Numbers 24:3
And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor has said, and the man whose eyes are open has said:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Balaam the son of Beor hath said.—The Hebrew word (neum) is imperfectly rendered by hath said. It is the word which is commonly used in the prophetical books of Scripture to denote a Divine saying, and is rarely used when a human author is named. It occurs in the Pentateuch only in Genesis 22:16, Numbers 14:28, and in this chapter, where it is found in Numbers 24:3-4; Numbers 24:15-16.

The man whose eyes are open.—There is great diversity of opinion respecting the meaning of the word which is here rendered open, and which, as it is here written, occurs in no other place. If shatham is identified with satham, it means to close, not to open. The meaning, however, of this verse is sufficiently explained by that which follows, whichever rendering of the word shethum is adopted. Balaam appears to have been thrown into an ecstatic state, as was Saul, and as were many of the ancient prophets; and whilst the eye of the outer senses was closed, the eye of the inner senses was preternaturally opened.

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.Whose eyes are open - i. e., opened in inward vision, to discern things that were hidden from ordinary beholders. 3. the man whose eyes are open—that is, a seer (1Sa 9:9), a prophet, to whom the visioned future was disclosed—sometimes when falling into a sleep (Ge 15:12-15), frequently into "a trance." The eyes, either,

1. Of his body, as in the following verse; or,

2. Of his mind, which God had opened in a peculiar and prophetical manner, whence prophets are called seers, 1 Samuel 9:9. He implies that before he was blind and stupid, having eyes, but not seeing nor understanding. Some render the words having his eyes shut, as the Hebrew verb satham signifies, the letters schin and samech being frequently exchanged; and so the meaning is, that he received this revelation either in a dream, when men’s eyes are simply shut; or in an ecstasy or trance, when men’s eyes, though open, are in a manner shut, to wit, as to the use and exercise of them. And he took up his parable,.... His parable of prophecy, as the Targums, his prophetic speech, which, with a loud voice, he expressed in the hearing of Balak and his nobles:

and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said; the preface to his prophecy is pompous, and seems to be full of pride and vanity, and so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem represent him;"the man who is more excellent than his father hath said, to whom hidden secrets, even what was hidden from the prophets is revealed to him;''and the Jews have a saying (t) that he that has an evil eye, a haughty spirit, and a large soul, or is covetous, is one of the disciples of Balaam the wicked:

and the man whose eyes are open hath said; or, as some (u) render it, whose eyes were shut, but now open; either the eyes of his body, which were shut when the angel met him, and the ass saw him and not he, but afterwards were open, and he saw him also; or the eyes of his understanding blinded with ambition and covetousness, but were open to see his mistake, at least so far as to be sensible that he could never prevail upon God to allow him to curse Israel; or rather open, by the spirit of prophecy coming on him, whereby he saw and foretold things to come.

(t) Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 19. (u) So V. L. Montanus, Tigurine version, &c.

And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes {b} are open hath said:

(b) His eyes were shut up before in respect to the clear visions which he saw after.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3, 4. The opening triplet is as follows:

The oracle of Balaam son of Beor.

The oracle of the man whose eye is
(?) closed.

The oracle of one that heareth the words of God.

The form of it should be compared with 2 Samuel 23:1, where the same word ‘oracle’ is used. The text appears to be corrupt. The word rendered ‘closed’ is very doubtful; and ‘opened’ (R.V. marg.) is no less questionable. With the former rendering the reference is to the eyes closed in a trance; with the latter, to the eyes of the mind opened to receive the vision.

3–9. Balaam’s first prophetic message. In its present form this consists of nine couplets and two triplets. But the text has undergone corruption, and perhaps there were originally eleven couplets.Verse 3. - Balaam... hath said. Rather, "the utterance of Balaam." נְאֻם is constantly used, as in Numbers 14:28, for a Divine utterance, effatum Dei, but it does not by itself, apart from the context, claim a superhuman origin. The man whose eyes are open. הַגֶּבֶר שְׁתֻם הָעָיִן. The authorities are divided between the rendering in the text and the opposite rendering given in the margin. סָתַם is used in Daniel 8:26, and שָׂתָם in Lamentations 3:8, in the sense of "shut;" but, on the other hand, a passage in the Mishnah distinctly uses שׁתם and סתם in opposite senses. The Vulgate, on the one hand, has obturatus; the Septuagint, on the other, has ὁ ἀληθινῶς ὁρῶν, and this is the sense given by the Targums. Strange to say, it makes no real difference whether we read "open" or "shut," because in any case it was the inward vision that was quickened, while the outward senses were closed. 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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