Numbers 24:4
He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Falling into a trance, but having his eyes open.—Better, falling (upon his face), and having his eyes opened. The physical effect produced upon Balaam appears to have been the same as that which was produced upon Saul (1Samuel 19:24), upon Ezekiel (Num. i 28), upon Daniel (Num. viii, 17. 18). and upon St. John (Revelation 1:17). The word which is here rendered “open” (gelui) is a different word from that which is so rendered in Numbers 24:2, and is frequently used in reference to Divine communications and spiritual intuition. There may be a reference to the events which befel Balaam on his journey (Numbers 22:31).

Numbers 24:4. The vision of the Almighty — So called properly, because he was awake when the following things were revealed to him. Falling into a trance — In the Hebrew it is only falling, namely, fainting and falling to the ground, as the prophets sometimes used to do. Our translators supply the words, into a trance, supposing him to have been in an ecstasy or rapture when he had the vision, as it is probable he was; because it follows, having his eyes open — Which implies, that when all his outward senses were locked up, his mind had a clear apprehension of the things which God revealed to him.

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 "falling" of which Balaam speaks was the condition under which the inward opening of his eyes took place. It indicates the force of the divine inspiration overpowering the seer. The faithful prophets of the Lord do not appear to have been subject to these violent illapses Daniel 8:17; Revelation 1:17.

In Balaam and in Saul 1 Samuel 19:24 the word of God could only prevail by first subduing the alien will, and overpowering the bodily energies which the will ordinarily directs.

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 vision; so called either strictly and properly, because he was awake when this was revealed to him; or largely and improperly, for any extraordinary discovery of God’s mind to him, whether sleeping or waking. A trance, or ecstasy, fainting and falling upon the ground, as the prophets used to do. See 1 Samuel 19:24 Ezekiel 1:28 3:23 43:3 Daniel 8:17,18 10:15 Revelation 1:17. Others, falling suddenly into a sleep, as the prophets sometimes did, as Genesis 15:12 Daniel 8:18.

He hath said, which heard the words of God,.... God speaking to him, which he did several times, and with which he was greatly elated, see Numbers 22:9,

which saw the vision of the Almighty; not that he had a sight of any similitude of God, though the angel that appeared to him, which was Christ the uncreated angel, might appear in an human form, for some visible form was seen both by the ass and him; but rather this respects the visions of God to him in the night; it may be in a dream, as has been already observed, and which the following words seem to confirm:

falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: or falling into a deep sleep, and yet the eyes of his body open, which sometimes is the case with persons asleep; or the eyes of his mind open, to receive the instructions given him in a dream or vision of the night; unless this is to be understood of his falling on his face, when he had his vision, as sometimes the prophets did, see Ezekiel 1:28, so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase it; and the latter says, he prophesied of himself, that he should fall by the sword; which is better than to interpret it of his falling when his ass lay down with him, as some do: so men may have a great deal of light and knowledge in their heads, and yet not have true grace in their hearts; great gifts, which puff up with pride and vanity, but not sanctifying grace, which is of an humbling nature, 1 Corinthians 8:1, what he said under a spirit of prophecy follows.

He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, {c} falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:

(c) Though he lay as in a sleep, yet the eyes of his mind were open.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. The parallelism of these opening words with those in Numbers 24:15-16 suggests that the line ‘And knoweth the knowledge of the Most High’ has fallen out of the present passage.

the Almighty] Heb. Shaddai. Numbers 24:16 and Genesis 49:25 are probably the only pre-exilic occurrences of the word. In the latter passage the divine title should probably be read ’El Shaddai, which occurs in Exodus 6:3, Ezekiel 10:5 and five times in Genesis. Shaddai alone occurs, besides here and Numbers 24:16, thirty-eight times, of which thirty-one are in Job, and it also forms a part of two or three proper names.

Its original meaning is much disputed; ‘the Almighty’ has become a conventional equivalent, but is in no sense a rendering of the word. It is possible that its true spelling is Shadai. See the writer’s note in Exodus, pp. 40 f.

