numbers 24:7 "higher than Agag," i. e., than the king of this powerful nation (compare Numbers 14:45; Exodus 17:8). This rank, due to the warlike prowess of the tribe, Balaam contrasts with its approaching downfall and extinction.

20. Amalek … his latter end shall be that he perish for ever—Their territory was seen at the remote extremity of the desert. (See on [89]Ex 17:13; also 1Sa 15:1-35). He looked from the top of Pisgah, which was exceeding high, and gave him the prospect of parts of all these kingdoms.

The first, Heb. the first-fruits; so called either,

1. Because they were the first of all the neighbouring nations which were embodied together in one government. Or,

2. Because they were the most powerful and eminent of them, as is implied above, Numbers 24:7, the best things in each kind being oft signified by the name of first-fruits. Or,

3. Because he was the first who fought against Israel, and was vanquished by them, in that famous battle Exo 17, which victory was an earnest and first-fruits of that large harvest of victories which the Israelites should in due time get over all their enemies, and, among others, over Amalek himself, 1 Samuel 15:3.

That he perish for ever: he began with God and with Israel. but God will end with him; and the firm purpose and will of God is, that he shall be utterly destroyed, Exodus 17:14; so that Saul lost his kingdom for not executing this decree and God’s command pursuant thereunto, 1Sa 15. And when he looked on Amalek,.... The country of Amalek, which lay to the south of the land of Canaan, Numbers 13:29 and which Balaam had a view of from the mountain of Peor, where he now was:

and he took up his parable, and said; the parable of his prophecy, as the Targum of Jonathan, and pronounced it aloud:

Amalek was the first of the nations; not the first nation in the world, nor the chief and principal for numbers, riches, or strength, but the first that made war with Israel, as all the three Targums paraphrase it, as they did, see Exodus 17:8,

but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever; this was threatened to them by the Lord upon that battle, and is confirmed by this prophecy of Balaam: and after this, orders were given to Israel to blot out their remembrance, Deuteronomy 25:19, and which, in a good measure, though not completely, was done in the times of Saul, 1 Samuel 15:8 and after that they were distressed by David, 1 Samuel 27:9 and the rest of them were smitten by the sons of Simeon, in the days of Hezekiah, 1 Chronicles 4:41, after which we hear of them no more: Amalek may be considered as a type of antichrist, the son of perdition, who shall go into it, shall come to his end, and there shall be none to help him; which will be true of all the antichristian party, the enemies of Christ, who will be destroyed by him, and perish eternally; see Daniel 11:45.

And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the {n} first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.

(n) The Amalekites first made war against Israel, Nu 14:45.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. The utterance on Amalek.

And he saw Amalek] The country of the Amalekites and that of the Kenites (Numbers 24:21) might be just visible from the Moabite hills, lying far to the south and south-west.

the first of the nations] i.e. the choicest; Heb. rê’shîth. Cf. Numbers 18:12. There is no historical evidence that the Amalekites ever occupied a high position among the nations (see on Numbers 24:7).Verse 20. - He looked on Amalek. This looking must have been an inward vision, because the haunts of the Amalekites were far away (see on Genesis 36:12; Exodus 17:8; Numbers 14:25, 45). The first of the nations. Amalek was in no sense a leading nation, nor was it a very ancient nation. It was indeed the very first of the nations to attack Israel, but it is a most arbitrary treatment of the words to understand them in that sense. The prophet Amos (Amos 6:1) uses the same expression of the Jewish aristocracy of his day. As it was in no better position than Amalek to claim it in any true sense, we can but suppose that in either case there is a reference to the vainglorious vauntings of the people threatened; it would be quite in keeping with the Bedawin character if Amalek gave himself out be "the first of nations." But Balaam reminds him, on the other hand, of the declaration which he made to the messengers at the very outset (Numbers 22:18), that he could not on any account speak in opposition to the command of Jehovah, and then adds, "And now, behold, I go to my people. Come, I will tell thee advisedly what this people will do to thy people at the end of the days." יעץ, to advise; here it denotes an announcement, which includes advice. The announcement of what Israel would do to the Moabites in the future, contains the advice to Balak, what attitude he should assume towards Israel, if this people was to bring a blessing upon his own people and not a curse. On "the end of the days," see at Genesis 49:1.
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