As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD has planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)As gardens by the river’s side.—It is probable that the allusion may be to the Euphrates, although the definite article is not prefixed to the word nahar (river) in the Hebrew. (Comp. Isaiah 7:20.)
As cedar trees beside the waters.-The difference between cedars which grow beside running water which their roots can reach, and the ordinary type of cedars which throw out their strength in lateral branches is illustrated in Ezekiel 31:3-4, where the proud Assyrian is compared to a cedar having “his top among the thick boughs” (or, the clouds), which “the waters made great.” (Comp. Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:12.)
As the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted - The latter words contain an apparent reference to Paradise (compare Genesis 2:8). The aloe, imported from China and the far distant east, furnished to the ancients one of the most fragrant and precious of spices; compare Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17,
lign aloes—an aromatic shrub on the banks of his native Euphrates, the conical form of which suggested an apt resemblance to a tent. The redundant imagery of these verses depicts the humble origin, rapid progress, and prosperity of Israel.Valleys ofttimes from a small beginning are spread forth fir and wide. Others, as the brooks, or rivers, as the word signifies, which stretch out and disperse their waters into several channels, and sometimes farther. Are they spread forth, i.e. the Israelites last mentioned. As gardens by the river’s side; pleasant and fruitful, and secured by a fence.
Trees of lign-aloes; an Arabian and Indian tree, of a sweet smell, yielding good shade and shelter both to man and beast; such is Israel, famous among the nations, and not only save themselves, but yielding shelter to all that join themselves to them.
Which the Lord hath planted; which are the best of the kind; such as not man, but God, might seem to have planted, as the best of all sorts are ascribed to God, as the trees, hills, cities, of God, &c. Compare Psalm 104:16.
As cedar trees, which are famous for growth, and height, and strength, and durableness, whence Solomon’s temple was built of this wood, 1 Kings 6:9,10.
Beside the waters, where trees thrive best. Numbers 2:3 and this may denote the lowness of the saints and people of God in their own eyes, and their largeness in themselves; and especially when the place of their tents shall be enlarged, and the curtains of their habitations be stretched forth in the latter day; and also their fruitfulness, meads, and valleys abounding with herbs and flowers, as the churches of God do with the fruits of the Spirit, grace, and righteousness, and with plants of the Lord's right hand planting. Some render it as brooks and torrents of water, so the Targum of Jonathan; which diffuse and spread themselves, and on the banks of which stand beautiful trees in goodly order:
as gardens by the river's side: laid out in a delightful manner, full of flowers, plants, and trees, and well watered; like to these, in several spots, were the people of Israel formed into several camps; and to these may the churches of God be compared, who are distinguished and enclosed by sovereign grace, full of trees of righteousness of the Lord's planting, watered by the river of divine love, and from Christ the fountain of gardens; see Sol 4:12,
as the trees of lign aloes, which the Lord hath planted: which are not planted and raised by the art and industry of man, but grow up without culture, as the mere produce of nature, under a divine providence; these are called lign wood or tree aloes, to distinguish them from another sort of aloes, which are no other than plants; but these are what the Indians call Calambra or Calembac, and, physicians Xyloaloes and Agallochium, and are of a very aromatic and fragrant scent. This tree is said to be about eight or ten feet high; at the head of it is a large bunch of leaves, which are thick and indented, broad at bottom, but growing narrower towards the point, and about four feet in length; the blossom of it is red, intermixed with yellow, and double like a pink; from this blossom comes fruit, round like a large pea, white and red; the juice of these leaves is drawn out by cutting them with a knife, and received into bottles; the smell of the wood is exquisite (w). P. Martyr (x) speaks of a trunk of lign aloes, which being cut, a sweet savour proceeds from it. It may be observed what Isidore (y) remarks, that it grows in Arabia, as well as in India, and so might be well known to Balaam. And to these the Israel of God may be compared for their fragrancy, being clothed with the righteousness of Christ, all whose garments smell of or like these aloes, Psalm 45:8 and having the graces of the Spirit of God in them, the smell of which is preferable to all spices, and they themselves are signified by the same, Sol 4:10,
and as cedar trees beside the waters; which are tall and high, large and spreading, durable lasting, to which the righteous are compared; see Gill on Psalm 92:12.As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)6. As valleys are they spread forth] As wadies that stretch themselves out; beautifully watered glens stretching away into the distance. Like the three following, it is a simile of luxuriant prosperity.
As lign-aloes &c.] Heb. ’ahâlîm. But this word elsewhere denotes a fragrant perfume brought from the far east (Psalm 45:8, Proverbs 7:17); the tree or plant which yielded it was not indigenous in Palestine or the neighbourhood. See next note.
As cedar trees beside the waters] But cedars do not grow beside water; see art. ‘Cedars’ in Hastings’ DB. i. On the other hand cedars (not aloes) are spoken of as planted by Jehovah (Psalm 104:16). It is therefore possible that the words ‘which Jehovah hath planted’ and ‘beside the waters’ have been accidentally transposed. If so, Dillmann’s conjecture ’êlîm ‘palms’ for ’ahâlîm would be very suitable, since palms grow beside water (cf. Exodus 15:27).Verse 6. - As the valleys, or, "as the torrents" (נְחָלִים), which pour down in parallel courses from the upper slopes. As gardens by the river's side. The river (נָהָר), as in Numbers 22:5) means the Euphrates. Balaam combines the pleasant imagery of his own cultivated land with that of the wilder scene amidst which he now stood. As the trees of lign aloes. אָהָלִים. Aloe trees, such as grew in the further east, where Balaam had perhaps seen them. Which the Lord hath planted, or, "the Lord's planting," a poetical way of describing their beauty and rarity (cf. Psalm 1:3; Psalm 104:16). Numbers 21:20), and therefore was nearer to the camp of the Israelites. Mount Peor was one peak of the northern part of the mountains of Abarim by the town of Beth-peor, which afterwards belonged to the Reubenites (Joshua 13:20), and opposite to which the Israelites were encamped in the steppes of Moab (Deuteronomy 3:29; Deuteronomy 4:46). According to Eusebius (Onom. s. v. Φογώρ), Peor was above Libias (i.e., Bethharam),
(Note: Ὑυπέρκειται δὲ τῆς νῦν Λιβαίδος καλουμένης. Jerome has "in supercilio Libiados.")
which was situated in the valley of the Jordan; and according to the account given under Araboth Moab,
(Note: Καὶ ἔστι τόπος εἰς δεῦρο δεικνύμενος παρὰ τῷ ὄρει Φογώρ ὁ παράκειται ἀνιόντων ἀπὸ Λιβίαδος ἐπὶ Ἐσσεβοὺς (i.e., Heshbon) τῆς Ἀραβίας ἀντικρὺ Ἰεριχώ.)
it was close by the Arboth Moab, opposite to Jericho, on the way from Libias to Heshbon. Peor was about seven Roman miles from Heshbon, according to the account given s. v. Danaba; and Beth-peor (s. v. Bethphozor) was near Mount Peor, opposite to Jericho, six Roman miles higher than Libias, i.e., to the east of it (see Hengstenberg, Balaam, p. 538).
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