Falling down, and having his eyes uncovered] This is generally understood to mean ‘falling asleep, or into a prophetic trance (A.V. [Note: .V. The Authorised Version.] ), but having the eyes of the mind open to receive God’s revelation.’ Balaam, however, is not represented as receiving his messages in a state of unconsciousness. But there is nothing in the narrative which actually forbids this explanation.

Verse 4. - Falling into a trance. Rather, "falling down." Qui cadit, Vulgate. The case of Saul, who "fell down naked all that day" (1 Samuel 19:24), overcome by the illapse of the Spirit, affords the best comparison. Physically, it would seem to have been a kind of catalepsy, in which the senses were closed to outward things, and the eyes open but unseeing. The word for "open" in this verse is the ordinary one, not that used in verse 3. Numbers 24:4Numbers 24:3 and Numbers 24:4 contain the preface to the prophecy: "The divine saying of Balaam the son of Beor, the divine saying of the man with closed eye, the divine saying of the hearer of divine words, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down and with opened eyes." For the participial noun נאם the meaning divine saying (effatum, not inspiratum, Domini) is undoubtedly established by the expression יהוה נאם, which recurs in Numbers 14:28 and Genesis 22:16, and is of constant use in the predictions of the prophets; and this applies even to the few passages where a human author is mentioned instead of Jehovah, such as Numbers 24:3, Numbers 24:4, and Numbers 24:15, Numbers 24:16; also 2 Samuel 23:1; Proverbs 30:1; and Psalm 36:2, where a נאם is ascribed to the personified wickedness. Hence, when Balaam calls the following prophecy a נאם, this is done for the purpose of designating it as a divine revelation received from the Spirit of God. He had received it, and now proclaimed it as a man העין שׁתם, with closed eye. שׁתם does not mean to open, a meaning in support of which only one passage of the Mishnah can be adduced, but to close, like סתם in Daniel 8:26, and שׁתם in Lamentations 3:8, with the שׁ softened into ס or שׂ (see Roediger in Ges. thes., and Dietrich's Hebrew Lexicon). "Balaam describes himself as the man with closed eye with reference to his state of ecstasy, in which the closing of the outer senses went hand in hand with the opening of the inner" (Hengstenberg). The cessation of all perception by means of the outer senses, so far as self-conscious reflection is concerned, was a feature that was common to both the vision and the dream, the two forms in which the prophetic gift manifested itself (Numbers 12:6), and followed from the very nature of the inward intuition. In the case of prophets whose spiritual life was far advanced, inspiration might take place without any closing of the outward senses. But upon men like Balaam, whose inner religious life was still very impure and undeveloped, the Spirit of God could only operate by closing their outward senses to impressions from the lower earthly world, and raising them up to visions of the higher and spiritual world.

(Note: Hence, as Hengstenberg observes (Balaam, p. 449), we have to picture Balaam as giving utterance to his prophecies with the eyes of his body closed; though we cannot argue from the fact of his being in this condition, that an Isaiah would be in precisely the same. Compare the instructive information concerning analogous phenomena in the sphere of natural mantik and ecstasy in Hengstenberg (pp. 449ff.), and Tholuck's Propheten, pp. 49ff.)

What Balaam heard in this ecstatic condition was אל אמרי, the sayings of God, and what he saw שׁדּי מחזה, the vision of the Almighty. The Spirit of God came upon him with such power that he fell down (נפל), like Saul in 1 Samuel 19:24; not merely "prostrating himself with reverential awe at seeing and hearing the things of God" (Knobel), but thrown to the ground by the Spirit of God, who "came like an armed man upon the seer," and that in such a way that as he fell his (spirit's) eyes were opened. This introduction to his prophecy is not an utterance of boasting vanity; but, as Calvin correctly observes, "the whole preface has no other tendency than to prove that he was a true prophet of God, and had received the blessing which he uttered from a celestial oracle."

The blessing itself in Numbers 24:5. contains two thoughts: (1) the glorious prosperity of Israel, and the exaltation of its kingdom (Numbers 24:5-7); (2) the terrible power, so fatal to all its foes, of the people which was set to be a curse or a blessing to all the nations (Numbers 24:8, Numbers 24:9).

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